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Potomac Confidential

Slicing and Dicing of the Issues People Are Talking About

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, April 14, 2005; 12:00 PM

Potomac Confidential fills the midday lull with discussion by Metro columnist Marc Fisher of the latest news and a rigorous slicing and dicing of the issues that define who we are and where we live.

Fisher was online Thursday, April 14, at Noon ET to count down the hours til the Nationals home opener, consider Maryland's slots-less future and dream of the view from Rosslyn's proposed skyscrapers.

Marc Fisher (The Washington Post)

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This Week's Column:Asian Students Contend With Expectations (Post, April 10)

In his weekly show, Fisher veers wildly from serious probing to silly prattle, and is open to topics local, national, personal and more.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Marc Fisher: What a spectacular day--the gods are shining upon the return of baseball to the capital city.
Good news is busting out all over the place--the Nats open at home in a few hours. The Maryland legislature killed off slots, perhaps even for good. Arlington is considering beefing up its skyline with some decent tall buildings.
And here's the big news of the hour: I don't want to spoil the surprise, but this is too good to hold back. Chuck Brown, the godfather of go-go, will sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at the stadium during the seventh inning stretch tonight. And to top it off, he'll do "Bustin' Loose" too. See, even Major League Baseball can get something right now and then.
On to your own uncharacteristically cheerful thoughts and questions, but first, the Yay and Nay of the Day:
Yay to Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch for slamming the brakes on Gov. Bobby Haircut's slots obsession. Best part: Busch was motivated not only by partisan politics or a desire to protect his district from the ravages of slots, but by a genuine, principled position that slots are bad policy. You can feel the fresh air all the way to Washington.
Nay to D.C. Mayor Tony Williams and council member Jack Evans, who spoiled Opening Day with a cynical dose of mega-spin on the op-ed page of today's Post. In their piece, Williams and Evans claim that the TV deal that Peter Angelos rammed down the throats of the Nationals and MLB is actually good. They tout the 79 Nats games that will be on over-the-air TV as the best in baseball, far more than the 21 games that, for example, the NY Yankees show on local TV. But they conveniently leave out entirely the fact that every single one of the 162 Yankees games is on TV in New York, with most on cable and some on regular TV. The 90 percent of viewers who get cable don't care which channels the games are on; they just want access to the games, which we all pay for through public investment in stadiums and cable fees. With no cable deal, Washington fans will see fewer than half of our team's games, solely because Angelos wants it that way. (His team, of course, is on here every night.) That's the raw truth, without the mayoral spin.
Your turn....

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Beautiful Silver Spring, Md.: Submitting two days early because I'm excited: Today on WPGC's Donnie Simpson Show, Chuck Brown announced that he'll be playing the seventh-inning stretch for Opening Day at RFK! He'll be doing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "Bustin' Loose." Go-go groups already have a chart for "Take Me Out to the Go-Go" that can be minimally modified for the ballgame!

I'm thrilled the Lords of D.C. Baseball read this chat (or something) and decided to represent D.C. with their musical selection. Now if we can get some half-smokes on the ballpark grills and Rare Essence postgame concert action going ...

Marc Fisher: Thanks for the tip on this. Half smokes definitely need to be our next crusade. The dogs at the exhibition game a couple of weeks ago made Oscar Meyer taste like the finest gourmet sausage.
Chuck Brown, besides being a legend, is a great guy and a devoted and loyal fan of this city. The days I spent with him some years back when I wrote a profile of him for Style were enormous fun. He doesn't do it nearly often enough, but if you can ever catch him at a performance where he breaks out of the go-go and moves into his straight-ahead jazz repertoire, make it your business to be there.

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Arlington, Va.: So W is actually going to throw out the first pitch?

This must be the first time in months, if not years, that he has dared show himself to a crowd not vetted by the Republican National Committee. I implore my fellow Washingtonians lucky enough to score tickets to heighten the carnival atmosphere by booing and jeering as loudly as you can from the moment he is introduced until he leaves the field of play.

