Potomac Confidential

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, October 27, 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, Oct. 27, at Noon ET to discuss the final days of Virginia's election campaign, the severance deal for the ousted American University president and the whirlwind of uncertainty surrounding Washington's baseball franchise.

Today's Poll

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

A transcript follows.


Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks. Goodbye, Harriet Miers, we hardly knew ye. Next: A judge guaranteed to win the love of the most conservative sector of the president's base. Interesting timing--you'd think the White House would slip the Miers withdrawal in an hour or so after whatever indictments might come down tomorrow, just to get all the bad news out in one rush. Early reports say the tipping point was a meeting between skeptical GOP senators and Vice President Cheney last night--reminiscent of the Hugh Scott meeting at the White House on the eve of Nixon's resignation.

Lots of chatter out there about today's column and the underhanded ways some candidates are slipping anti-gay appeals into their campaigns in Virginia. Sunday's column looked at the disturbing trend at all levels of government toward farming out the job of listening to citizens to paid consultants--the privatization of democracy. And the Tuesday offering visited three faces of Washington: the cynical, grabby worlds of ousted American University President Ben Ladner and White House political advisor Karl Rove and the quieter yet more daring world of the late jazz singer Shirley Horn.

Please take a moment to vote in today's poll, which asks questions about how long you can go before turning on the heat at home, when it's acceptable for a political candidate to mention an opponent's sexuality, and what's likely to happen in the never-ending soap opera of the Washington baseball franchise.

On to your comments and questions, but first, the Yay and Nay of the Day:

Yay to the D.C. Attorney General and the federal prosecutors who are reportedly looking into the mess at American University. The outrageous severance deal that trustees have lavished upon Ben Ladner deserves close legal scrutiny, as well as the outpouring of anger that it is generating on campus.

Nay to people who do bad things and reap huge rewards for doing so--not only Ladner and New York Times reporter Judy Miller, who, according to the Wall Street Journal, is in negotiations to get a nice severance package, but all too many other folks in responsible positions in corporations, school systems and government. People who act in ways that merit their separation from their responsibilities by definition do not deserve to be made rich and comfy.

Your turn....


Sterling, Va.: Hi Marc. It's a sorry state of affairs when politicians take advantage of raw emotions of the people in order to score points and get votes. Ron Gringol's antics putting his opponent's sexual orientation into question is just disgusting, and it's even more insulting that he's inferring that the people in his district are homophobic or intolerant of gays, which I'm sure is not quite true. It's frustrating to see such extreme right wing ideologues such as Gringol, Richard Black and Robert Marshall in the Virginia legislature whose views on social issues are so out of the mainstream, yet they get elected again and again. Do you think that is the result of the highly vocal minority of right-wing conservatives going to the polls in large numbers, or is the electorate in Virginia really that ultraconservative?

Marc Fisher: The great thing about Virginia politics is that these harsh views are right out there in the open, and visiting the legislature in Richmond is like hanging out at a stuff-kicking saloon. Guys elbow each other and yuk it up about the gay this and the ladies that, and somehow this passes for lawmaking in one of the nation's most storied state legislatures.

Yes, Virginia is a red state with conservative values, but no, the guys you mention do not represent the views and perspectives of most Virginians, especially in this part of the state. The imbalance results from the nature of the primary system and the way district lines are drawn, all of which rewards the most extreme factions in both parties.


Frederick, Md.: Who would be a better politician? Someone who is well qualified and performs their duties well (regardless of sexual orientation) or someone who is married with children with a girlfriend on the side?

Marc Fisher: You stacked the deck. Obviously the one who is "well qualified" is better. But if two candidates are equally qualified and one is gay and committed and the other is two-timing his spouse, I don't know which way most voters would go. The whole Clinton saga teaches us that the country is pretty well split on that sort of thing, though the aftermath of the impeachment indicates that Americans tend toward a live and let live attitude toward marital misdeeds. The vast middle of the country, politically and morally, tends to be socially libertarian in attitude.


Washington, D.C.: It's been a while since I've seen the Kilgore attack ads that made it seem like Tim Kaine goes around offering to represent accused murderers for free, or will immediately commute the sentence of every Virginia death row inmate if elected. Were they pulled, or is Kilgore saving them for big push at the end?

