Transcript

Potomac Confidential

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, July 21, 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, July 21.

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

Archives: Discussion Transcripts

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Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks. Odd scene in London today--what do you make of that? An attack gone bad? A warning of some sort? Our man in London, Glenn Frankel, has an audio report on the big web site in which he tells us that the city is palpably holding its breath right now, trying to figure out what's happened. So far, no sign of much in the way of injuries or damage.

One unmentioned aspect of the Supreme Court nomination--John Roberts would take Sandra Day O'Connor's place as holder of the Chevy Chase seat on the court. Conservative justices tend to live in Virginia, as you might expect. Liberal justices tend to live in the District. Does Roberts' decision to live in Chevy Chase tell us anything useful about his temperament and values? (He recently moved from Bethesda to Chevy Chase, selling his old place for a hefty profit and moving on up thanks to the skyrocketing real estate market.)

On to your comments and questions--and if you want to continue last week's debate on Borf, come ahead--but first, the Yay and Nay of the Day:

Yay to the emerging Little Ethiopia in the District. On 9th Street NW and surrounding blocks near U Street, a growing cluster of Ethiopian eateries--and some places representing the broader region, such as a Moroccan takeout place on 9th--is showing that gentrification in Shaw does not necessarily mean the replacement of black residents with white ones. The ethnic mix in that part of the city is growing more interesting, not less so. And the food is getting better too.

Nay to the near-eradication of arts education in the public schools and to the virtually total absence of the classics on television--two of the main reasons why we are seeing a rapid collapse of symphony orchestras across the country. This week, the Arlington Symphony declared bankruptcy and canceled its concerts, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra selected a new conductor even as the orchestra faces enormous budget deficits and embarrassingly small crowds at its Baltimore home (though the Strathmore venue in Montgomery County is providing big, healthy crowds). But you can't expect these cultural institutions to survive if the rest of the society is wiping away exposure to the classics.

On to your thoughts and questions....

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Springfield, Va.: Another day and the world watches another bomb attack in London. Has anyone offered a good explanation why the US has not been subjected to the random bombing that occurs over seas? It seems that most of the world lives in a culture where bombs are the weapon of choice for terrorists and for whatever reason it is not the case over here.

Marc Fisher: It's really a mystery--obviously a piece of it has to be that Muslims here feel somewhat more a part of our society, that there isn't the same sense of alienation and separation that is pervasive in Europe and Britain. We have Muslim judges, actors, teachers and so on; in Germany, for example, it's hard to find Muslims in positions of respect and power, despite their enormous presence numerically.

But that said, I don't doubt that such attacks are coming here. Do you?

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Clifton, Va.: I have a solution to try to stop subway and bus bombings. No briefcases, purses, backpacks etc. You have to ride nude. Hard to carry a bomb in if you have no place to hide it. Your allowed one little bag 4in x6in to carry your ID, credit cards and cash. Everyone must wear flip flops even in winter. A side effect will be this will encourage telcommuting. And no more decisions on what to wear on Casual Fridays.

Marc Fisher: Well, if you insist on imposing that rule, at least let us wear heavily tinted shades. One side benefit of your plan: You wouldn't have to worry about enforcing the no-eating in Metro rules, because no one would be able to stomach any food while having to gaze at the excesses of the American body.

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Washington, D.C.: In all due deference, he was right on the french fry case. I am an avid rider of the metro and can tel you I saw a sharp decline in eating on the metro following this well publicized case. I personally find the sounds of eating annoying as it is, made worse by the types of food beeing eaten and the lack of hygene or manners by those who eat on the metro. It's pretty much a given that if you're going to eat on the metro despite the angry stares of your fellow passengers, you're probably not going to close your mouth or keep your snorking/slurping/honking noises to a minimum. But despite my personal dislike for it (hey, everybody has to eat), it's the insect problem that is the real issue. So, in the end, it was a heavy-handed thing to do, arresting that kid, but the kid nknew it was wrong, and no one forced her to eat it. And the 'one fry' argument is ludicrous. It was only 'one fry' because she was stopped then, it would've been the whole bag (probably crumpled up and left on the train) if she hadn't been arrested. Bet she never eats on the metro again.

