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Potomac Confidential

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, February 10, 2005; 12:00 PM

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

This Week's Columns:

Marc Fisher (The Washington Post)

Droopy Drawers Drive Va. House To Distraction (Post, Feb. 10)

Roaming the Capital For Poetic Legacy Of Walt Whitman (Post, Feb. 8)

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.


Marc Fisher: Good day, fair readers; good day, Mrs. Future Non-Queen Camilla; good day, Nuclear North Korea!
We're full of topics today, what with the mayor of Baltimore and Gov. Bobby Haircut all caught in a mess over rumormongering and other such dirty tricks. Speaking of which, the original dirty trickster, Donald Segretti, is back in the news, opining that George H.W. Bush is not Deep Throat. Which is also back in the news courtesy of a new documentary on the porn classic. Full circles are what we're all about here on the news prong of good old webly webster. On to your entries, but first, let's call the Yay and Nay of the Day:

Yay to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley for calling out Gov. Bobby Haircut's political hatchetmen and their venal scheme to spread rumors about O'Malley's family life. Their? Is it plural? Or is there just the one dirty trickster? Maryland's Democratic legislators want to know. So do we. Bob Ehrlich so far has said the right things about how there's no place in his government for that kind of sliming, but since a prominent member of the governor's staff was doing the rumormongering, shouldn't the governor apologize on his administration's behalf? And let's have those hearings--it'd be better entertainment than a reprise of the old slots debate.

Nay to Major League Baseball's management of the Washington Nationals, a team that desperately needs a real owner as soon as possible. A real owner would realize that there is a reason not a single team in baseball has granted its radio contract to an FM station--which is exactly what the Nats are reportedly about to do. Baseball is a daily game with a regional appeal--it needs the AM band's ability to reach over large swaths of the area. An FM signal only carries a few dozen miles. The sound and rhythms of the game call for AM.

Coming on Sunday: The generation gulch in a prominent family.

Now, on to the antics in Richmond and the rest of what's out there....


Maryland Weirdness: Is Maryland trying to overtake Florida in the "so wierd it must be true" category of politics? Reporters banned, hatchet men, dirty tricks, etc. Where did all this come from?

Marc Fisher: Maybe it's jealousy--with Virginia mounting a crusade against low-rider pants and anything remotely gay, Maryland needs something more sexy than slots to appeal to our lower interests.


Washington, D.C. (15th & L): Marc: Maybe you can answer this burning question —- Does Va.'s droopy pants legislation mean that plumbers can be fined for, um, exposing too much below the belt?

Marc Fisher: When the legislators who sit in the room where Thomas Jefferson once sat turn their attention to butt cracks, I want to be there. If they don't get to it this year--this is a short session--surely it's on their list for next year.


Vienna, Va.: Hi Marc,

I thnk there may be a reason why the Virginia bill concerns indecent display of underwear. Focusing the bill on indecent display of undewear protects plumbers from being fined for inadvertently displaying the famous "plumber's smile" while they are working on a job.

Marc Fisher: But aren't we headed for a future of far more than plumbers exposing a bit of special cleavage? If this bill goes through--and let's have our fun now, because there are some actual adults in the Virginia Senate, which has yet to vote on this matter--then the obvious way for low-rider afficianados to avoid the fine will be for them to forgo the underwear entirely.


Rockville, Md.: Loved that photo of Joseph "Prince of Darkness" Steffen. Just stick a couple of horns on his head and he's ready to go trick-or-treating!

So how much damage will the fact that Ehrlich seems to have had Satan as a trusted employee cause? And are there any other little devils waiting to be rooted out?

Marc Fisher: Ehrlich is trying to portray this as the bizarre act of a lone operative, but Steffen has been working for the governor for almost all of his political career, and the stories in Matt Mosk's piece today indicate that Ehrlich and Steffen have a longstanding deal in which the operative goes out and does the dirty stuff on behalf of Mr. Clean. More to come.