Marc Fisher: Oh, I wish you wouldn't. Criticize the guy all you want, either for his politics or for his failure to lift a finger for baseball in Washington, but don't let his presence be a reason to sour the tone on opening night at RFK. Greet him with silence, sure, but don't razz him--it just makes all of us look petty.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Marc,
You have been right all along (so far)on baseball in D.C. You said it would happen when things looked very bleak.
Do you share the opinion of the naysayers who predict that the Nationals will not stay in D.C. because the new stadium will cost too much and will be killed by the Council? The cost of assembling the necessary ground for the stadium is going up daily, as is all real estate in the D.C. metro area. I can see it being a deal breaker.

Marc Fisher: Never say never with this political crowd, but I don't think the council will send the team packing. There's too much money floating around connected to baseball. Will they stage some threatening dramatics? Can you spell Linda Cropp? But in the end, council members will smell the cash and the jobs and will figure out a way to push baseball to the wall and then take some deal that they will pretend is cheaper but will end up costing the taxpayers well more than the original deal.

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Anonymous: Please inform me:

How did the Pentagon get so much money that they can afford to spend tax dollars to rename RFK Stadium (renovated with tax dollars) Armed Forces Stadium? How do we all benefit? Mightn't our troops benefit more from, say, more armored vehicles? Or may we don't have to spend the money?

I read today that lighters can no longer be brought aboard planes, but that we can still carry up to four books of "safety" matches. Since smoking on flights is prohibited, just what can we do with those four books of matches?

Marc Fisher:
How'd they get the moola? Um, are you by any chance heading to the post office today or tomorrow with a big, thick envelope full of TAX FORMS? You don't want a draft, you get to pay for massive recruiting and marketing expenses. Be all you can be and all that. I'd far rather have that money pumped into youth baseball programs in the District than into the coffers of the TV networks for more razzle dazzle ads equating military service with playing video games, wouldn't you?

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The Price of Beer: So I attended the United home opener Saturday night at RFK and will be at the Nats opener tonight (see Marc, you can enjoy both) and while of course we all expect some bumps along the way with this two-team stadium affair, I am outraged ... outraged I tell you about what they have done to the beer at RFK.

As recently as October at the last United playoff game, you could purchase a 20 oz. Foggy Bottom or Red Hook for $6.50. Now, for that same $6.50, you get about 10 (maybe 12) oz. of the same beer ... it's OUTRAGEOUS. Yes, I suppose I could drink Bud or whatever, but well, no I really can't.

Well guess what D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission and Aramark, you just lost yourself $40 per United game ($640 per year) and $40 per Nats Game (about $400).

Marc Fisher: Wait a minute--you were spending $40 per game on beer alone? Maybe you should introduce yourself to your local tavern.
Ah, I get it--you're saying you won't go to the games because of the price-gouging on beer. Well, there is an alternative. A few, actually: Drink water. Drink less beer. Or, and let's call this an academic idea rather than a concrete proposal, bring your own. I know, it probably violates half a dozen laws, but if you're that desperate, you could put it in water bottles, which, according to today's paper, are permitted.

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Arlington, Va.: Mark, Please Help us Nats Fans!

Three other friends and myself are 20-game season ticket holders, and purchased opening day season tickets when given the option. About two weeks ago, we received our season tickets, but still no opening day tickets. We have an invoice, a confirmation number, and my friend's credit card has been charged.

I can only assume that this isn't an isolated problem, because we haven't been able to get through to the ticket office all day Tuesday, Wednesday and even this morning! We have e-mailed our "Nats representative", but still no response. What else can we do? We would just like for the Nationals to post something, anything, to fans who are having this same issue.

Help us Mark! Use your connections to find out what the Nats plans are if people like us approach the ticket window with this problem ... or if nothing else, at least give us your press pass.

Marc Fisher: Alas, there's been way too much sloppiness in distributing those tickets. The commissioner of the season ticket group I have a small piece of, the Post's own Frank Ahrens, just got our tickets a couple of days ago. But you have to recognize that the Nationals barely exist as a business--they're really a handful of people working out of a couple of trailers in the RFK parking lot. They need to get up to speed, but this has been a very hasty transition.

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Marc Fisher: More on the Nats later, but first, let's dip into some other topics.

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The Commonwealth: Mr. Fisher, it has come to our attention that you and your family have recently visited a number of sites of historical interest in Virginia. While we are ever mindful of the importance of such study for the development of young minds, we hasten to remind you that during the process of your visit you drove on our roads, availed yourselves of the protection of our public safety personnel, breathed our air, and viewed our scenery! In some quarters this would be regarded as "freeloading" and would make the perpeptrator subject to taxation. However, here in the Old Dominion we take a more tolerant view. Indeed, should either of your youngsters, upon completion of their education at private schools in the District, wish to attend any of the fine colleges and universities of Virginia, they would be welcome to do so without paying out of state tuition, and we promise not to call them names either.

