Transcript

Potomac Confidential

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, March 30, 2006; 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, March 30, at Noon ET to discuss readers' first impressions of Washington Post Radio, the decision to let John Muhammad represent himself in his Montgomery County trial, George Mason's appearance in the Final Four ( Many Masons, One New Spirit (Post, March 30), Mayor Tony Williams' blog ( Raw Fisher: Our Exuberant Mayor, Tony the Blogger (washingtonpost.com, March 30), and Jill Carroll's release in Iraq.

Check out Marc's blog, Raw Fisher .

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.

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Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks. Home invasion in Chevy Chase, Jill Carroll is released, a judge rules that sniper John Muhammad can represent himself in his Montgomery County trial (your tax dollars at work)--lots to chew over this lovely spring day.

Have you been listening to the new Washington Post Radio on the former homes of WTOP (1500 AM and 107.7 FM)? It debuted this morning. Any reactions?

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

Yay, of course, to the George Mason University Patriots, whose success in the NCAA tournament has launched an era of good feeling on the campus. I'm headed to Indianapolis tomorrow and will report from there on all the doings as students, faculty and alumni gather to cheer on the team. Amazingly, the usual faculty sourness about universities spending money on athletics instead of academics has melted away. I spoke to several Mason professors yesterday and they couldn't even muster the usual snide remarks about how the college is paying big money to support kids with hormonal imbalances.

Nay to the judge who meted out the minimum possible sentence to Jack Abramoff yesterday. The Senate's lobbying "reform" bill that passed yesterday, along with that light sentence, only adds to the cynicism across the land, as the Senate measure focuses on penny-ante silly stuff like lunches and sports tickets, while leaving untouched the real outrages--the trips, campaign donations and the revolving door that leads from public service to private pillage.

Your turn starts right now...

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Montgomery County, Md.: Marc,

Your column this morning struck a cord with me. Our son is going to Mont. College (a/k/a "13th grade") rather than going away to college. He had basically the same group of friends since elementary school, but they are all scattered to the four winds at colleges around the country. We thought "Oh, well, he'll make new friends at school." WRONG. Mont. College is a commuter school where everyone goes to class and then heads off to home, jobs, etc. Add to that the ethnic clustering and you have a recipe for annonymity. There is no campus life, no opportunity to mingle. They do have some clubs for persons with common interests, but they are poorly run and rarely meet. Sad situation.

Marc Fisher: I was surprised by how many students at Mason--commuters and residential students alike--bemoaned the social scene on campus. They said that the large majority of students commute to school and therefore come only for their classes, and never get much of a chance to form friendships outside their immediate bunch of pals from high school or from their national affinity groups. The residential students do form more traditional college ties, but even they saw this basketball success as a first chance to connect with kids outside their easiest circles of acquaintances.

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Oakton, Va.: Marc,

Here is what I would like to see from this weekend. Find the students who didn't sell their tickets and ask them what they were offered and why they didn't take it.

Marc Fisher: Will do. My editor, a fervent sports nut, was telling me about how he had Super Bowl tix a few years back and could have easily parlayed them into $5-$10 large, yet he couldn't bring himself to do it, in part because he wanted to experience the game firsthand, and in part out of a sense of obligation to the person who had given him the tickets.

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Home Invasion?: Um, doesn't that term just mean "burglary for rich white people"???

Marc Fisher: Well, seeing as how the great majority of home invasions that we've reported in recent months have had black victims and taken place in Prince George's County, I'd say: No.

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Washington, D.C.: I think Mayor Williams's final lame duck maneuver should be an all- out campaign for congressional representation for the city. Your thoughts?

Marc Fisher: Nice idea, but dream on. The mayor has paid only lip service to the cause of representation over the course of his two terms. His one strong move was letting the Taxation Without Representation license plates go ahead, but that was a citizen's initiative, not Williams'.

It's just not something that's at the heart of the mayor's interests. He talks endlessly about how his gallivanting around the globe is meant to talk up our lack of representation in Congress. I don't know anyone who thinks it's had any impact whatsoever.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Marc - Is there as way to listen to the new Washington Post radio station over the Web?

washingtonpost.com: Washington Post Radio

Marc Fisher: Yes, indeed--there it is.