Hi Marc: I just cannot wait to hear what you have to say about Ehrlich and his hit man. Lay it on us!

Marc Fisher: Just think--up until yesterday, I was still fielding several calls a day complaining that the Bobby Haircut moniker was too harsh because the governor is, after all, a really nice guy.


Alexandria, Va.: Marc,

On the issue of banning same-sex marriage and even civil unions, do you think Virginians really oppose the nuts and bolts of these unions -- for example, the right to see your life-long partner in their hospital room, possibly on their deathbed? I kind of doubt it.

Do you think the media could play a bigger role in humanizing and highlighting these issues? I feel that the line between religious marriage and civil union is blurred in the media. Of course, no law can force a church, synagogue or mosque to marry anyone.

Marc Fisher: There is some considerable sensitivity in the legislature on this question of the right to care for a loved one, visit in hospital and so on. That's the only point on which the opponents of the constitutional amendment even drew a response during this week's floor debates. The anti-gay side says that these rights continue to exist, but of course Virginia last year adopted probably the harshest law in the country limiting gay rights. The appetite for further restrictions in the legislature is quite keen.


Vienna, Va.: When my one-and-a-half-year-old son crouches down, his diaper is clearly visible over the top of his pants.

Will he be fined $50 for exposing his diapers?

Marc Fisher: No, you will be fined $50. You may wish to consider him going diaper-free. In fact, you should investigate whether the penalty for public nudity is less severe than that for exposing undies.


Washington, D.C.: If droopy pants are outlawed, then only outlaws will have droopy pants.

Which, come to think of it, would be a pretty good method of identification.

Marc Fisher: A good use of our new network of outdoor surveillance cameras!


Arlington, Va.: I don't like jeans that are too tight. You know the ones that leave nothing to the imagination, often worn with large belt buckles ...
I'd like to see Virginia do something about that.

Marc Fisher: I have requested that Virginia lawmakers look into legislating against 1) sandals worn with socks, 2) the use of sandals by people whose flesh leaks over onto the top of the sandal's straps, and 3) the use of shorts by people whose thighs exceed a circumference to be determined by conference committee.


Alexandria, Va. : In today's column you quote Del. Brian Moran attacking those who voted for the "droopy drawers" bill.

Yet Brian Moran himself was one of the 60 delegates who voted for this bill! He also voted to report the bill out of the Criminal Justice committee.

Is Del. Brian Moran a hypocrite? How can he attack others for voting for the "droopy drawers" bill when he himself also voted for it?

You can verify that Del. B. Moran indeed voted for the "droopy drawers" bill by visiting the General Assembly Web site at HB1981

Marc Fisher: Moran and a number of other Dems were in a bind because while they thought the pants bill was ludicrous, it was sponsored by one of their own, Algie Howell, a Democrat from Norfolk. So while the Dems would surely have opposed the pants bill if it were one more piece of idiotic babbitry from the Repo right, the Dems impaled themselves on their own partisan rigidity (what an awful bit of writing) and voted against the low-riding pants.


Arlington, Va.: So how many posts have you gotten about your article that made some phrase to "getting your knickers in a twist," or some facsimile?

Marc Fisher: You've entered a no-knickers zone, as that guy on TV would put it.
But snickers? Have at it.


McLean, Va.: I see no reason for the Virginia legislature to wade into cultural wars. If citizens think that low-riding pants should be outlawed, they should band together. Perhaps they could call themselves Virginians United Against Butt Cleavage. Ther slogan could be "Just say NO to crack!"

Marc Fisher: Think of the money that could be saved reusing old signs from failed anti-drug campaigns.


Kingstowne, Va.: I am planning to protest Del. Brian Moran's shameless vote for the droopy drawers bill by wearing my underwear over my pants while picketing Alexandria city hall.

Can you believe that Del. Brian Moran voted for this bill and then gave you an interview in which he criticized Republicans because they voted for it just like he himself did?