Marc Fisher: I don't know if the TV spots are still up, but there's a letter from one of the characters in those death penalty spots that's just gone out from the Kilgore campaign, and it's pretty rough stuff. The more recent Kilgore TV ad is a more traditional Kaine-trashing spot continuing the theme that you just can't trust Kaine. Ugh.


Washington, D.C.: Re: Candidates Who Play Anti-Gay Card

Good grief! It reminds me of the stories about the politician who spread rumors that his opponent had been seen "masticating in public" and that his wife had "lived openly as a thespian" while she was in college.

Marc Fisher: You stole the script from the next set of TV ads coming up in the Virginia elections!


Williamsburg, Va.: I read your piece in the Washington Post on what you would term "gay-baiting" in the Northern Virginia races, and I could not disagree more about Ron Grignol. Granted I am biased since I have met and happen to like the man, but this entire campaign has been marred by Mark Sickles avoiding the issues at hand. Now you help him to shift the attention even further from his tax record. Your "artistic license" to read into a press release is out of line.

Marc Fisher: Decide for yourself if I misrepresented the Grignol press release. Here it is in its entirety:

"Last week Mark Sickles sent a mail piece deliberately misleading the voters in the 43rd district. The mailer portrayed Mark prominently on the front of the piece cradling a toddler in his arms in a fatherly embrace. The problem is Mark Sickles does not have a child or a family.

"After this mail piece came out our office received multiple phone calls from confused voters asking, 'Does Mark have a child?'", stated Jay Ford, Campaign Manager for Ron Grignol. "We did not know what people were talking about. We knew Mark to be unmarried with no children, so this naturally came as a surprise to us," commented Ford. "Once we saw the mail piece, we understood why so many people were puzzled," said Ford.

"I have always made it clear to citizens that my children allowed me a unique understanding of educational needs in the Northern Virginia , because I am a user of the system. That is why I find it so troubling that Mark Sickles feels he needs to mislead voters to believe he has this same background," said Ron Grignol, candidate for the House of Delegates. "The firsthand experience I have with the SOL's and extracurricular programming is important to understanding how we can improve our schools, how we can get our teachers more pay, and how we can eliminate overcrowding. This is experience that Mark Sickles simply does not have," commented Ron Grignol.

"We noticed in debates that when people commented on Mark Sickles having children or a family, he never once corrected them, but we never thought he would go so far as to deliberately deceive voters like this," said Jay Ford. "It is disheartening to see how the political process has denigrated so very much, that a candidate would attempt to purposely mislead our citizens and hope it went unnoticed," Ford lamented.

"It is my hope that in the remaining weeks of this campaign Mark Sickles can be forthright concerning his personal background, and elevate the level of integrity from that which his campaign is currently running," stated Ron Grignol candidate for the House of Delegates.


Centreville, Va.: The mainstream media frequently use expressions such as "hard-right" (witness your column today) and "far-right", but terms like "far-left" never seem to be used. Seems to be a sign of the bias that publications like the Post deny with great indignation.

Marc Fisher: I would never use "far right" to describe a conservative Republican simply because there is a vast ideological space well to the right of any Republican in this country. I did use "hard-right" to describe one candidate in today's column because there are a few candidates this year whose views have an especially harsh edge to them on issues such as gay adoption, abortion and illegal immigrants. I agree with you that too many reporters are too quick to label folks as right wing when they are reluctant to use left wing to describe folks at an equivalent point on the other side of the spectrum.


Arlington, Va.: Can I point out the discrepancy between what Kilgore says about I-66 (widen it inside the Beltway) and transportation issues more generally (leave decisions up to local communities)? In one TV commercial, they're even right after one another. Does no one notice this double-speak?

Marc Fisher: Many folks have pointed this out and it merits some examination. There is a real contradiction between Kilgore's position that he would widen I-66 and his statement that he'd let local communities decide for themselves on road-building. Obviously, Arlington would fight any widening of 66 in every possible way. Kaine says he'd join people beyond the Beltway in fighting for his proposal to widen 66 in one direction (but don't the same people who go to work also come home?)


Virginia: I'd vote for a gay person in a faithful, committed relationship any day over a heterosexual who cheats (assuming that was all I knew about them -- in actual fact, probably their views on actual political issues would trump personal lives). I'd be neutral if faced with two faithfully married candidates, one gay and one not. I don't care what genitalia you or your partner have -- I care about your honesty, faithfulness to your promises, and respect for others.