Marc Fisher: The reader refers to my story on the Escapes page of Style yesterday--maybe Katie can toss in a link--on our journey over spring break to the houses of four of the first five presidents of the US of A.
And I believe I detect a reference to my unpopular (in Virginia, anyway) stance in favor of a commuter tax on folks who work in DC and live outside the city.
However, I wager that I dumped more cash into your tax coffers during my family vacation in Virginny than you pump into DC with a dozen workday lunches. So while I appreciate the hospitality, I don't think that relieves you of the responsibility to pay your way in the District.

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Arlington, Va.: I applaud the decision to build taller buildings in Rosslyn, as should everyone who has ever whined about "sprawl" in this chat. We need to realize once and for all that Washington area has outgrown its sleepy, Southern town configuration. I know that there are strict laws in D.C. proper on the height of buildings, but I think all the ringing municipalities should not allow, but require, any new buildings to be mega-skyscrapers before Charlotte, N.C., becomes a bedroom suburb of the district.

Marc Fisher: I'm all for preserving the Mall and even for keeping the height restriction in the District, or at least in the federal core of the city. But anyone who thinks that height restrictions across the river in Rosslyn will help preserve the historic views from the Mall is turning a blind eye to the development that happened in Arlington County over the past thirty years. That view is already changed, and we're no worse off for that change, so bring on the tall buildings.

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Alexandria, Va.: So when you were reporting in Eastern Europe in the 80's and 90's, you didn't meet anyone outside of Poland who was inspired by Pope John Paul II? You know, I believe it, the same way I believe that your colleague, Robert Kaiser, genuinely wasn't lying when he said last fall that he had talked to lots of 2000 Bush voters who were going to vote for Kerry, but not one former Gore voter who was going to vote for Bush. If you only interview folks you think are going to validate your own opinions, you aren't going to have your illusions disturbed. I can easily imagine exactly the kind of folks you thought were worth talking to, the so-called "reform Communists." You know what the definition of a reform Communist was, don't you? That was someone who instead of sending dissidents to the gulag, would send them to an insane asylum.

And conservatives have never denied that the collapse of the Soviet Union would never have happened if not for Gorbachev. Not because of his alleged brilliance, but because he was the first Soviet leader who was stupid enough actually think that the Russian people actually liked Communism and that the system could be maintained without the use of force and terror.

Marc Fisher: The writer is referring to a piece I have on slate.com (now owned by the Post, for whatever that's worth) in which I argue that the revolutions of 1989 stemmed largely from a popular craving for individual freedoms and a shot at the capitalist dream, and not from the inspiration of Pope John Paul II.
Sorry, but my conclusions are not based in the least on the reform communists, who, by the way, were the most likely people in East Bloc countries to credit the pope for their ability to dissent from the Soviet line. Rather, I found that the ordinary people who craved a western life were the ones who took the big chances and went out onto the streets to demonstrate against their repressive regime, and these were the people who had had no contact with the church and who based their decisions on Gorbachev's relaxation of the repression and on their own desires for material goods--not on the pope's message.

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Annapolis, Md.: Oh where, oh where, have my slot machines gone? Where, oh where could they be?...

Marc Fisher: Um, West Virginia?
Drive safely!

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Oakton, Va.: Marc,

Submitting this in advance as I won't be able to attend this week's chat. I read last week's chat late, so I didn't get a chance to respond. I don't know where Elaine Knuth gets her indignation, but my passport issued in 1996 states my place of birth as Washington, D.C. Maybe the government is simply making a uniform identification for everyone from Washington. The passport place of birth is city, state, so wouldn't it be Washington, D.C.?

Also, you should get out to the new Safeway at the Pan Am shopping center in Fairfax, which reopened two weeks ago after being completely rebuilt. Make a day of it and visit it, Wegmans, and Harris Teeter; and you will see what competition has done to the grocery shopping in that area of Northern Virginia. Pity poor Giant. I used to shop there, but they took a step backward when they replaced their scanner systems with the less capable ones Stop and Shop uses. Goes to show mergers aren't always progress for the consumers.