Marc Fisher: A new form of civil disobedience! Please flag me before you picket--I will want to be there, undies out. (Which raises an important question: What will the law say about undies worn on the head, a time-honored collegiate tradition?)


Across the river: In your column today, you talked about the Virginia House proposal to investigate all Virginias who want to adopt to determine if they engage in "voluntary homosexual activity" or "unmarried and cohabitating with another adult." This is the first I've heard about this and it's alarming to say the least. What do you think the odds are of it getting by the Senate?

Marc Fisher: Better than the pants bill.
This is what's left of Del. Dick Black's original gay adoption bill, which would have just banned gays from adopting kids, period. To my amazement, the House didn't go for that, but watered down the bill, so what's left is the requirement that the state investigate EVERY SINGLE potential adopting family to determine whether the prospective adoptive parents are "currently engaged" in homosexual activity. We will need a new police force for this. Maybe they could wear black uniforms.


Frederick, Md.: I saw an article that said Chief Justice Rehnquist was Deep Throat. Anywho, I think Charles and Camilla are a good match. They're both ugly as hell. I just hope they don't breed.

Marc Fisher: Deep Throat speculation futures are trading at a level we haven't seen since the 70s. All this is fueled by Internet rumors that Deepy is nearing death, though, as Watergate freaks like to say, that has been denied.
But have at it--Rehnquist, Bush I, how about Bob Dole or even Gerry Ford?


Burke, Va.: Regarding the O'Malley thing: Does anyone really believe that a story of his infidelity (true or not) would influence voters?

Marc Fisher: Yes, I do, Miss Lewinsky.
But the way this is playing out, it's a big boost for O'Malley, who comes off as victim of unfair play.


Annapolis, Md.: It's time for the culture of corruption (from slots to Steffen)the governor has brought to Annapolis to cease. This gov has more in common with DeLay than Gingrich. The fact that John Kane, who can't keep his mouth shut to save his life (or get elected his lovely wife) won't say anything speaks volumes (he should stay this way if wants the gov re-elected).

Marc Fisher: Watch for Ehrlich to try to push the spotlight off rumorgate by mounting another extra special push for slots and by embracing every teen driving restriction that the organized moms can dream up.


University Park, Md.: Maybe one fix for those droopy pants is more gun belts. Seriously, can you summarize where Virginians can wear non-concealed weapons (restaurants, movie theaters, day-care centers?) and what kind of application process is required to buy and carry guns in Va?

Marc Fisher: It's pretty much a free for all, as the legislators in Richmond keep trying to add new places where open carrying is permitted. The big debate now is over whether you'll be able to carry weapons into government buildings--I'm not sure I have the last chapter of this saved to disk, but last I recall, the legislature was busy stuffing the efforts of county governments in our area to have Virginians leave their guns outside county buildings.


Vienna, Va.: "unmarried and cohabitating with another adult."

Oops, my brother is living in my spare bedroom while going to graduate school. Glad I'm not thinking of adopting.

Marc Fisher: The phrase in the bill goes on to say that it's talking about cohabiting with another adult to whom you are not related. But still, this would put an awful lot of married-in-all-but-name folks out of contention for adopting.


Re: Bobby Haircut moniker: Marc,
Don't stop using it! The name fits more now than it ever has! And thanks to you, I use it whenever I talk about Maryland politics with people back home (I live in Utah now, a state with it's own brand of weird and wacko politics!)

Marc Fisher: The mail still runs pretty heavily in favor of Bobby Haircut, the name, but Bobby Ehrlich, the gov, has many defenders--forced to put my money on next year's race right now, I would still have to bet on his reelection.


Holy See: Deep Throat ailing. Pope hospitalized. Coincidence?

Marc Fisher: Well, at the least it would restore some public confidence in the moral value of whistleblowing. Somehow, I've always thought that when Deep's identity is finally revealed, it will be rather underwhelming. A mid-level bureaucrat seems more likely than a big name pol.