Marc Fisher: I'd rather not know about the sex lives of the people I'm voting for, just as I don't care a whit about who someone's spouse is. I always vote against political spouses who run for office, just as I wouldn't ask my doctor's wife for advice on my inflamed lymph node.


Washington, D.C.: I'd like to add another choice to the first question in the poll.

I live in an apartment building where I don't control the heat in my apartment.

Marc Fisher: Yes, I thought of putting that in there but I wanted the more dramatic results, and I figured that those of us who grew up in apartments would simply vote according to how we would act if we had control over the heat. Where I grew up, the only way to get more heat was to call up the landlord at his palatial suburban estate at dawn on Saturday and yell at him til he agreed to give more heat. I used to love to watch my father make those calls.


Heating the house:: You needed a Part B to the heating question -- when it does get turned on where is the thermostat set? With the promise of high natural gas bills ours got turned on -- to a high of 66!

Marc Fisher: Wow, you are a harsh ruler. 66 is a chilly way to hang out of a winter's eve. I feel cruel enough setting the thermo at 68.


Union Station, Washington, D.C.: Hi -- why is it that the citizens of Washington, D.C. cannot vote on whether or not we want a smoking ban? Why not a referendum? Is there a law that prohibits this decision from being taken to the people? Do you think then it would be a losing proposition?


Marc Fisher: Very interesting notion. I'd love to see the results of that vote. I have a feeling it would go the way of all attempts at imposing a bottle deposit law in the District--it would die and the vote would split almost purely along racial lines.


Vienna, Va.: What do you think of the judge in Fairfax County who is letting off drunk drivers due to his interpretation of the procedures for proving their intoxication? Maybe I'm simplistic, but when someone has done wrong, they should stand up and take their punishment rather than manipulate the courts to get out of the consequences of their actions. When we have a few drunks running over some kids in the neighborhoods, maybe then we'll weigh the value of public safety over the "rights" of the accused. Maverick N.Va. Judge Tosses Out DWI Cases That Presume Guilt (Post, Oct. 27)

Marc Fisher: Excellent story by Tom Jackman in today's Post--check it out. The judge is a bit of an egomaniac--I mean, come on, if you disagree with a law, work to change it, but let's not have judges making a big show of how they Are The Law. And his position is just silly: Sure, it's conceivable that there are folks who are not impaired at .08, but not many. And we have somewhat arbitrary cutoffs all over the law, from voting ages (we all know 16 year olds who are more qualified to vote than we are, and 33 year olds who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a polling place) to driving ages.


Arlington, Va.: Marc:

Do I have this right? I can drink an ounce of beer in D.C. and be arrested for drunk driving. On the other hand, I can down a case of beer in Fairfax and my DUI will be dismissed. What's going on in this area? I'm afraid to drive anywhere. Either I'll be arrested for drinking cough syrup or I'll have to be on the lookout for habitual drunk drivers. You can't win.

Marc Fisher: There's an easy way to win, of course, but it will never happen in this country. We could do as many European countries do and have zero tolerance for driving and drinking. People in Europe really do have designated drivers, not just phony commercials for them. And they do so there because the penalties for driving with any alcohol in your system are draconian.


Frederica, Del.: Am I the only one who's appalled by the thought of 8-year-olds running around Western Maryland with loaded shotguns? I'm neutral vis a vis hunting, but the thought of little children bearing lethal weapons is terrifying.

Marc Fisher: Have no fear--the solution is at hand. The District need only recruit all those 8-year-old shooters and position them in Georgetown to shoot the deer that are terrorizing high-end fashion shoppers.


From Dr. Gridlock: This was in Monday's Dr. Gridlock chat:

"Washington, D.C.: May I suggest you do a column and host a discussion on the taxicab (zone system) and its problems.

Dr. Gridlock: Good idea. So far, of several hundred comments today, I don't believe I've received on IN FAVOR of the current zoned system ... "

Perhaps you should write in to Dr. Gridlock to express your view, Marc. Or you two could have an online debate?

Marc Fisher: Anytime. The doc's audience must be quite different from our gathering here, because every time we've talked about this on this show, we've had a deep and fairly even divide between zone fans and meter lovers.


L'Enfant Plaza, Washington, D.C.: Strange things afoot here in L'Enfant Plaza... for those who don't know, there is a little shopping mall down below that links together the four office buildings that form The Plaza. The good thing about this for those of us who work here is that there is an exit from the metro right into the building (no going back outside on cold rainy days), and a myriad of places (some good, others so-so) to grab lunch, a Coke, a newspaper, even a few boutiques to do a little shopping.