Marc Fisher: Wait--you can HEAR people eating over the roar of the trains through the tunnels? You need to report to Langley immediately for assignment to some supersecret listening station, because you have superhuman auditory skills.

I agree that Ansche is not likely to violate the ban on eating again, and I approve of Metro's zero tolerance policy on eating and drinking in the system. But I do think that children who violate the rules should be treated as adults are--give them a citation (and sure, send a copy home to Mom and Dad), but don't cuff them and haul them into jail.

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Crystal City, Arlington Va.: Your column today was 180 off. Not only should the 12 year old have been arrested, so should every other violater of Metro's no eating law. Maybe if we got serious with all of the rule breakers - and there are lots of folks in DC who are convinced that the rules don't apply to them - the trains would not be so trashed.

Marc Fisher: Trashed? If you've traveled other transit systems around the nation and world, I think you'd agree that there is no system remotely as clean and neat as Metro. Credit the no-eating policy for that. Now, you're right that standards have slackened, and that enforcement has grown lax. But even when Metro was being especially tough, that only meant giving violators a citation, not tossing them in the slammer.

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Oakton, Va.: Marc,

A Supreme Court justice with common sense? Could we be so lucky?

Marc Fisher: Well, one guy's common sense is another's radical change, but I think it's clear that Roberts is neither a flamethrower nor an ideologue. His record isn't enormous, but what it shows is that he's a conservative in the traditional sense of the word--not given to great changes, very cautious about precedent and history. If anything, I think he'll turn out to be overly cautious and deferential to authority.

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Fairfax, Va.: In today's column you summarize John Robert's opinion in the Metro French Fry case as "It's not the court's place to consider Ansche's constitutional rights if Metro has already changed its rules." Actually I believe that it's precisely her constitutional rights that he considered, and was of the opinion that they were not violated. Metro's revised policy got pretty much the same treatment as the emotional issues - important but ultimately not relevant.

So what do you think of him?

Marc Fisher: Yes, he concluded that Metro didn't violate Ansche's constitutional rights, but in backing up his decision, he said that the fact that Metro changed its policy showed that this was something that could and would be taken care of legislatively, so there was no need for the courts to step in. That's an excellent example of his cautious and reserved approach.

I think he's obviously qualified and he seems thoughtful and reserved. I don't hold out much hope that he'll be a champion of civil liberties, in either the conservative or liberal sense. And the court should have a mix of activists and more measured folks.

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Re: french fry: I think Judge Roberts would have made an entirely different ruling had it been his hyperactive son Jack doing the chomping. Did you see that kid?

Marc Fisher: His opinion very much backs you up--he spells out his own personal views, sounding like he'd like to slap Metro around, and then dismisses his views as irrelevant.

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Washington, DC: Marc, does anyone at the Post know who is responsible for the "Libby Copeland" graffiti that has sprung up near the Post's office?

Marc Fisher: No--Libby, the Style writer who penned last week's profile of Borf, the now-captured graffiti vandal, is the subject of some critical graffiti in downtown D.C. I've not heard that anyone knows who the author of those graffiti might be. But I'm sure Libby thanks him for extending the brand, as they say in the synergy biz (remember that word--oh, so 90s!)

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Arlington, Va.: Will the London attacks come here? Let's see: Richard White heads up Metro. Charles Ramsey runs the MPD. Terry Gainer is Chief of the Capitol Police. Talk about hitting the trifecta! Uh, yes, the attacks will most certainly come here.