McLean, Va.: Riffing on your idea that Bobby Haircut will divert attention from Rumorgate by embracing new teen driving restrictions, perhaps he will introduce a bill that prohibits teens wearing low-riding pants from driving.

Marc Fisher: But at least they'll be able to talk on their cell phones, which they will want to do, if only to tell their friends, "Hey, I'm driving on the Beltway with NO UNDERPANTS!"


Arlington, VA: So let's see. If they could the General Assembly would ban abortions, which would lead to more unwanted babies being born and or abandoned or put up for adoption. But then they go ahead and limit to pool of people who are allowed to adopt. Tell me, does Virginia ban interracial adoptions?

Marc Fisher: Now there's a seamy issue--There's no law against interracial adoptions, but in practice, there's a heavy bias against black-white interracial adoptions, while there's no such bias in Asian-other interracial adoptions. How can that be? We live in a strange society.


Deep Throat Rumor Control: Bob Dole? Nah. Gerry Ford? Nah. Bush the Elder? You've got to be kidding. I'm surprised that 41 wasn't an unindicted co-conspirator.

Weingarten says Woodward told him Deep Throat's identity, but then, Weingarten says a lot of things.

Marc Fisher: Oh, like Weingarten wouldn't then find a way to just happen to slip that into his chat in some wacko coded way? No way the Woodman told Gene. Because then Gene would have told me. And I would have told 337 of my closest friends.


Nats Tickets: Hi Marc,

What happened with the Nationals partial season ticket sales? According to yesterday's Post, fans who'd signed up to receive alerts about tickets were supposed to get an e-mail yesterday with passwords in order to purchase tickets starting at 12:01 today. But a lot of us never received that e-mail and it appeared that the 12:01 start time was a free-for-all, rather than an exclusive pre-sale.

Have the Nats already been infected with D.C.'s unique brand of incompetence?

Marc Fisher: Seems to be working ok as far as I can tell. I got the early offer email last night, as the team's announcement said would happen for those of us on the email list. I reluctantly decided not to go for the 20-game plan because the entire lower bowl of the stadium sold out in the season ticket sales. I've got a small share of a season ticket group, and I'll try to fill in with single game purchases--maybe some of those super special VIPs will sell off some of the good seats from time to time.


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: When will the Target open in D.C? Any new shops proposed for the old Woodies' Building or the old Sears Building in Tenleytown?

Marc Fisher: Target is under construction in Columbia Heights--I don't know the opening date. No signs of new stores coming into either of those other buildings, though the developer at the old Sears keeps saying there's interest.


Washington, D.C.: Every person involved with putting barriers around the monuments needs to head up Mass. Ave. and take a look at the British Embassy. They've just finished putting in a series of short, squat, brick columns that manage to be both effective and attractive, blending perfectly with the building and its surroundings. Some even have benches built in. It's proof that security doesn't have to be ugly and grey.

Marc Fisher: I will take a look--thanks. Providing aesthetically pleasing security does not require a graduate degree. It's just that the Jersey barriers are cheap and quick, and they feed the sense of the capital being under siege, which is politically useful for this administration.


Leesburg, Va.: With all of the Jersey barriers and police protection, the federal enclave becomes "enclavi-er" with every major event, like the Inauguration or the State of the Union.

Why not just wall it off permanently and give it its own identity: "The White Zone"?

Marc Fisher: They could ban people from entering the zone entirely and then they could declare it a theme park and charge admission to The Ultimate Safe Zone. And they could have motorcades that do circles around the zone constantly, for our entertainment. People would come.


Maryland: Where were YOU when all this Deep Throat stuff was going on?

Marc Fisher: I was down in the basement (though not the garage), in the dark, obsessed with secrets and conspiracies. Alas, that basement was at my high school, where a kid named Samuel Rose had hooked up an early, crude version of a big-screen projection TV so we could watch the hearings every day. We got the school to excuse us from classes and we watched every session, every day (and then the repeats at night on PBS.)