Rumor has it, the D.C. children's museum is going to be moving into this subterranean space. The disconcerting thing is what's happening with the business down here. While some have had "Store closing! 70 percent off!" signs in their windows for months on end, others are closing literally overnight with signs posted saying "Management won't renew lease after 25 years in business."

As an employee in the plaza, we are wondering what is going to happen when they close all these places down, mainly for selfish reasons, as there are employees from the plaza buildings, as well as nearby federal agencies (HUD, DOT, FAA, DOE...) who come to L'Enfant for breakfast and lunch. It's all very curious, wondering if you've gotten wind of anything going on over here, or if you care to poke your nose into any of this.

Marc Fisher: The whole L'Enfant complex is going to be remade in a very ambitious remodeling that is long overdue, and yes, the Children's Museum is moving in there. The plans I saw a year or so ago were pretty impressive and seemed fairly likely to undo some of the Soviet design that mars that space. But it will take some real feats of urban planning to link up the Mall with the waterfront, and the obstacle to doing that is that L'Enfant office/hotel complex.


Arlington, Va.: Marc,

I vote based on how the candidates feel about their pets. Would they leave their dog during a hurricane evacuation? These are the real issues. Someone needs to put out a press release.

Marc Fisher: Isn't Virginia where we should start to see pets as candidates? This is a long overdue development. Would revolutionize TV political advertising. The ratings would go through the woof.


Washington, D.C.: So do I have this correct, He's also saying that if you have been married and have children, you are better than those who have not been married or had children and you can not have an opinion about the education system.

Marc Fisher: Yes, that appears to be the official position of the Republican candidate for delegate. Pretty amazing, huh?


Alexandria, Va.: Thanks again for your article today showing what slime some of the NoVA candidates are! I'm glad I've already sent in my absentee ballot, voting for Sickles and not Grignol (I voted for all the other Dems too). Though I suppose Grignol wouldn't really want my vote, since I've got a gay family member, so I must be evil too!

When my husband saw me filling out my absentee ballot, he asked why I didn't get him one too. His application for one went in the mail today. We're supposed to be in Key West in a week and a half ...

Yay to D.C. for seizing the property where the stadium will be built. I only hope it gets through the courts.

Marc Fisher: Key West?! You're assumed guilty now.


Southern Maryland: I am a single woman; never married; had a few flings but nothing serious. I prefer the company of a four-legged furry critters over humans any day. Being single does not make one a homosexual. It shows the world you are smarter, choosier, and more independent than the average ditz. Nothing screws up your life like relationships -- better to be alone than in bad company, I always say.

In a quick surf through Mr. Sickles' Web site, there is a photo of him and a dog wearing matching t-shirts. Why don't they start nasty rumors about him and the dog? Or maybe that was his fiance.

Marc Fisher: Politicians who love their dogs--big-time. Next Oprah.


NLS, Virginia: First of all, your column today was taken from the Not Larry Sabato exclusive. You should cite your source.

Second NLS is up with another exclusive, just minutes ago you might want to check out (steal again)

Marc Fisher: For those who live their lives outside the world of Virginia political blogs, the poster is referring to a blog called Not Larry Sabato, which I have read in the past, but not recently, and if indeed that blog had something on the Sickles/Grignol race, I haven't seen it. I know this might be shocking, but press releases go out to many news organizations and sometimes more than one reporter writes about them.


Fairfax, Va.: After reading Stephanie McCrummen's article about politics in the exurbs on Tuesday, I never realized that my pickup truck might be drving down property values and scaring neighbors away. I guess my collar is a little too blue for some in the area. Thankfully, Toll Brothers is building "communities" for people to hide from my sort. Exurbanites Occupy an Unsettled Place in Va. Politics (Post, Oct. 25)

Marc Fisher: I love that story because it is the latest in a series of signs that we are segregating ourselves not only by the old standbys of income, race and class, but also by our political perspective, our core values. This is one of the most important trends in development and politics of recent years.


Don't kill the deer!: Georgetown needs all the "bucks" it can get.