There's an odd, almost minute-long delay in the online stream, but that happens a lot in streaming audio. You'll notice it on most sports web casts too.

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Wizards: Marc,Has the crime rate in D.C. gone down since the Bullets renamed themselves?

Marc Fisher: Through the floor. So now all we need to do is rename handguns "power flowers" and crime will vanish completely.

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Burke, Va.: Do you have any insight on who's going to throw out the first pitch for the Nationals home opener? Maybe the new owner?

Marc Fisher: What startling spurts of optimism we have here today. Maybe it's the sunshine.

You really think there'll be an owner by opening day, two weeks from now? Today's paper reports that the prospective owners have just been informed they can come to New York to the Budcave to look at the Nats' financial books. That doesn't sound like a decision is imminent, does it?

My prediction for announcement of a new owner: June 4.

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Depressed in Dupont: Marc, I was watching The Simpsons the other day -- the one where Monty Burns tries to block out the sun so everyone has to buy energy through him -- and started thinking of Peter Angelos. Can't Angelos just put all 150 games on broadcast TV, that way all fans with Comcast, and even those without cable TV, could see the games? It seems to me to be the best temporary solution.

Marc Fisher: Of course Angelos could put the games on TV. In a flash. He could get them on in time for Opening Week if he wanted to. But the bottom line is that he has precious little incentive to get the games on TV. Sure, he loses millions from them not being on TV. But he's more interested in undermining the Nationals franchise than in making the short-term bucks off his control of the Nats' TV rights. So he lets the standoff with Comcast roll along. I was just over at RFK talking to Nats brass this morning, and I heard nothing that remotely indicates any optimism about getting the games on TV this year.

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Falls Church, Va.: I went to Falls Church High school where the majority of students are minority and the mix is very similar to Mason and NOVA. Race or ethnicity was no big issue to the people in my high school. From my experience though, the only groups who were segregated were composed mostly of first-generation immigrants. I always figured it had more to do with language barriers and possibly the culture shock of being around so many different cultures. But still, when my dad went to JEB Stuart H.S. down the road near Bailey's X-roads, there was one black student in the whole school and the school mascot was a dude on a horse carrying a Confederate Flag. So ... we've come a real long way.

Marc Fisher: The scene at Mason is really quite extraordinary. You can read the stats about it being the most diverse campus in the nation and that doesn't really get across the look and feel of a school with students from 100-plus nations. It's an exciting place, and professors say what comes through in the classroom, in sharp contrast to the tone at many of the nation's supposedly elite universities, is a hunger for learning and a trust in education as the engine of mobility. It's something that's been lost in too much of our education system, but is thriving at Mason.

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Beltsville, Md.: Regarding your article about ethnic diversity at GMU, I remember as a student there 30 years ago taking an international politics class with a mix of Egyptian, Israeli, and Palistinian students, taught by a retired Lebanese diplomat. Most interesting class I ever had in college or grad school. As great as the professor was (Angela Khoury -- she was one of my all-time favorites), it was the class discussions that were topical and had an edge to them, as you could imagine, that were so enlightening.

Soccer team at that time was equally diverse, with mostly middle eastern and south American players

Marc Fisher: Yes, the in-class atmosphere is, by all accounts, quite exciting. It's the rest of campus life that badly needs a social jumpstart, and while many on campus hope the NCAA success will provide that, once the hoopla subsides, they will see that this is a temporary phenomenon.

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RE: Your prediction of a new Nats owner: June 4: Of what year?

Marc Fisher: I'm joining the optimists' brigade here today, so I say this year. With some trepidation.

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washingtonpost.com: Many Masons, One New Spirit (Post, March 30)

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Washington, D.C.: I guess it's too late to hope for a Nationals owner by Opening Day. Is it also unrealistic to expect a decision by the home opener (April 11)? Any new info as to who Bud Selig will select? The Lerners have been mentioned frequently in the last few weeks -- when might we actually get to see or hear from one? Naming an owner right before the home opener would be great for fan excitement and PR, but are the Lerners capable of capitalizing on that opportunity given the fact that they are so reluctant to appear on camera?