Marc Fisher: Ok, maybe they don't inspire confidence, but I don't think the Al-Qaeda boys have made much of a study of who's running the transit systems in their target cities. The bottom line is that a transit system is every bit as vulnerable as a street--it's an open, public space and if someone wants to hit it, they will, and there's very little that even the world's best managers could do to prevent such an assault.

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Springfield, Va.: Hi Marc- Great column today. I was ready to buy the "just applying the law" theory until I read (and re-read) your take.

On a more serious note, we're going to our first Nats game tonight. I know I can bring in water and food in a "small" backpack- are there restrictions on cameras, or other items that the airport-security-types will take away?

Thanks

Marc Fisher: Thanks--I think you're fine with cameras. I've seen plenty of them in open use inside the ballpark. The only stuff I've seen confiscated at the gate has been alcohol, bottled liquids other than water, and glass containers.

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Arlington, Va: You should do a poll every week, like Gene does, only yours should be serious and intellectual.

Marc Fisher: Fine idea--but not too serious, please. I'll try to start with one next week. Thanks.

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Bowie, Md.: Can you help with my memory?

I remember at the time of the French Fry (were they Freedom yet?) case reading why the DC police have to take children into custody, not just give them a citation. Do you remember what that was?

If there's a good reason for it, then the handling of that girl was right; but the DC police should have a place other than "the slammer" to put teenagers who can't just be given a citation.

Marc Fisher: The reason was that kids don't carry ID and therefore could say they are John Roberts or Sandy O'Connor, and the idea was to make sure that parents took this seriously by requiring them to come collect their kid.

But most students now do need to have an ID to get into a D.C. school, so that reason became moot, and the embarrassing publicity around the Ansche case led Metro to change its policy.

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Citing a minor: I agree that you can cite a minor and let them go, if they have a government issued ID. but without ID, you need someone with ID to issue the citation to. How do you cite someone who tells you their name is "Marc Fisher" and gives you a bogus address? It works the same way with adults. Having been the recent recipient of a jaywalking citation, let me tell you, the police were not amused that I had no ID with me. It was only because I was on my block and could point to my apartment (and show keys) that I wasn't taken into custody. Otherwise, I could have told them I was Steve Jones, from Malibu. And the ticket vanishes. That's the issue with minors, I think.

Marc Fisher: Right--that's the issue, but at least as of 12:22 this afternoon, Americans are not yet required to have our papers on us at all times, as many Europeans are. So yes, kids are more likely than adults to be walking around without ID, but adults don't have to do so either--therefore the law shouldn't make that distinction in how we're treated.

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French Fry: You made a major factual mistake. It wasn't "Metro policy" that led to the arrest of the 12 year old. It was the law. In DC, no officer could issue a non-traffic citation to a juvenile. This is (was?) an antiquated concept. DC's poorly thought out juvenile code compelled the phsycial arrest of the youth, once a decision was made to apply a legal sanction. One may certainly assert that it could have been handled without a legal penalty, but that is a different issue.

Marc Fisher: No error--for space reasons, I conflated the separate but parallel discussions in Roberts' opinion about the D.C. code and Metro's policies, because they were on the same track and there was no meaningful distinction between the two. And you're right--both were changed after the French fry case so that kids could be treated the same as adults.

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Tenleytown, Washington, D.C.: Just read an article yesterday that the four new library projects are delayed bacause of a lack of funds and contracts that say renovate not replace. The fire station repairs are still moving as slowly as they can. Do you know of any other services they are planning to take away from Upper Wisconsin Ave?

Marc Fisher: That's not enough for you?

The tragedy of the D.C. library system only deepens. Four neighborhood branches were emptied of books and computers and shut down on the promise that they were about to be totally rebuilt and replaced. And now they sit empty, with no prospect of construction because the city and the contractor are at odds about increased costs. What a way to run a railroad.

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Fairfax, Va.: I read that the London bombing might have been botched, with only the detonators going off, not the bombs themselves. Hospitals have been asked to look for a dark-skinned man in a blue shirt. The shirt has a hole in it, and wires protruding from it. I hope he has third degree burns as well.