Marc Fisher: Yes, I heard from quite a few people after last week's show who also found "WAshington, DC" in their passports, so I'm not sure there is much of an issue here.
Re Giant--it's just sad to see how steep the decline in quality has been since Giant was taken over by the Dutch. Not only has the local touch been lost, but many of the Giant-only products are gone, and the sense that each store had some idea of the local population's needs and desires has pretty well vanished. It has not sunk as low as Safeway quite yet, but is well on its way. Thus the enormous success of all these new entrants into the grocery market in this region.

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washingtonpost.com: Here's that link Marc mentioned: Virginia's Trail of Wigs (Post, April 13)

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Bowie, Md.: Your article about the pressures on Asian kids growing up in this area has been going on with first generation Asian kids for a long time. But, it's not just with first generation kids, but the kids of first generation kids who are trying to pass the values they attained from their parents to their own kids.

I spoke to an admissions officer at U. Michigan and asked her whether Asians are considered under the affirmative action umbrella, and she told me "no" b/c we are not considered an under-represented minority in colleges in the U.S. Asians have thrived despite being oppressed by many other ethnic groups.

Not to be snobby, but Asians have worked hard to achieve what they have. The tougher question here may be why other new immigrant groups (i.e., non-American Indian) have had a tougher time moving up the ladder even though everyone starts on a clean slate when they get off that plane or boat and step on U.S. soil.

Marc Fisher: I don't think the difference has much to do with working hard--there are plenty of immigrant groups who find themselves toward the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder despite a powerful work ethic.
But there are obvious achievement gaps among the various immigrant groups, and the factors include language, cultural differences, and the nature of who comes here: For example, many of the Salvadorans who have moved to this region come from families that had fairly low-level jobs back home, while many of the Asians who have come here were professionals and scientists back home.

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Arlington, Va.: I wanted raise an old topic that has been kicked around here lately about the need for more and wider roads. The other evening I picked up the misses at a friend's house in Potomac. I made the trip from Arlington to Potomac in about 20-25 minutes, with only moderate speeding. The roads, for the most part, were empty. Which made me think, why should we spend tens of billions to expand roads that are going to get heavy use 2 hours a day?

Marc Fisher: Well, depending on which roads you're talking about, you can find pretty good traffic congestion on some of them for about six or eight hours a day, but your central point is right. It would be far cheaper and less intrusive to stagger work hours than to build highway upon highway. But the bottom line is that many people really don't mind long commutes; in fact, they sort of like them. It's a respite, a period of privacy in lives that are otherwise way too busy.

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Upward mobility: Marc - re: your piece on the Asian students and the pressure to excel. Isn't this really just the outlier on the curve that all the other oppressed immigrants go through, when they finally get the chance to have their children live the American dream? Or is this something truly different?

washingtonpost.com: Asian Students Contend With Expectations (Post, April 10)

Marc Fisher: Teachers tell me that they see considerably more pressure from home pushing Asian kids to get better grades, test scores and so on. That's neither as bad as some kids make it out to be nor as good as the parents mean it to be. The sad part is when I hear lots of kids talking about how the pressure is so narrowly-focused: Kids who are tremendous students and want to dive deeply into, say, the humanities get pressured to focus on science, or kids who want to play the trumpet get pushed into violin--that sort of thing is just silly, but all too common.

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Rosslyn, Va.: I'm all for tall buildings there. When they build them can they add some soul to the streets as well?!

Marc Fisher: That's the trick. Rosslyn was an exercise in truly awful design--those SkyWalks that were supposed to turn Rosslyn into a mini-Minneapolis never worked and are being torn down. But it will take some very imaginative rule making to force replacements buildings to create the vibrant street life that exists in Clarendon, Shirlington or parts of Ballston.

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Tysons, Va.: Marc,

Something that advocates of the Rosslyn skyscraper proposal ignore is the highly restricted airspace around DCA. It's not as if the planes can easily shift East from Rosslyn. Airspace over the White House and monument core is restricted.

The skyscraper could easily be built half a mile away in the Courthouse area where it would intrude much less upon DCA approach airspace, while enabling Arlington to continue its transformation to an urban space.

And while we're in the mood for permitting Arlington to build this skyscraper, how about paring it with a requirement to widen I-66. No widening of I-66, no skyscraper.