Marc Fisher: One of the great concerns about selling the team to the Lerners is that they are so private, and the sports biz these days benefits from owners who become public characters--someone to love or hate, but more important, someone to create some stability in a cast of characters that changes so quickly in this free agent era.

But it's their privacy that has helped boost the Lerners to the top of the list of potential owners. They have been very discreet and cautious, something Bud Selig likes to see in this process.

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Washington, D.C.: Good morning, Marc. About a year ago you wrote about local places to visit. May I suggest you do a piece about Gunston Hall, the home of George Mason? It's not as crowded as Mt. Vernon, shows family life in the 18th Century (Mason had 4 children, I think), and explains Mason's role in laying the foundation for Jefferson's Declaration of Independence (the Virginia Declaration of the Rights of Man).

Marc Fisher: I like Gunston Hall--a great colonial house with a fascinating story to tell on a dramatic piece of land overlooking the Potomac. Mason's house is in many ways more impressive than those of his more famous colleagues from the revolutionary era. I'll try to get back there soon.

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Washington, D.C.: As of this morning, how does RFK look? Anything noticeably different from last season over there?

Marc Fisher: I was only in the offices and didn't get a look at the field. Don't expect much in the way of structural differences, but a few things have been cleaned up since last season, and Aramark is promising at least four new local food stands, though they aren't yet naming them. And sadly, they have no replacement as yet for the late Foggy Bottom Ale beer stand, which was the best local business in the ballpark.

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Washington, D.C.: My building just got RCN, and I am here to officially announce that I am switching from Comcast to RCN, in no small part because of the Nats dispute. There, I said it.

Marc Fisher: I have Starpower too, and of course we get every single game. The service is vastly better than Comcast's, too.

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Re: Abramoff

Was his low sentence perhaps part of a plea bargain wherein he agreed to cooperate with the Feds in their corruption investigation?

Marc Fisher: Yes, exactly right. But just because a guy makes a deal to cooperate does not oblige the government to agree to the minimum sentence. The feds can and should drive a harder bargain. As the IRS enforcement folks told me after Marion Barry's wrist-slap in his tax evasion case, one of the most important pieces of a prosecutor's job is to send a message to the broader public about what kinds of behavior are simply unacceptable. That mission went unfulfilled in the Abramoff sentencing.

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Jack Abramoff: I wonder what "goodies" he or his people offered the judge for the minimum possible sentence. I certainly hope he's not going to Club Fed. He needs to go to Lompoc -- right next to Antwon Mitchell.

Marc Fisher: A tad too cynical for me. I too hope he's not getting the VIP treatment, but the early indications are that he is. His lawyers were talking yesterday about how Abramoff is seeking kosher cooking in the slammer. Sorry, bud, you have every right to keep to your religious regulations, but the federal prison system has no obligation to cater to your faith's demands.

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Arlington, Va.: So, last week on WaPo.com, right-wing firebrand Ben Domenech set loose a huge storm of protest (even before the plagiarism surfaced), but left-wing bomb-thrower Noam Chomsky appeared on the site without generating a peep of controversy. Does this allow us to draw any conclusions as to which side of the political spectrum the Post's readership skews?

Marc Fisher: Sounds like apples and oranges to me. Domenech was in the employ of the Website. Chomsky was a guest on one show. Better analogy would be to compare the responses to Domenech with those to liberal bloggers/columnists on the site.

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Bowie, Md.: I found it hilarious that Jack Johnson wants to get Neiman Marcus to set up shop in PG Cty. Granted PG Cty is the wealthiest black cty in the U.S., it still lags behind other ctys in this area.

The most important fact that's never brought up is that a majority of the residents with the high incomes have to LEAVE the county to go to work. PG is deserted during normal working hours and traffic is light in PG during rush hour. Everyone on my street either works in D.C. or Howard County.

There is no strong commercial or industrial tax base in PG Cty because most of these companies are located in Montgomery or Fairfax County. Jack's tax revenue relies heavily on the resident's income tax and high property taxes from new development, which obviously is not as strong as relying on a Verizon, Mobil, or Lockheed Martin headquarters. Radio One and Giant have left already. PG has the fewest number of companies establishing a headquarters here. Jack Johnson should realize this and start building up a stronger commerical tax base and until then, be content that some development is going on. I for one will be looking elsewhere for more value for my tax dollars.