Europeans have been negligent as to their security. They have scoffed at our own anti-terrorist measures. I don't believe Moslems here are much more integrated than over there. After 3000 Americans were killed in 2001, we took the threat seriously.

Marc Fisher: I couldn't disagree more. Everyday security in Europe is much more thorough and omnipresent than it is here, by leaps and bounds. In many European countries, you can't walk into a museum, concert hall, or even many office buildings without a search of your bags and often your body. That's been true for nearly two decades there. Whereas here, we have the farce of showing ID to security guards who don't even bother to look down at the photo.

Security in Europe is more invasive, less expensive and much more effective. The difference we're seeing now is a matter of the terrorists choosing London for their own reasons, and has little or nothing to do with the quality or quantity of security measures.

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Pentagon, Arlington, Va.: How about some follow-up. How did the DC principal enjoy her European vacation?

Marc Fisher: Excellent question--I'll see what I can find out about Wilma Durham, the principal with the phony doctorate. If anyone's heard of her latest activities, just let me know.

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Rockville, Md.: What do you make of Rep. Van Hollen's decision to stay out the Md. senate race? I suspect he was the only candidate who could have beat Lt. Gov. Mike Steel in a state-wide race. There goes another Democratic senate seat.

Marc Fisher: I have to admit I was somewhat surprised that Van Hollen didn't go for it--he's quite ambitious and reasonably felt that this might be his only shot at stepping up to the Senate for a long time to come. (Though the Mikulski seat will open at some point in the next 10 or 20 years.)

Anyway, I don't quite see that he would have been a shoo-in against Michael Steele. I think any of the Democrats in that race will have a tough time against a popular lieutenant governor who will have enormous support and financing from the GOP machinery all around the country.

The two top Democrats now in the race have major problems--Mfume has personal issues to overcome and Cardin is unknown in the D.C. suburbs and has a deep charisma deficit. There's all too much Bob Dole about his race--as if he has this promotion coming to him for his years of service.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Marc, City orchestras aren't doing so well, but I believe suburban ones are doing pretty well. Perhaps the BSO should move to MoCo?

Marc Fisher: I wish I could share that view, but the collapse of the Arlington Symphony and a number of similar orchestras around the country tells me that suburbs or city, orchestras are in a heap of trouble. They don't exactly help themselves by catering to the aged population that makes up the bulk of the subscription audience, rather than reaching out to younger music-lovers as the San Francisco orchestra has under Michael Tilson-Thomas.

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Olney, Md.: marc

see if you agree with me. i think it's unhealthy how nobody in DC talks about terrorism. now, here is what i mean. sure the media talk about securing metro, and people talk about homeland security budgeting or intolerance toward muslims. but nobody actually TALKS about what it's like to live here, knowing that we have the world's biggest bulls eye painted on our city. nobody talks about being scared. about thinking that a bomb is gonna go off in the rosslyn metro stop. about visions of explosions at the capitol. about thoughts of moving to somewhere less of a target than DC. i know i have these thoughts. i know others must have them too. why don't we talk about it? wouldn't talking about it be healthier than just keeping it all inside and living in anxiety?

Marc Fisher: I don't know, I hear people talk about it all the time. Friends talk about what a relief it is to go off on vacation and not have to think about whether the Metro will explode that day. Or about their worries about their kids. But I'm not sure where all that talk gets us--in the end, the conversation comes down to a shrug of the shoulders and a conclusion that there's really very little we can do about this. Yes, we're sitting ducks. And yes, we should switch over to more meaningful security. But otherwise, the real fight is at a wholly different level--persuading disaffected Muslims that they have a place in this society, and changing our country's policies to be more cognizant of the pressures that create terrorism in the first place.

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Bethesda, Md.: Marc-

Are you sure about half-smokes at RFK? I was at the game on Tuesday and didn't see any.