Marc Fisher: The story on yesterday's front page made it clear that the FAA can carp and whine about interference with flight paths, but the land use decisions will be made by Arlington County, and there are examples of localities that have overruled the feds and built tall even closer to airport runways. That said, I know that Arlington will give great weight to the FAA's recommendation.

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Fairfax, Va.: Marc,

Leiby is strutting his cape in the other discussion. Do you plan on donning a costume for your future Potomac Confidential discussions?

Marc Fisher: I will have you know that I do not launch any edition of Potomac Confidential unless I am fully in costume. This is no idle hour's work--I dress for the occasion. Oh, people may laugh and people may point, but I think it essential to be in black tie and tails whilst entertaining your fine thoughts and queries.

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Annapolis, Md.: Can we build a bunch of tall buildings around the WWII monument? Put that eyesore out of the line of sight. Then we can have the "Reflecting Sears Building".

Marc Fisher: Now you're talking. And in doing so, we could take care of a whole slew of groups that are clamoring for memorials for various presidents, famous leaders or groups.

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College park, Md.:
Any reason the Nats chose to have an Opening Night instead of Opening Day??

Marc Fisher: Good question. There are so few opening days these days. I don't know the answer, but I bet the factors included: This is a rather delayed home opener, so they weren't too concerned about frigid weather. At this stage of the season, day games can wreak havoc with teams' travel schedules. And night games draw vastly larger TV audiences, and it was obvious that this would be a sellout at the park.

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college park, md.:
Isnt Pete's tv network taking a bath this year if they are paying out 21 million to the Nats, and only televising 79 games??

Marc Fisher: I imagine so, and Angelos defenders say it's in his interest to get the games on TV. But this isn't entirely about money for Angelos, at least not short term. I don't think it's being overly conspiratorial to suggest that he'd like to see the Nats get off to a difficult start, if only to buy time so he can either sell off the O's or take a shot at rebuilding them. In any event, he's made a total hash of his team's reputation in the Washington region.

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No Cable: Since I don't watch much TV and since you can get so many channels around here without it, I don't have cable.

So for many of us, what Mayor Williams said wasn't spin. The 71 games over the air is fantastic. For those who want to see them all, though, the rest should be on cable.

Overall, though, baseball is far better in person than on television.

Marc Fisher: True indeed. And while I sympathize with your decision to steer clear of cable, it does make far more sense economically for baseball and other sports to be on cable. But I don't think we want to get into an extended debate on tiers of programming and how to pay for them.

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Arlington, Va.: I understand that they WILL allow you to bring Food into RFK. that this was a change that was just announced ... Can you verify?

Marc Fisher: Yes: This is a change. Just a few days ago, Tony Tavares, the Nats president, was on the radio saying no outside food or drink would be permitted in the stadium. Now the rules, which are layed out in a box inside today's Sports section, say you may bring food and water (but only bottled water in its original packaging). The public pressure seems to have done the trick--congrats, folks.

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Washington, D.C.: Lets get that field named right:
"Taxation Without Representation Field at RFK Stadium"

Marc Fisher: In your dreams.
Last I checked, the move to raise money to buy the naming rights on behalf of DC voting rights was wallowing in the low five digits. That ain't gonna cut it.

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Armed Forces Sponsorship: Hehe. I never thought of it that way, Marc. Seems that, one way or another, like it or not, public taxes will fund this team.

Marc Fisher: Public money will pay for some chunk of the stadium--not for the team. And the team will repay the city in a number of ways. One look at the debate over how quickly property values are shooting up in the stadium area will show you how baseball is already boosting the city's tax rolls.

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Fairfax, Va.: I was pleased to see on Sunday that at least one Post contributer has the common sense to point out the inane approach to legislation of Virginia's DEMOCRATIC delegation.
One absurd proposal after the next, while the Republicans who propose real-world solutions to actual problems get derided by you and other Post writers as clowns, etc. Sure, they put forth some stupid proposals every now and then, but the Republicans also put forward thoughtful pieces of legislation that much of the public supports.
Go ahead and read all about it. You probably missed it.

washingtonpost.com: Virginia's Directionally Challenged Democrats (Post, April 10)

Marc Fisher: I did read that utterly specious piece. There's a good argument to be made for many of the Republican initiatives in the Virginia legislature, but that sure wasn't it. Here's all you need to know about that piece: You can scroll through the lists of bills that any legislator from any party proposes each year and find plenty of nonsense to keep you rolling in the aisles with laughter. Plucking out a few silly bills and pinning them on one party's members is something that works only if your assumption is that the readers are idiots.