Marc Fisher: You're right that the county desperately needs a stronger commercial and retail tax base, but actually the failure to attract more high-end retail is more complicated than the fact that so many Prince George's residents commute to work outside the county.

What holds many retailers back from investing in the county is the fact that so many Prince George's residents seem to prefer to do their shopping in other parts of the region--in Crystal City, up at Montgomery Mall and White Flint, even further out in Fairfax. I've heard retailers say that their research shows this is not just a matter of having to shop there because there aren't enough options in PG. No, they say, it's more a choice that many black shoppers make because they're under the impression that the choices are greater, the prices lower and the service better at stores frequented by white shoppers. I have no idea whether that's the case, but that's what's driving a lot of corporate decisions about siting.

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Bethesda, Md.: Re: WaPo Radio. Well, I was quite peeved that the traffic reports had suddenly gone away. And I suspect I'm not the only one.

Marc Fisher: WashPost Radio has traffic reports--they seem to be once a half hour, or at least that's what I was hearing this morning. The every-10-minutes traffic reports you're accustomed to are still on WTOP on 103.5 FM.

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Washington, D.C.: Maybe it's just opening day, but I thought WTWP was just plain awful. I listened for about 15 minutes in what radio people like to call the 7 o'clock hour. Maybe in other dayparts there will be the greater depth that the station is supposed to offer, but amid the self-promotion, self-congratulation, and general inappropriateness of the very talented anchor Mike Moss, I was not impressed. I'm a regular NPR listener and I've been saddened by the smaller-and-smaller role that real news and perspective has in their flagship news programs. I don't see WTWP stealing any listeners from them, and I'm not sure I see how it's going to persuade at least drive time WTOP listeners to switch. Maybe it will be different in TWP's longer-form shows.

What's your take, Marc?

Marc Fisher: Far too early for any definitive judgments, and of course anything I say is colored by the fact that I will be appearing daily on WashPost Radio (3:20 every afternoon, and on the politics program Fridays at 10 am), but I heard both good and bad this morning. I liked the immediacy--the reactions to the Jill Carroll release with firsthand accounts about Carroll from Post reporters who knew her in Iraq, and I liked hearing Post reporters who really know their stuff--Jackie Salmon on helicopter moms, David Broder on the immigration debate.

I wish the station sounded more like radio, with the sounders, jingles, billboarding (alerting listeners to upcoming features) and other tools that make radio feel compelling especially in drive time. But that may yet come. This is very much a work in progress, so keep listening, and keep sending along your impressions.

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Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: I liked WaPo Radio. The breaking international story -- Jill Carroll's release -- dominated the broadcast, to the detriment of local news and puff pieces (which is exactly the way it should be, and rarely the way it is on WTOP).

I could have done with shorter segments from Carolyn Hax and the dinner and a movie people, but I understand that the Post has to promote its columnists too. All in all, it has a promising future.

Marc Fisher: The range of material the Post writers and critics can provide is really quite breathtaking, so I'm optimistic. I do wish there were more of an emphasis on local news--so far, the broadcast has been very heavy on foreign and national news, not exactly what people want from radio in the morning.

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Vienna Metro West: Just what the region needs -- another traffic choke point. Oh well, at least Gerry Connolly is true to his word about growth around the metro stations. With all the support Tim Kaine has mustered for Northern Virginia roads (Ha Ha), I am sure that this area will be on the top of VDOT's list for improvement.

Marc Fisher: The Fairfax board's support for MetroWest was predictable but also courageous. To stand tall against the groundswell of NIMBYism from residents in Vienna and surrounding communities took some guts, but it's essential if Fairfax is to direct growth to Metro stations. For taxpayers who've pumped megabucks into Metro for all these years, the development around the stations is the payoff--the taxes generated by those developments will relieve strain on area roads and give government much needed resources to address traffic in other ways.