Marc Fisher: When I was a stringer for the New York Daily News many years ago, I wrote about an infestation of deer in a New Jersey suburb and the debate about whether to authorize a hunt of said deer. The great Alex Michelini, one of the champeen headline writers of all time, put this hed on the story: "Oh Deer! They're on the Horns of a Dilemma"


Washington, D.C.: I totally disagree with your assesment that the judge is a ego maniac. From a legal point of view, it does need to be addressed, under our system of law people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. And alcohol does affect all people differently, it should be a trained medical professional making the assessment of a person is drunk or not. There are numerous other legal issues regarding DWI/DUI that should also be addressed.

Marc Fisher: No, impaired drivers need to be taken off the road immediately. This is not the kind of situation that lends itself to considered medical opinion based on evidence collected in a leisurely manner. When cops see folks weaving on the road, the rest of us want that jerk off the road--period. So I never had a problem with the D.C. law before its hysterical rewrite: I want cops to have the leeway to pull someone over if they are driving dangerously and to check to see if alcohol is the reason. You're right that the presumption of inebriation shouldn't kick in til a fairly high point on the blow scale, but it does need to kick in. There's plenty of opportunity later for the aggrieved drinker to make the case that he's perfectly lucid at .08


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: How long before Ladner lands another academic job? Never? I have my doubts. There are enough trustees out there (obviously) who sniff the bottom line without any regards for ethics. Therefore, I wouldn't be surprised to hear of Ladner's ascension to anther provost position in the future.

Marc Fisher: Watch for a decent interval to go by and then an interim job at an institution with fewer public constituencies, perhaps a charity or a foundation. After that, he can get back onto a campus.


Gentle Ben Ladner: Acting board Chairman Thomas A. Gottschalk explained on WMAL that a large chunk of the platinum parachute was his retirement money. Messing with that money might anger Ben's lawyers.

Marc Fisher: Let them be angered. Let them sue. The university can only improve its reputation and credibility by taking on such a suit. And if the prosecutors move against Ladner and the trustees, then the university's ability to withstand a Ladner lawsuit would be considerably strengthened.


Is it too cold for you, Marc?: I still have my windows open ...

Marc Fisher: Let's have a look at those poll results so far....

A very disappointingly rational and reasonable 85 percent of you turn the heat on WHEN IT GETS TOO COLD. I am shocked at how you move to the thermostats like lemmings. My friend Gary sets an arbitrary Nov. 15 Opening Day for heat. I have long insisted on the end of October as the day for firing up the boiler. The calendar should be our ruler in these situations. Makes life much more interesting. My daughter's friends were talking the other day about how their parents have announced that they will be freezing this winter because of the rising gas and oil prices, and the kids were kind of into it. Like camping at home, they said. That's the spirit.

You're almost evenly split on the sexuality in campaigns question, with 47 percent saying it should never be an issue and 45 percent saying it should only be an issue if there's a hypocritical contradiction between a candidate's personal life and public positions. I choose that latter view because I don't think we want public officials who are so hugely cynical that they'd support a position that is diametrically opposed to what they live.

And on baseball, you're fairly divided between the latter two choices, one depressingly pessimistic (the city sticks with the current stadium site, fouls up everything and the Nats leave town) and one winningly sunshiny (everything falls into place and we all live happily ever after.) I actually voted for the RFK scenario, in which the city wastes our money by building a cheaper stadium at RFK without the slightest hope of producing any economic boost through ancillary development. We shall see.


Hard Right: Post, in news stories, often calls Wall Street Journal editorial page "right wing," but has never called any paper's editorial page "left wing," it least in my memory. That's one of the reasons those of us on the right seem hyper-sensitive to these types of things.

Marc Fisher: I wouldn't call the WSJ edit page right wing. I'd call it conservative, even cranky, sometimes petulant. But it's truly great reading. Other than the Trentonian and the Philly Daily News, it's the best written editorial page in the business.


Bristow, Va.: For the pickup-driving poster who's afraid to come out to the gated communities of western Prince William (not many of those, actually), I can assure you that your vehicle would be equally unwelcome in the limousine liberal enclaves like Chevy Chase or McLean (unless it had logos and lettering clearly signaling that "I'm just hired help").

Marc Fisher: Good shot.


Alexandria, Va.: Wow, that story on the exurbs was pretty revealing. It sounds like those folks want to hide from reality. With the demographics in the U.S. such that pretty soon, whites will no longer be the majority, what are they going to do next, move to Iceland? My wife and I chose to live in Alexandria because of the diversity in income and ethnicity and are both pretty involved with local politics, but I guess you could say we did the same thing as the folks out in the exurbs, picked a community that mirrored us.