Washington, D.C.: I'm not terribly religious, and I'm not sure if I believe in an afterlife, but so help me God, there had better be some way for me to find out Deep Throat's identity if I get hit by a bus tomorrow or otherwise die prematurely and miss the big reveal.

Marc Fisher: Here's my question about the reveal: Does Woodward do it in the Post or does he go on TV? Or does it pop up on Drudge first? It will be a great moment in the annals of news technology evolution.


Washington, D.C.: Poster asked about Virginia banning mixed-race adoptions. Technically, no, but they often mysteriously 'lose' the paperwork and cause other delays. Much like they did after the Supreme Court forced them to legally allow mixed-race marriage. For years afterward there were still stories of 'paperwork problems' with mixed-race marriage applications. Of course, now the big boogeyman is gay people. So decades later we just switch 'bad guys'. Sad.

Marc Fisher: There was much talk in Richmond this week about the Supremes and the Loving case, which nullified Virginia's law against mixed-race marriages. Lots of comparisons to this year's legislative jihad against anything remotely gay. It will be interesting to see what happens in Maryland, where the anti-gay marriage amendment faces a much less certain fate. More on that in Sunday's column.


Arlington, Va.: "Bobby Haircut"? So why don't you just get it over with and just admit you don't like the guy. Snarky condescension is not your best trait.

Marc Fisher: You prefer dull condescension?


SE, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: How much do you think Sen. Dayton was hurt by his idiotic office closing last fall? Do you think that was a factor in his decision not to run again?
Personally I think he's a passive and ineffective legislator, but that's just me.

Marc Fisher: Hey, at least the senator from Minnesota is savvy enough to realize that he is toast (he pulled out of his reelection bid yesterday). Apparently, the good people of Minnesota joined us in realizing just how colossally dumb Dayton was for pulling his staff out of Washington based on the thinnest rumors of a terrorist attack.


Re: Deep Throat: I'm 29 and absolutely glued to the Deep Throat stories. I think it's exciting because it seems to be one of those un-answerable questions (who shot JFK?) that might actually be answered.

At the same time, with a clear eye, I realize that they're just going to announce some name and, chances are, I won't have any clue who s/he is.

Marc Fisher: It's kind of sad to realize how much we all crave a good secret and how few of them there are left in this voyeuristic society.


Washington, D.C.: I had hoped Marlon Brando was Deep Throat. But, alas, no.

Marc Fisher: Each obit brings us closer to resolution. Or something like that.


Arlington, Va.: Why, exactly, is Deep Throat called Deep Throat? I understand the Deep part, like deep background or the person was deeply entrenched in the administration. But throat?

Marc Fisher: Woodward and Bernstein were engaging in a touch of reportorial humor. They just named the source after the then-current and scandalous porn flick, "Deep Throat." No further meaning attached.


Washington, D.C.: Okay, so what happens if Woodward and Bernstein and whomever else may know pre-decease Deep Throat? Is his/her identity lost forever?

Marc Fisher: Don't you just love it when our erudite conversation here degenerates to the "What if I get hit by a bus?" level?
And speaking of being snotty....


Washington, D.C.: I respectfully disagree. Snarky condescension IS Marc's best trait, and it's what makes the Post readable.

Marc Fisher: I detect a new Post ad campaign coming on--If you don't get it (and wasn't that a condescending ad, folks?), we'll start being respectful and stuff.


Balto: I was very touched by O'Malley's wife and her comments indicating that even her 7-year-old has been hearing the rumors.

Did you think their denial yesterday was convincing, or do you think the other woman is yet to drop?

Marc Fisher: The politic answer would be "Both."
But it was still a touching scene. Was the anecdote about the kid made up? I sure hope not.


Arlington, Va.: Hey Marc,
Speaking of Nats ticket sales, I'd like to commend one of the few things the O's have been doing right lately: their scalp-free zone.
It's a great way for people (read: overambitious season-ticket purchasers) to unload seats when they aren't using them all. If the Nats set up something similar then I can feel confident of getting good seats at least occasionally. Let's hope!