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N.W. Washington: It's amazing how the image of George Mason is slowly starting to change, do you know if the school has shed its reputation(among Fairfax County residents) as the school of last resort for NOVA kids? I actually went to high school near George Mason, and with a 1250 on the SAT I would have almost certainly been accepted. I shied away from applying to the school, because I always thought the school was for commuters, students with limited financial resources and kids that did not get in anywhere else. I ended up accepting a scholarship to Howard, and even though I am happy with my choice, it does seem like I missed out on a unique/diverse educational opportunity.

Marc Fisher: What has profs at Mason most excited is how the rising national reputation of the school will allow the admissions office to raise standards and mold a student body with higher scores. Nothing else does more to boost a college's reputation and therefore its ability to lure top-shelf professors.

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Washington, D.C.: "Better analogy would be to compare the responses to Domenech with those to liberal bloggers/columnists on the site."

Can you tell us who those liberal bloggers/columnists are?

Marc Fisher: You can make your own judgments, but obviously Froomkin on the Website and people like EJ Dionne and Gene Robinson in the paper.

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Washington, D.C.: You went to federal court at least twice to cover Mr. Barry's recent troubles. I am a long-time Post reader, and I think that you have probably filled your quota of columns about goings-on at our local courts in 2006. Why do local columnists of the various Washington daily newspapers rarely write columns about what is going on at our local and federal courts compared to other large city paper columnists? Are the courts that boring or well-run not to get more columns?

Marc Fisher: The courts are a terrific and relatively simple source of material for columnists, and I find myself going to the courts quite often. In the past few months, I've reported from traffic court in Rockville and Fairfax, district court in Silver Spring and Upper Marlboro, and federal court and Superior Court in the District. If you ever run across a case you think I should be checking out, please let me know.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Everyone who has Comcast and wants baseball should cancel their cable service with Comcast for a week, just a week, and see if that makes a point. And seriously, I think that everyone can live without cable for a week.

Marc Fisher: There've been several attempts to organize protests against Comcast, but none has yet taken flight. I guess folks really don't want to miss their programs.

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Budcave, N.Y.: Other than short-term money what motivation does Bud have to screw the Nats fanbase at the outset of a new franchise?

Marc Fisher: None. We don't have an owner for the Nats because Selig did indeed hold back over the past year, using the ownership question as a weapon against the D.C. Council's maddening failure to make a stadium deal. Now that the deal is in place, Selig does want to move ahead on an owner, but as several people close to him explain, Bud is not a multi-tasking kind of guy. So he had the World Baseball Classic to take care of, and now he's on the steroids morass, and he won't really get to the Nats ownership til that is out of the way.

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Fort Washington, Md.: People who have followed the ownership selection process are by now aware that Bud Selig frequently mixes and matches members of various groups to create a structure he is comfortable with. In our case, Lerner and Kasten are rumored to be joining forces. But that union still would not satisfy what Selig has frequently stated as one of his qualifications for ownership: diversity. Combining the Lerners (white father and son) with Kasten (white sports executive) makes for a homegenous ownership group. If Selig wants to really accomplish something meaningful with his selection, he should go with the Malek group or the Smulyan group, two diverse groups with meaningful minority participation. Just my two cents ...

Marc Fisher: You've hit on exactly the issue I keep hearing about from baseball executives. The Lerner group is the only one without strong black representation in it. Selig may push them to change that before announcing the winner. The Washington franchise remains a grand opportunity for baseball to address its loss of a black fan base over the past generation; they should find ways to make this the model franchise for reconnecting with black fans.

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Going south on I-395: Marc, now that the baseball season is starting up again I'm hoping that VDOT figures out that it's pretty stupid to close the car pool lanes going south at 9:30 p.m. which is about the time that a Nationals game ends. I've sat in traffic going south while seeing zero traffic northbound. Maybe WaPo can check into this?

Marc Fisher: Interesting--I'll ask our traffic reporters to have a look. Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Based on your knowledge of the city and neighborhoods, which three schools would you close first?

And what would you do with them?

Marc Fisher: I was just doing some reporting on this question yesterday, and it's complicated, of course, because while the D.C. school system has vastly more buildings than its student population needs, there are two kinds of small schools: Some are small because they're in tiny buildings and the schools are actually overcrowded, while others are tiny collections of students in huge buildings. Obviously, the latter category is ripe for closings, especially in neighborhoods where other schools sit just a few blocks away. But this quickly becomes a racial and geographic mess because those tiny schools tend to be in Ward 3--the whitest part of the city, and those huge buildings tend to be in all-black neighborhoods. It will be a rough road over the next few weeks as these decisions are made.