Marc Fisher: Right, and many of the folks I talk to in those gated communities are as mystified by your choices as you are by theirs. We live in very different worlds.


Logan Circle, Washington, D.C.: Is the Post aware that there is a crime wave going on in the Logan Circle neighborhood? At least six armed robberies, some in broad daylight, in the last two weeks. Several assaults as well. No mention in the Post.

Marc Fisher: Ah, but there's a story about exactly that in today's paper. See the District Extra for a story by Nia-Malika Henderson.


Washington, D.C.: The smoking ban should not be sent to the public via a referendum -- that defeats the very purpose of having elected leaders to make these decisions for us!

While the public was barely in favor (59 percent) of the smoking ban in Ireland last year, now it has significant support (82 percent) from the public. Plus thousands of people have stopped smoking.

Any financial effects that a smoking ban has on restaurants and bars is easily offset by the reduced health care costs by having fewer people being exposed to smoke -- either first-hand or second- hand.

Marc Fisher: I agree that our elected officials should do their jobs and decide rather than punting to the voters; my point earlier was that it would be great fun to see how D.C. voters came out on that issue if there were such a referendum. I don't buy the health argument in the least on the smoking ban; there are tons of activities in society that are not especially good for us, and most of them go unregulated, as they should. There are plenty of limits placed on the tobacco industry already and no one can argue that people don't know the risks. This is a holier-than-thou movement designed to lord over smokers the fact that some people consider themselves superior for not succumbing to the temptation. And I say that as someone who has never smoked a cigarette, no, not even once.


Metro: Why is it that people take the Metro to and from the airport dragging their entire closet with them? I don't care normal airport Metro riders, but keep your bags to a minimum during rush hour. These people are too cheap to get a stupid cab to the airport when they are hauling their entire lives with them. I had one lady today with a suitcase the size of a refrigerator and a bag she decided to leave on my leg the entire trip.

Marc Fisher: Simple solution: Charge her a baggage fee for the time the bad was stored on your leg.


Annapolis, Md.: I am in agreement that there needs to be a cutoff for DUI and .08 makes sense. But as for the rewrite of the D.C. law; some of the ones that were stopped and arrested only got arrested because they had the gall to talk back to the officer. There needs to be something that protects the driver in these incidents not just the police officers' say so.

Marc Fisher: Right--everything I said before on this is with the understanding that if we are to give cops that kind of authority, we expect that they be trained to use it wisely and fairly. Can we be sure that they will? Obviously not. But with more and more cop cars equipped with cameras, we do now have ways to monitor police abuses.


Washington, D.C.: Marc,

To play devils advocate and put a political smear out there, is it fair to say you are against the Fifth Amendment and the Bill of Rights in general with your comment about people needing to prove themselves innocent?

Marc Fisher: Excellent point, and one made by a slew of folks who've just been banging away on the keyboard. In most of law, I'd come down pretty extremely on the side of protecting individual liberties. But there are areas in which the common good trumps the individual, and when you're driving a two-ton machine down the highway at 75 mph, that's one of those situations. So yes, just as the presumption of guilt switches onto the driver in those loathed red-light camera cases, so does it here with the presumption of impairment at .08 And that's the price we pay for sharing the public roads.


Vienna, Va.: Egomaniac or not, the judge is simply requiring that DUI laws meet constitutional standards. Judges are supposed to be a check on the legislature and it is the legislature's duty to draft laws that serve the needs/wants of the public (removing drunk drivers from the road) in a way that is constitutional.

Marc Fisher: Yes, but the judge seems to have gone a bit far. He wants to make his point, fine, he dismisses a case or two and explains himself, and the defendant does a happy victory dance and the prosecutors go ballistic. Then it's time to go to the legislature and seek redress in the form of a change in the law. But this judge wants to be The Avenger and so he tosses out cases wholesale and prevents the prosecutors from taking the cases to a more rational court. Not fair.


Washington, D.C.: About the heat in apartment building problem ... I have the opposite problem than most, my landlord turns the heat up way, way, way too high and then writes a note saying try not to open your windows and let heat out or he'll have to raise rents! Hello! I'll die of suffocation if I don't have the window open or window unit AC on. I hate apartment buildings!