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Springfield, Va.: I voted for Bush in both 2000 and 2004, and I am going to the game tonight and I intend to applaud loudly for him. I would have applauded Clinton as well (maybe less enthusiastically, though). The man is the president and the office of the presidency deserves respect, even if one disagrees with the politics of the current resident of that office. People need to lighten up on their bitterness towards the other party. We're SUPPOSED to have disagreements -- that's the whole point of having ELECTIONS. If we all agreed 100 percent of the time, why not just have a monarchy like Saudi Arabia?

Marc Fisher: You said it. Thanks.

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RFK ...: Food and water! Thank goodness. People with food allergies/medical conditions cannot eat that type of food. Not that they wouldn't survive five hours without food, but at least they can munch on something!

Marc Fisher: Though I am told that RFK will now offer vegetarian food as well. (Presumably something more than ketchup.)

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Washington, D.C.: I am a 2000 Gore and 2004 Bush voter. We do exist!

Marc Fisher: Of course you do--I have a family full of such people. And I'd bet such folks outnumber those who voted Bush '00/Kerry '04.

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Re: Nats on TV: Was this poster correct?

"So for many of us, what Mayor Williams said wasn't spin. The 71 games over the air is fantastic. For those who want to see them all, though, the rest should be on cable."

The rest will be on cable? Marc, I'm SO confused about the TV deal. The 70+ games are on what? The others are on what? Why wasn't opening day televised on anything?

My head hurts.

Marc Fisher: Don't be confused: It's pretty simple. About 70 games will be on Channel 20 on old-fashioned broadcast TV. Zero games will be on cable because no cable deal exists.
The opening day game from Philly was indeed on TV, on Channel 20. Tonight's home opener is on Ch. 20 too.

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Re: Armed Forces Sponsorship: No, I was saying that, no matter how the stadium construction funding goes, if the Armed Forces end up sponsoring, as opposed to Qualcomm or some such, all that money is coming out of our federal taxes anyway.

Marc Fisher: Quite right, and my response is that the armed forces have a set budget for recruiting and marketing, and if they choose to pump some of that money into a DC stadium deal that pays for youth baseball programs around the city, I think that's a far better use of our tax dollars than more dumb glitzy ads on TV.

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More on the Armed Forces: I'm not sure why people are bothered about the Armed Forces spending part of their advertising budget on the stadium. Shouldn't they be entitled to decide how to spend their own budgets? The Army and the Marines already spend a lot of money on adverts for the telly. What's the difference if they run fewer adverts because they spent the money on the stadium? It all comes out to the same amount of money.

(I am not a big fan of sponsor's names on stadiums, especially when EVERYONE continues to use the old name--say, Candlestick Park--but the media insist on parroting the new one. But if we're going to have corporate names, let the Armed Forces use their money as they will.)

Marc Fisher: Should be interesting to see what name the press uses for RFK. Seems to me that the pattern is that the RFK name will stick because that's what the stadium is called. After all, everyone says Camden Yards even though the official name is Orioles Park at Camden Yards.

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Washington, D.C.: Normally, I would say that the Nats home opener is the wrong place to boo the Prez. But, given the way he screens his crowds, this might be his only chance this year to realize dissent exists.

Marc Fisher: Sure, he controls the audiences at his campaign events and his Social Security TV shows and all that. But there are plenty of ways to make your dissent known without intruding on the celebration of tonight's game. You could, for example, demonstrate outside the stadium--a bunch of folks fighting for the D.C. schools are doing just that.

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Why opening night?: Arizona played at home yesterday.

A team can't travel more than 1,000 (I think) miles and play a day game the next day. It's either a MLB rule or union contract thing, maybe both.

Marc Fisher: Thanks.

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Opening Night: There's a short blurb in the Sports section that answers this. Originally this game was scheduled for Friday, but Selig wanted to attend both this and the Dodgers' annual Jackie Robinson game, so they moved this one to Thursday (which also gave us time for a makeup tomorrow if it rained tonight). Because Arizona played last night and had to travel west to east, they couldn't play this afternoon (that's a union rule so they can get some sleep).