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Washington, D.C.: So under Janey's "master plan" for D.C. schools, high schools should have at least 600 students, meaning that School Without Walls, Benjamin Banneker, and Duke Ellington School for the Arts wouldn't meet the cutoff. Yes, of course, it's typical D.C. that the three top-performing public high schools in the city are considered burdens to the system and need to be closed. What is Janey thinking?

Marc Fisher: Obviously, they won't close the top-performing schools, nor should they. It would be foolish to shut down small schools when in fact parents flock to charter, parochial and private schools in large part for their intimacy. But DC can consolidate schools and save millions even while retaining schools of small enough size to assure that children are well known and cannot hide.

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Washington, D.C.: Marc, Sorry about your dropcap error this morning. Ouch, that's embarrassing.

Marc Fisher: Huh? Please explain. Dropcap in my edition looks fine.

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Washington, D.C.: Marc,

Can you please pass along a note to the sports editor, that many of us would like to have a hockey chat! Here we have a player in D.C. who is going to be rookie of the year (Alex Ovechkin) and yet there has not been a single hockey chat!

When was the last time Washington had a rookie of the year?

Thanks Marc!

Marc Fisher: You've just let them know--the eds at post.com are always eager to try out new chat topics.

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Nutley and Route 50, VA: Count me in as a pro-MetroWest homeowner who lives less than a minute from the site. I expect the construction to have an impact on our lives but I believe the payoff will be worth it. Growth is going to happen. Let's be smart about it. In my eyes, this is smart growth.

Marc Fisher: What the supervisors were counting on is exactly this--the most vocal folks tend to be the opponents, but the quieter voices are more numerous and tend to support this kind of growth.

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Arlington, Va.: Have you seen the investigative report into Ladner's expenses at A.U. in this month's Washingtonian? I normally dismiss the Washingtonian as a fun read, but this was some solid reporting.

Marc Fisher: Haven't seen it--I'll take a look.

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Baltimore, Md.: Re Noam Chomsky and the poster who tried to bait you politically: In addition to pointing out that Chomsky was a guest on a single show, it is worth noting that, politics aside, he is one of the brilliant academic minds of the past half century, having done breakthrough work in linguistics and the physiological basis of language. (He even took a number of questions on lingusitic.) Mr. Domenech, on the other hand, is a 24-year-old homeschooled blowhard who steals other people's rather mediocre work and passes it off as his own. That's your apples and oranges, Marc.

Marc Fisher: Quite right, but Chomsky's brilliance in the field of psycholinguistics does not remotely qualify him to pass as an expert on things political, and he has spent several decades embarrassing himself and all of academia with his conspiratorial thinking about world politics.

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Maryland : Say Marc,

are those new Jimmy Choo's you have on?

Marc Fisher: Got me. Who he?

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Upstate N.Y.: You said: "Sorry, bud, you have every right to keep to your religious regulations, but the federal prison system has no obligation to cater to your faith's demands."

Huh? If he has the right to keep his religious regulations, how exactly is he supposed to keep kosher while in jail? Have kosher food delivered to the door? Providing kosher food to an orthodox Jewish prisoner is hardly catering to his faith's demands. It's allowing him to continue practicing his religion, just as the other prisoners are allowed to do. Should they also not provide bibles to the born-agains because that would be catering to them?

Marc Fisher: If the Bibles are in the prison library, or if the inmates can have them mailed to them, I have no problem with that. Similarly, if inmates are permitted to have food sent, Abramoff could take care of his dietary requirements that way. But I wouldn't want my tax dollars going to cater to any inmates' dietary preferences, whether they are religious, political or philosophical in nature.

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Alexandria, Va.: I don't know if this is the same dropcap problem as the other person noticed, but in my edition, the left edge of the first column of your piece didn't print well.