Marc Fisher: I agree--too much heat can sometimes actually be worse than not enough. But that should be easier to remedy now that energy prices are sky high--a call to the landlord at home might do the trick.


Boston, Mass.: Regarding the smoking ban, this is not about non-smokers imposing their "morality" AT ALL -- it's about being able to go out to the bars at night without coming home smelling absolutely disgusting. I am applying to law school this year, and one of the main reasons I want to stay away from G-town is that I don't want to spend the next three years saying "ewww" whenever I walk into a bar!

Marc Fisher: Fine--and there are plenty of places that are going smokefree of their own accord, and I applaud them. And the more customers seek such places, the more such places there will be. We call this capitalism.


Let Ladner Sue: AU has a Law School. With lots of professors. And lots of law students who need practice at researching. Sounds like a wonderful summer project for 50-60 budding sharks. I doubt Ladner can hire big enough guns to handle that kind of death by a thousand cuts.

Marc Fisher: Wouldn't that be fun? And Ladner could cater the trial.


Heat : My wife is from a Vietnam and I'm from New England so there is a constant battle over the thermostat. I had hoped to win Powerball to pay the WGL bill.

Marc Fisher: Heating Wars, that story--next!


Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: I walk to Metro from my apartment. I dress for the cold. When I'm in the station, I'm roasting. I keep my apartment at 62-65 degrees. Why can't Metro be as prudent? If we're all wearing coats when we get down to the platforms, why are Metro stations so warm? The temperature in the stations (and trains) could be 55 or 60 and we'd still all be warm. And think of the money Metro could save!

Marc Fisher: But I love Metro's air conditioning--some of the best in town.


Manassas, Va.: Not to get all semantic on you, but, regarding the first choice on the Nats question on the poll, doesn't the opposite party actually have to be bluffing in order for you to "call their bluff?" If that scenario did play out, and the Nats skipped town, wouldn't it mean that baseball wasn't actually bluffing, but was instead serious?

Marc Fisher: Right--my bad. Thanks.


Washington, D.C.: I read your columns all the time and wondered if you have in the past (or could in the future) look into the influence Shiloh Baptist Church has on the Shaw neighborhood. A recent article in the City Paper said their parishioners (who mostly come from Maryland) have been holding up development along 9th Street between the Convention Center and U Street NW. Specifically, they have organized to protest the granting of liquor licenses to two restaurants that are opening among the abandoned buildings north of the Convention Center. Also, it's rumored that they actually own many of these abandoned buildings, do not pay taxes on them and refuse to sell them to developers.

I'd appreciate any insights you have into the issues and it seems like it would be good material for a future column. It's causing a lot of debate within Shaw about why people from Maryland have such influence over what's going on in the neighborhood.

Another question is why does the D.C. police department look the other way with all the double and triple parking that occurs on Sundays? As a D.C. resident that has received and paid for more than a couple of parking tickets I'm wondering where are the parking enforcement people when you have streets that are impassable on Sundays in Shaw?

Thanks for any insights.

Marc Fisher: I've written on this theme, but not for a long time. It's a constant struggle in DC neighborhoods, and sadly, the pols and the cops are very much in the pockets of those churches, most of whose members are suburbanites who don't pay city taxes. I'd love to see a mayor or council member take on the churches for what they do to neighborhoods, but it won't happen.


Arlington, Va.: The DE reader can rest easy about the kids with shotguns. The article on the 8-year-old hunter clearly pointed out she was shooting a rifle. And very precisely.

Marc Fisher: Gives Georgetown shopping a whole new appeal.

We're way over our time limit, and there are far too many folks I couldn't get to today. Thanks for all your good posts and for voting in the poll, which stays up on the site even after we're done here, so cast your ballot. Thanks for coming along. Back in the paper on Sunday with another radio column in Sunday Arts and back in Metro Tuesday and here with you next week, same deer time, same deer station.


A hunting we will go: An 8-year-old with a gun can go to bed any darn time she pleases.

Marc Fisher: And another postscript or two....


Let Ben cater? No!: Dear God Marc,

Why do you think we have L'Academie de Cuisine students in Bethesda? I think they'd work well with AU students.

Marc Fisher: Not expensive enough for AU.


Rockville, Md.: You left out one option on the second question of your poll -- I'd say questions of sexuality are acceptable if one candidate is trying to pick the other up.

Marc Fisher: Bye all.


Editor's Note: 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.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company