Marc Fisher: Someone sent me the location of the concession stand that has the half-smokes and I'm afraid I killed it out. Sorry! I believe it was a stand on the 300 level, not that that helps you much. I did a quick look around on Tuesday night, but didn't see 'em. Anyone?

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Rosslyn, Va.: I attended the Nats game last night. As I was in line at a consessions stand I noticed that the guy in front of me bought some hot dogs, but the Aramark personnel didn't use the cash register. When I ordered my soda the Aramark guy said that he couldn't open the cash register and that I would have to wait for the change. I said to keep the change, (It was only a quarter.) but I noticed that the guy quickly slipped my five dollars to his co-worker. Could this be a small part of the explanation for low concession sells?

Marc Fisher: Sounds like you caught him ripping off the man. Not an isolated incident from what I hear. You could report that stand to Aramark, but then again, what has Aramark done for fans lately?

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DC Libraries: The DC library situation is even more disturbing in light of the recent announcements regarding the city's budget surplus. Why can't they get these projects moving!; I pass the closed and now empty library in Anacostia every morning and cringe...

On a nicer note, the city is opening pools for everyone in the heat wave, so kids are able to exercise their bodies at least, if not their minds.

Marc Fisher: True, but the sad part is that the reason the city eliminated the fees for the swimming pools is that attendance was shamefully low. Why is that?

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ID guy again: Marc, I agree with you that it is great that we don't need ID at all times. the point is that when you break the law and get caught, the police have a habit of wanting to know who you are. (remember the protestors who all refused to say their names in jail? the system couldn't deal with them) I would have been hauled to the local precinct if I hadn't convinced the officers that my apartment was across the street. So it's fair enough, I guess.

By the way, can you just be quiet about little ethiopia? I'm trying to buy a condo and everytime there's good press, the price goes up 10 grand. thank you.

Marc Fisher: It seems terribly unfair to be silent about good food, and I do worry about the ability of those Little Ethiopia eateries to survive the soaring property values in Shaw, but I'm sure we can work out a happy balance between publicity and your ability to find a place to bed down for the night.

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Anonymous: Thanks for the clarification on European security. Just one more example: in London, the entire city is blanketed with closed-caption television cameras. That's one of the ways that the police got the initial pictures of the bombers walking into the train station. Is it more secure? Probably. But it also has dangerous implications for personal liberty and freedoms that I'm not sure Americans would be able to stomach. Security in London, though, makes me feel much safer than security in any other major world capital.

Marc Fisher: The London cameras don't bother me much, as they are used primarily as a cop's eyes are used--as a tool in finding suspects, rather than as a way of spying on the average pedestrian. But what I don't get is Mayor Williams' notion that the cameras can play a role in preventing an attack. They are useful in finding someone who was at a terror scene, but that's only after the fact. How would they prevent an assault in the first place?

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Nats Nation: I went to the game Tuesday night. Vending seems to be improving. In our upper deck outfield seats, we saw plenty of cracker jack, popcorn, lemon ice and cotton candy vendors. Still no sign of hot dogs and pretzels in the stands yet, though.

Marc Fisher: I have seen plenty of pretzel vendors in the stands, but still only one lonesome hot dog man. Now, about that ice cream--that's what people are still craving, and there's no sign of ice cream vendors in the stands.

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RE: hearing on the metro: Either you have never ridden the metro (I know you have) or you have never seen a teen eat Taco Bell. It CAN be heard, and the metro is only loud at 'takeoff and landing' so to speak. Do you think the eaters are polite enough to stop mastication while waiting at a station?

Marc Fisher: This is entirely new to me--apparent widespread dismay over the SOUND of eating in public. Seems to me that the greater concern would be the droppings from those tacos and the rats that would subsequently join us on board the trains. But ok, if it's the sound that causes concern, how about a new industry--food mufflers?