Marc Fisher: Ah--I've only seen the D.C. and Maryland editions, which looked ok. I'll check it out. Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: This is kind of off topic, but how does Comcast get away with the stranglehold it seems to have? I know they own the infrastructure, but it has never seemed right that in most areas people don't seem to have a choice when it comes to cable, especially us renters. I'm happy I just moved into a place that gave me the option of RCN and Comcast and I didn't even consider staying with Comcast. I also noticed the huge price difference, not just between Comcast and RCN, but from Comcast in Virginia versus D.C.

Marc Fisher: Unfortunately, Starpower went under before they could wire much of the region, and RCN doesn't seem terribly aggressive about expanding here.

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Fairfax, Va.: Re Mason: GMU serves the same purpose that CCNY (now CUNY) and similar schools have served from the WWII generation on. It supports the upward mobility of immigrants and others who are short on funds, but long on ambition and willingness to work hard. Schools like these are part of the foundation of the American Dream. Interesting that historically such schools were urban, now they are suburban as well, since the population they serve has shifted.

Marc Fisher: Excellent observation--Mason feels very much like City College of New York, where my father taught for many years, a place of intellectual ferment and striving on the part of new arrivals to this country. The suburban setting does make it harder for the campus to develop the intellectual life that was associated with places like City College; students say they spend many hours in traffic that would otherwise be spent in intellectual debate, but that's where immigrants tend to live now, so it's up to Mason to find ways to foster that kind of exchange.

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Blue Line Rider:: When will the farecard machines take the new funny-money $10? The entirely less than helpful station fellow at Van Dorn said they were supposed to but clearly wasn't concerned. I don't use $20's because they don't reliably register as $20, only giving $10 ...

Marc Fisher: Good question--I'll ask Lena Sun, our new Metro writer.

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Alexandria, Va.: Saw the recent article about the Nats' TV situation possibly headed to the Hill. If such a scenario came to fruition, what are the chances that Peter Angelos could be (rightfully) stripped of the Nats' TV rights and handed to the new Nats owner?

Marc Fisher: Zero, zilch, zippo.

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Traffic every half hour?: Might as well have it once a day the way things change around here, why even have them at all? I know we can listen to TOP for that but if the Post is going to have them at all they should be useful at least.

Marc Fisher: Yeah, I've never really understood the purpose of periodic traffic reports, no matter what their frequency. Seems to me the XM approach--continuous traffic reports--makes more sense. So why not an all-traffic and weather station on broadcast radio?

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Commuter schools ...: I agree. I went to one about 20 miles from my house b/c it was all I could afford. While a met a person that remains my best friend, I know hardly anyone else from the school. I always said it was like high school but with a longer bus ride. When I went to grad school, I made sure I went to one far away and had a much better time.

Marc Fisher: Good observation--thanks.

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Vienna, Va.: Marc, I don't think it's surprising at all that all of Mason's starters are from Maryland. Maryland has one big public school in UMD, and it's the only major sports program in the state. Virginia has many more universities, some with large sports programs like Tech and UVA and the rest with mid-sized. The CAA is half Virginia schools and Mason has to compete with all of them for the best athletes, which in the case of basketball, usually come from Richmond and Hampton Roads. This theory might also explain why so many Maryland students play Penn State football.

Marc Fisher: I hadn't thought of that. Makes a lot of sense.

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Tenleytown, D.C.: Marc: Why shouldn't John Muhammed represent himself? What has he got to lose? The maximum sentence he can get is life, and he probably doesn't expect anything short of that anyway?

Marc Fisher: It may make sense to him, but I think it's pretty clear by now that he's missing a few marbles. Does it make sense to spend enormous amounts of tax dollars to retry someone who's already going to be fried and then allow that person to turn the trial into a joke?

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Washington, D.C.: If Tony Williams takes a job at MASN and Mason wins it all then maybe the team could hold Angelos down while Janey reads him your blog. That would change his mind.

Marc Fisher: ThreadWeaver of the Day Award Winner!

Many thanks to you and to all the rest of you whose good posts I couldn't get to today. We're well over our alloted time--thanks very much for coming along. Watch for special extra columns all weekend from the Final Four in Indianapolis, with up to the hour coverage on the big blog, Raw Fisher.

And please join me today and every day at 3:20 pm on Washington Post Radio. Thanks.

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