Marc Fisher: I agree--it's a breath of fresh civilization to find people selling tickets for face value. But I have to say, I have a far easier time accepting the existence of that nice caged zone of sanity in Balto than I have imagining a similar set-up in Washington. Scalping is much more our kind of participatory sport.


Washington, D.C.: Ok Marc,

I've had enough ... I'm moving to Canada!

What the hell is going on in America?

Manipulation and major brainwashing ...

Marc Fisher: We are required by federal law to have one of these announcements in each show.
I offer my standard farewell: Please invite me when you have your Americans In Canada for Political Reasons group meeting--in the backseat of your Saab. And write when you figure out why cream soda is clear in Canada.


Iowa: Impressed to read about the droopy drawers bill. Best we have is a bill to ban "spinners" -- those fancy hubcaps that go round and round all the time. One Iowa legislator is worried that folks will look at the hubcaps to see whether the car is moving or not?

Marc Fisher: Those things are distracting. What exactly is their purpose? To make real cars look like car wheels look on TV? And why do they look like that on TV?


Laurel, Md.: I'm really interested to see how the rumor involving Mayor O'Malley plays out. This is rumor I heard months ago in the beauty shop!

Marc Fisher: I kept getting supposedly anonymous calls about it, too. The odd part was that the calls never named the TV reporter with whom he was supposed to have had a child.


Westminster: Since Camilla won't become Queeen, how will we refer to them -- King Charles and the Spaniel?

Marc Fisher: Earboy and the Wench is the preferred form of address.


Washington, D.C.: Let's not forget that the real reason Dayton closed his office was so his staff could go campaign for Daschle.

And we all know how well that turned out ...

Marc Fisher: Maybe Dayton will end up like Daschle did--as a D.C. resident. (They pretty much all end up here. Otherwise, they'd have to go...back there.)


Washington, D.C.: I walked by the Ritz-Carlton in Foggy Bottom, and saw that they had filled much of the bottom floor retail space. Armani? Not quite. Cartier? Guess again. It's a CVS. I won't complain, since I do a heck of a lot more shopping at CVS than I would at any fancy store. But I WILL complain that they were out of both Diet Coke and the Puffs tissues that were on sale for 88 cents. Not quite up to Ritz standards!

Marc Fisher: Yeah, not much of a retailing area--yet. But with the new condos coming on the old Columbia Hospital site and more just east of the Ritz, that could change.


Sterling, Va.: Del. Black was reported in the Loudoun Connection, referring to school clubs, as saying "We don't want porn clubs and we don't want gay and lesbian clubs." Does he really think that the kids in these clubs are in there trying to come up with a way to promote homosexuality and convert their straight peers? Maybe he thinks they are in there having sex. Can Virginia citizens request that the people who are running our government get their heads checked out?

Marc Fisher: People like you are forever trying to empty out the state legislature so you can turn it into a museum. Speaking of which, the General Assembly is about to eliminate Jefferson's lines about religious freedom in the state constitution so they can replace it with some words about how prayer is allowed in school and other public buildings. If you look up genius in the dictionary, it's a group picture of the Virginia legislature.


Vienna, Va.: What "special" rights will the Virginia General Assembly try to eliminate next year? As a gay Virginian, they have already taken away my liberty and pursuit of happiness. I'm afraid they will soon go after my life.

Marc Fisher: Not likely. Then they wouldn't have you to kick around anymore.


Silver Spring, Md.: Never misunderestimate the power of the Virginia legislature to make themselves look foolish.

What do you suppose is the over/under on how long it takes the ACLU took get the underwear law enjoined if it passes?

Marc Fisher: Well, I wouldn't bet on the Senate passing the pants bill, but even if they did, there'd be a lawsuit filed instantly. And this is not difficult for any court, whatever its ideological bent.