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Frederick, Md.: Marc, I'm all for a random bag search on the metro! We need to keep in sinc with the rest of the hairbrained ideas that come out of our great capitol. I'm also intrigued with the nude suggestion. Maybe one look at Bubba spread out across the seating wearing nothing but headphones would send any terrorist running in the other direction!

Marc Fisher: Would terrorists go nude for the purpose of blending in with our clothes-free Metro crowd? Or would their supposed beliefs prevent them from taking that extra step? I'm liking this idea more and more.

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Vienna, Va.: Regarding half-smokes at RFK, I was there last night courtesy of my neighbor's Diamond Club tix, and the PNC Diamond Club food area had them. Not sure if they're available to the rest of us non-Diamond Club members.

Marc Fisher: A half-smoke sighting! Did you partake? Was it good?

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Sitting duck land.: Yeah, yeah. We just shrug that we're sitting ducks here. But we've always been sitting duck. I remember the air raid sirens in public schools and going down to the air raid shelters. I remember my next door neighbor having a shelter in his back yard. Then we were afraid that the Russians were going to bomb us into the stone age.

Reality is--there is no safe place. Never has been.

Marc Fisher: True, but there are places that are safer than others, and the perception game is a serious one. A strong patrol presence on the trains has both a deterrent effect and a confidence-building effect for passengers (even if that latter effect may be somewhat false.)

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to Fairfax, Va: Sir, have you ever actually BEEN to Europe? You know they've been living with urban terrorism for decades, right? Chaps like the IRA, ETA, Red Army Faction, Nov. 11? Carlos? those guys, remember? the ones who invented the Genre? Weak on security, my foot, they simply know how to live with it.

Why would they ever need to bomb here again? we panic and react so well to bombings in other places they don't need to actually hit us again.

Marc Fisher: Right--the reaction in London, just charging ahead with life, is beautiful to watch. In a perfect world, we would ignore terrorist acts, because it is our reaction that feeds them. But of course when lives are lost we find it impossible to ignore the carnage, so the terrorists win. But we do need to find ways to ameliorate our reaction so as not to encourage the maniacs.

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Tom, Arlington, Va.: Marc: Loved the baseball column. The rule those guys cited about a ball landing in the infield being a single and one landing in the outfield being a double is how they do it in my son's machine-pitch Little League. Perhaps their only experience of baseball is watching/playing in Little League, and they think this is how it works in the major leagues.

Marc Fisher: Thanks---could be. But I hear that sort of thing all too often at RFK. It's terrific that novices are coming to the games, but wouldn't it be great if the Nats could figure out a way to engage those folks in a fun program to get to know the game better?

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Caps: So the new NHL CBA has not even been ratified and the Caps sent me an invoice for the remainder of my season tickets. This was only a couple days after a tentative agreement was reached. The NHL should be kissing season ticket holders feet for keeping their money with the club. How classless is it to keep season ticket money to operate your business with, shut down the season, get an agreement, then send out an invoice. Thanks for waiting for us to get our cards in order, but uhhh you still owe us the rest of the money for next year.

Marc Fisher: I've yet to see a pro sports franchise that knows how to treat its season ticket holders in a classy way. Which is really quite odd, because college sports operations tend to be excellent at that. It's all about the arrogance.

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University Park, Md.: I read today that the pope has just called terrorism the work of "fanatics." I assume he means by that a group of people who believe theirs is the only true revelation from god, and who want governments all over the world to pass laws in keeping with their god's "commandments." Oh, wait....

Marc Fisher: Ouch!

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re: sitting ducks: i am sorry, but DC and NYC are more likely to get hit by terrorists than Billings, Montana. you can deny all you want, but even if there is a TINY chance of dying in an attac here in DC, the chances are even tinier in billings or almost any other town.

Marc Fisher: Absolutely right, and that's why nearly ALL security funding should go to the big target cities. The oceans of homeland security moola that are pouring into silly places in all 50 states are a sick joke.