Marc Fisher: Yes, and the schedulers often try to keep an off day right behind the home opener so that the festivities can go ahead in the event of a rainout.

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Food and water ...: I am SO happy about the change of heart at RFK. I am pregnant, and need to eat small amounts often. Greasy food and soda make me ill ... you see how the food ban was going to be particularly difficult!

I am happy to be able to bring in my water and trail mix to get me through the evening (although we had planned to tailgate dinner before going in and will still do so).

Marc Fisher: I'll be roaming through the stands, so if someone asks you for some trail mix, that will be me.

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Good News City:: While we're on the topic of good reasons to celebrate, let's not forget the Wizards. Hooray, they made it to the playoffs!

Marc Fisher: Pretty shocking, huh? In addition, they are an exciting team to watch, which is quite the change from the past decade and more. It says here that they make it to the second round.

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Alexandria, Va.: Good afternoon Marc,

What a great day it is for D.C. I, for one, plan to walk through the gates at RFK when they open, plop down in my right field seats and read "In the Shadow of the Senators" while I listen to batting practice.

Can't imagine anything better in the world. Thank God it's here.

Marc Fisher: A man with a plan.
That's a splendid book.
And what do we think the attendance will be like starting with Saturday's game? I'm betting it will be in the 30,000-plus range, which is pretty spectacular.

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Montgomery County, Md.: nothing is going to be on cable at all? Not even on espn or espn2?

Incidentally, last night, on espn2 last night, the bar underneath said that it was the Yanks vs Red Sox but it was the O's!

Marc Fisher: There was much moaning and groaning in my house over that switcheroo. All the listings said the Yanks/Sox game would be on, and instead we were saddled with Baltimore/Tampa Bay. Talk about continuing insults.
Espn and Fox will show some Nats games on top of the local coverage. When I said Zero on cable, I meant that there is no local cable deal. If the national networks choose a Nats game, we'll see that.

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Washington, D.C. : Marc,

I am seeing the logic. Driving on the same roads every single workday as you commute to work IS the same as driving on roads once or twice a year. And imagine how much money VA is losing by allowing all 500K residents of D.C. to be charged in state tuition. Of course, most people in D.C. either have an education already from their home states or don't go to college, but it's still a huge loss for them. And we would prefer you not stay in the city in the evenings, we know how important it is for you to go back to VA and spend money there. Besides, we don't have the restaurants you prefer in the city.

I am so embarrassed that I wanted a commuter tax. We should be paying them, after all we take so much.

Marc Fisher: Virginia is not losing a penny because a relative handful of DC students are getting in-state tuition at Virginia colleges. The legislation setting up that program provides that federal dollars pay the difference so that DC kids can have access to in-state tuition rates at public colleges.

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Tall Buildings: Now its time for the Council to do the same here. The D.C. heights law is local, not Federal. There's no reason why we can't revoke it in targeted areas which are already "downtown"/urban/non-residential ... like the Fed/Stadium zone of SW, the downtown "Kst" area of NW, etc ...

This would make us more competitive for business in DC, reduce the artificially inflated market in condos, etc...

Marc Fisher: I wouldn't alter the height restriction downtown because it's so close to the Mall, and it's important to allow the Dome and the Washington Monument to continue to stand out. But I would relax the restriction around Metro stations outside the central core--at Friendship Heights, Tenleytown, Cleveland Park, Brookland, RFK/DC General, and certainly east of the Anacostia.

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Maryland!!: Marc, I usually agree with you, but this commuter tax thing is silly. I work in the city and live in MD, and pay $10 a day for the privelege to ride metro to work. So far today, I have gotten film developed, bought birthday cards, and dropped off dry cleaning, picking up a $8 sandwich on my walk back. Should I have waited until crossing the border to fork over my 50+ dollars?

How do I "owe" the city anything? What's next? Tax from MD to VA? PA to MD - a double tax if you come all the way to DC? What about if you drive through the city? Triple tax? I don't get it.

Marc Fisher: You get the last word on that topic because we're out of time.
Thanks for coming along, folks. Off to the ballpark. Hope to see some of you there, and lots of you in the coming weeks. Back in the paper on Tuesday and here again with you next week. Go Nats!

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