Camilla's title: Actually, she will be called Princess Consort. Why does that sound so -- UGH!

Marc Fisher: Yes, I saw that--doesn't sound legal, does it?


Baltimore Reporter ...: you'd think that would be an incredibly easy rumor to check out too (if it were true)... if he has an illegitimate child with a TV reporter.

Marc Fisher: Which is why you never read about it til our man Mosk got the goods on the governor's hatchet man.


Washington, D.C.: Wasn't Linda Lovelace Deep Throat?

Marc Fisher: Two points.


O'Malley child anecdote: I have to say, every time I've heard the anecdote, it has sounded genuine to me. Mostly because of the language. "people will think we're in a divorce" sounds genuinely like the way my small child would talk -- not the words an adult would use.

Marc Fisher: Agreed. So far, I think O'Malley's handling this right--sure, he's milking it for political effect, but he deserves a day of hitting back.


Car wheels on TV: Because TV puts up a new, still picture every 1/30th of a second. You're getting a snapshot of the wheel in various positions that don't relate to where it was in the last still you saw 1/30th of a second ago.

Marc Fisher: Thanks, Mr. Science. Once again, we are the All-Purpose Chat.


Arlington, Va.: OK Marc -- so what's with Canada? If I'm leaving the states, I'm moving somewhere tropical and beautiful. No cold weather place. If I'm going to do it, I'm doing it right -- I still have to figure out the perfect place on earth, though. If a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is passed -- I'm outta this country! (And no, I'm not gay)

Marc Fisher: Get your passport ready, cuz that baby is passing.


Annandale, Va.: Greetings Marc,

My "down the rabbit hole" nightmare of life in Fairfax County is two years of harassment by zoning enforcers about my backyard fence that they deemed two inches too tall. Six zoning inspections and F.C.'s refusal to "accept" a licensed survey, with photos proving compliance, have cemented my belief that only pettiness (or pantiness) matter to Virginia bureaucrats. By the way, the reason I had a fence built was so I wouldn't be easy target practice for my 45-in-a-holster-wearing stalking neighbor!

Marc Fisher: Please email me with details. I smell a column coming.


Baseball fan in Virginia: Is it only a matter of time before the DC team's nickname The Nats, gets reduced to The Gnats, much in the same way the Redskins became Deadskins?

Marc Fisher: If they're still losing in Year 5, they're the Gnats.


Former Alexandrian: What's wrong with FM radio? In my college days in Charlottesville, I regularly was able to pick up a Baltimore-based FM station. And as someone who now drives up and down I-95 rather frequently, I can attest to the significant range that many FM stations carry.

Contrast that to WTOP, which routinely starts filling with static just outside the Beltway, or WTEM, which can't reliably be picked up even in Alexandria.

True, some AM stations like WBBM in Chicago have clear channels and can be heard at night from 1000 miles away. However, Washington, to my knowledge, doesn't happen to have one.

Marc Fisher: We happen to live in an area with unusually weak AM signals--it's just an accident of history, really. But if you were in NY, Chicago, St. Louis or other big cities, the big booming 50,000-watt signals of the stations that carry baseball create a sense of community for a vast region. You can't get that on FM because the range that the signal reaches is so limited.


Vienna, Va.: I see you give Mayor Marty a yah for dealing with Govenor Bobby. But don't you think he should also get a nay for his comments likening the budget cuts to 9/11? Talk about a political hatchetman and sliming!

Marc Fisher: Good point.


North of the Potomac: What if a situation like 'Desparately Seeking Susan' comes back into style, and we have underwear being worn over pants. How is that going to be adjudicated? Are Virginia courts going to be constructionist or interpretationalist?

Marc Fisher: These are the questions that keep us chatting and that keep the nation's lawyers employed.
Thanks for coming along, folks. And a special thanks to the good lawmakers in Richmond for keeping us in stories. Back here with you next week and in the paper on Sunday.


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