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Vienna, Va.: The half smoke was good, but I got indigestion shortly thereafter when Vidro (and Wilkerson) ran us out of a possibly big inning.

Marc Fisher: These Colorado games were enough to give anyone indigestion, except for Patterson's fab performance Tuesday night. I do like the new lineup, though. And any game without Guzman is a breath of fresh air.

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Washington, D.C.: And if we're all riding the metro naked, they can take out ALL the seats--no way are most people going to sit down.

Marc Fisher: All-standee cars! Wow. Metro may adopt this policy before the hour is out. They could cut back on train car purchases by stuffing more of us into each car. And just think of how the social dynamic on board would change, especially during rush hour. "Excuse me!" "No, excuse ME!"

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Trinidad, Washington, D.C.: Really? People are scared of terrorism in a way that affects their daily lives? People need to stop watching cable news. I'm much more terrified of the rats that live in my back alley or a mugging. Yeah, there might be a terrorist attack. But life goes on. Take a hint from the Israelis and the English who have been living with terrorism. I live here, in the city (not the burbs), I can see the Capital dome from my house, and I think it's the best place I've ever lived.

Marc Fisher: I'm with you. I'm much more bothered by the stuff we can control--the state of the schools, the potholes, crime, the quality of life in the city--than by the events that will or won't happen no matter what we say or do.

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Washington, D.C.: I also agree with Metor's "zero tolerance" policy, but it's not enforced AT ALL. Not a day goes by that I don't see one or more people eating or drinking (or clipping their fingernails! ew!) on the bus and train. Coffee seems to be the biggest culprit. Bugs the heck out of me, but we're apparently in the minority.

Can I just add the request that people not lean on the poles? The biggest problem is that no one else can hold onto that pole when you're lazing against it. A less-frequent, but not less-annoying, occurrence is getting on a train, grabbing onto a pole and finding it warm and covered with back sweat. Ew, people. I thought we lived in a SOCIETY here!

Marc Fisher: Hey, this is a lunchtime show--no references to back sweat allowed, ok?

But now that I think of it, I must plead guilty to occasional pole leaning. Mea culpa.

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RFK Faithful: I sent you a half-smoke note earlier... grill stands at 201/301.

Marc Fisher: Thanks--sorry I lost the earlier note. Here you go, folks, have at them.

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Ice cream: I'm not sure you want it. The cones and sandwiches cost $5. Better to get a small thing of Dippin' Dots for $4.50. It's cold enough and it tastes good.

Marc Fisher: Hate to break it to you, but Dippin Dots are not ice cream. They are plastic pellets that have been ingeniously reengineered to have some of the flavor and texture of a dairy product. Luckily, they do no harm to the digestive system, but I wouldn't recommend them.

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Chantilly (Loudoun), Va.: Hi Marc: Did you see the big news from our board of supervisors today? 5-4 vote for pretty strong growth curbs in Western Loudoun.

Unfortunately, my supervisor, Steve Snow, is proving himself to be a frothing nutbag. So he's going to help landowners who sue the county he works for? Nice.

Marc Fisher: Snow is a piece of work, but if I'd voted for him, I'd be proud to say he's doing exactly what he said he'd do. Loudoun in his vision will be entirely paved over by 2010. But the backlash against the rush to develop seems to be changing some minds among the supervisors--very interesting times in the nation's fastest growing county.

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Tenleytown, Washington, D.C.: Marc: I see that borf's supporters have been spraypainting messages on the sidewalks near the Post building. "Why did Libby Copeland lie?" and one other related message. Have these supporters been going after her personally as well? Jamming her emails with thousands of repetitive messages? Ordering magazine subscriptions in her name? Posting her address on the internet? These tactics were used by the animal liberation movement against scientists using lab animals, according to an article in Outlook last Sunday. Are the suburban anarchists in Washington following suit?

Marc Fisher: Ach! Please don't give them any ideas. The anarchists of Great Falls, or wherever these folks are from, have the typically grandiose sense of self that drives such vandals. I wouldn't expect much from them in the way of creativity.

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Fairfax, Va. - follow-up: Sorry to keep quoting you, but you concluded earlier that "And the court should have a mix of activists and more measured folks." So are you saying that Roberts should fit into SDO's "slot"? And if so, where does this fall on the activist/measured folks continuum?

Marc Fisher: No, I don't think he'll resemble O'Connor because she was a politician, a former elected official who understood her role to be that of a compromiser, someone searching for middle ground. I get the sense that Roberts is more driven by loyalty to the law and by an almost academic sense of how to reason through a case, informed by his political philosophy, to be sure, but much more removed than O'Connor from the concerns of the voters.

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Springfield, Va.: Last week there was all the hoopla about the tax funded location for the illegal immigrant workers to congregate. What happened?

Marc Fisher: Nothing yet. The planning commission is to consider the idea at an August 1 meeting.

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Centerville, Va.: Best comment I heard on TV today was that this must have been AQ's "B" team - lots of minor league type errors, nothing works, and the only one injured may be from the team.

Marc Fisher: Maybe, but somehow that seems too optimistic a reading on this.

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Washington, DC: Hi, Marc. Any idea why half of Lafayette Park across from the White House is routinely fenced off? A good way to kill some time during the day has always been going over there to watch the chess players, but more and more often, the half of the park where the boards are located is shut down. What security risk could that small patch of land possibly pose?

Marc Fisher: The security folks hate Lafayette Park, and of course it is directly across from the White House. Still, it is a public park and should be open to all.

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Reston, Va.: Marc, What do you think of the new national v. local home page setup for .com? I've set mine on national, but would like the ability to flip to the local occasionally without having to change my settings.

Sorry if you discussed this last week, but I was away and now can't find the transcript to save my life (maybe you were away too?).

Marc Fisher: I was here, and the transcript is available on the Potomac Confidential page.

The differences between the local and national pages are subtle. I try to look at both throughout the day, and so far I think I like the local one more because it contains more stories--all the national and foreign news, plus local headlines. I do hope that this will mean the return of the column to the Metro headlines on the home page.

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Alexandria, Va.: I think rather than complaining about how much security one has or has not seen on metro or Amtrak or at the airports, people need to realize that this is not going to stop something from happening. If someone wants to blow themselves up on a metro car, it's really kind of difficult to stop this unless we want to subject ourselves to having our bags searched everyday and even then that's not a guarantee. People need to take responsibility. Read the evacuation instructions on the metro car, be aware of your surroundings, know what your plan is and know that you will also be with several hundred other people. Also know that if you stand around talking on your cell phone, more than likely you are going to get trampled by people who are more concerned with getting themselves and others to safety rather than chatting with friends or trying to give a play-by-play to the local meda.

Marc Fisher: Good point. One more rant, and then we're out of here....

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Springfield, Va.: Marc, Two great quotes from the article in the Post this past Sunday about the failure of sewage facilities at homes in Loudoun:

"You've got a million-dollar home. You've got a swimming pool in the backyard. You don't want to smell doo-doo," he said.

"If they had said, 'You can't use these items,' I may not have bought this house. I can't live without my Downy and my fluffy towels."

I have such contempt for these people who are trying to fool themselves into thinking that they live in the "country" yet complain about the cost of the fences they put up, the traffic to get into civilization, or any other conveniences that they decided to leave behind by heading west. I am eager to see what will happen in ten years if there is no significant growth of business in that specific area. Will these people still be living there? What will happen to their home values? How long will it take them to drive downtown on a weekday? Time will tell...

Marc Fisher: Nicely said.

Ok, that kicks things in the head for today. Back in the paper on Tuesday and with you all here again at the usual time next Thursday. Thanks for coming along and apologies to the many whose comments I couldn't get to today. Stay cool.

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