Potomac Confidential

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, June 15, 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, June 15, at Noon ET .

The transcript follows.

Today's Column: What If The Voters Don't Care? (Post, June 15)

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


Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks--Buskers on Metro? You love the idea and you hate the idea. Should the mentally retarded be called just that, or something with more sensitivity? I raised the question on the blog today, and many of you are itching to weigh in.

Plus politics, baseball, immigration, and much more, but first, the Yay and Nay of the Day"

Yay to the few Virginians who bothered to vote in this week's primary (see today's column) because you made the only choice that will result in a competitive and fascinating fall challenge to Sen. George Allen. Suddenly, the Virginia Senate race is one that will attract widespread national attention (and money)--and a good, lively debate.

Nay to Maryland state Sen. Ida Ruben of Montgomery County, who is complaining about an editorial in the student newspaper at Montgomery Blair High School, where student editors decided to endorse Ruben's opponent, Jamin Raskin. Now Blair principal Philip Gainous, one of the best school heads in the region, is saying it's inappropriate for student journalists to make endorsements. Excuse me, but it's inappropriate for principals to decide what should or shouldn't be in the student paper--that's the role of student journalists who should be granted total independence in determining the content of their paper. That's the whole point of having a student newspaper. And in fact, Silver Chips, the Blair student paper, is among the best I've ever seen, and if they see a reason to endorse in local elections, more power to them.

Your turn starts right now...


Rosslyn, Va.: Is this Metro management's worst idea ever, or just the worst idea since two-car trains after 10 p.m.?

Metro as Underground Music Scene? (Post, June 15)

If they ever rode Metro, they might notice that nearly every Metro rider is already lost in iPod land. Even among those of us who aren't, I don't know a single commuter who has ever said "Man, I wish we had buskers like in the New York subway system."

Honestly, where did they come up with this?

Marc Fisher: I think they came up from it after seeing the wonderful impact that allowing buskers has had in the New York City subways, where the musicians add to the sense of community in the underground and add a sense of safety and security for riders, especially in off-hours. And yes, I and many other Metro riders have been clamoring for this for years--it's the best news out of Metro since they started air conditioning the buses.


Red Line Rider: Marc, PLEASE tell Metro to poll its riders before allowing buskers in the system! I like riding "in solitude," don't think there is enough space on platforms during rush hour, in general just hate, hate, hate the idea. Can we all repeat, if it's not broke, don't fix it?

Marc Fisher: Ah, but it is broke--the stations are often creepy, way too empty during off hours, and the music is just what we need to accompany us on the long slog up the stairs at particularly deep stations.


Visiting Brit: The proposal to add Buskers has elicited a wide range of comments from my traveling companions and hosts. Most of us are familiar with the London tube, which allows buskers seemingly at will (no talent tests!), but the tube is much more poorly designed than the D.C. Metro. In getting to the platform, and certainly when changing lines, you often have to walk literally blocks of underground tunnels. The buskers largely play there, and even so can cause problems when the trains are crowded. In our humble opinion, the D.C. Metro system does not seem to have been built with buskers in mind. Just our two cents/two pence, for whatever it's worth. We'll be interested in seeing what transpires.

Marc Fisher: There's plenty of room at the top and bottom of most escalators, and most platforms can easily accommodate musicians except during the rush hour crunch. And even then, the entrance plazas are wide-open spaces perfect for serenading musicians. Illegal performers have worked the Dupont, Tenleytown, Metro Center and Bethesda stations for years and they make money and spread joy. What's the down side?


Anonymous: Any thoughts on allowing musicians to play down in Metro? As a former N.Y.'er I welcome this -- anything to help knock the zombie looks off everyone's faces as they trudge to work.

Marc Fisher: Ah, one pro-busker comment.

Most of you seem to hate this idea.


Washington, D.C.: Marc -- just have to know your thoughts on Metro considering allowing buskers in train stations. Honestly, I didn't even know there was a ban, since I frequently see performers at my stop (Van Ness) or have in other stations. I personally like the music, as long as the musicians aren't in the way. It adds a needed dose of color and brightness to my day, in the 10 or 15 seconds it takes me to walk by.

Marc Fisher: And one more.

I'll come back to this later in the hour.


Alexandria, Va.: Marc, An endless source of amusement for me is when the Post hectors its readers about the shameful and outrageous lack of participation in the off-year elections and primaries (although you don't seem to be guilty of this - see today's column).

Did the Posties ever think that maybe we're just all following the example of your fearless leader Len Downie?

For the record, I voted for Webb because I couldn't stop laughing every time Miller, a long-time LOBBYIST and lifelong party hack, said he was going to clean up Washington.

Marc Fisher: You won't find me hectoring anyone about not voting. I vote and I think it's a civic responsibility to do so, but as I tried to point out in today's column, non-voting is not necessarily a sign of stupidity or selfishness; it can also be a reflection of a satisfied citizen. People who are generally happy enough often don't see a reason to vote; Tuesday's abysmal turnout should send a message that people are not nearly as riled up about gas prices, the war and the economy as the Washington political establishment would like to believe they are.

But your analogy to Len Downie's position that he ought not vote so that he can maintain neutrality as he makes news decisions doesn't quite work, unless you're a journalist. I don't agree with Downie's stance on voting--and I should point out that he considers this only a personal view and does not impose it on any Post newsroom employees. My view is that everyone, reporters included, has political views, and a reporter's job is to set aside his personal opinions and approach each story with fairness in mind. Good reporters tend to write stories that, if they lean in any direction, seem to favor the positions they personally disagree with, simply because they dug in deeper on that side in their reporting.


Washington, D.C.: Concerning your blog today, the language police forget that the problem isn't with the word used to describe someone; it's with the fact that there is a negative association with a person's condition. We started calling people mentally retarded because idiot and imbecile got negative connotations. Then retarded became negative. On and on it goes.

I had an older professor in college who was in a wheel chair. He said that when he was younger he was a cripple, then he became handicapped, and finally disabled. None of that was the problem. According to him, the problem was that he was in a wheel chair and most people didn't want to be in one themselves. Retarded? Disabled? People With? (Raw Fisher, June 15)

Marc Fisher: Right. We've spent the better part of half a century trying to use language to pretend that people are not different from one another, when in fact, we are. No serious, honest conversation about differences can occur, whether it's about disabilities, race, religion or ethnicity, unless we agree to use straightforward language and not pretend to be offended by other folks' word choices.

_______________________ What If The Voters Don't Care? (Post, June 15)


People First!: Today's edition refers to a "publisher," "Iraqis," "Republicans," and metro "riders." I hope the Post will see the error in its ways and begin referring to these people -- because they are people first -- as "a person who publishes," "people who happen to live in and/or have ancestral origin in Iraq," "people who identify with the Republican ideals and/or the Republican Party," and "people who ride Metro."

Marc Fisher: Thank you, person who reads newspapers, or are you a person who prefers online reading?


Arlington, Va.: As a person with a disability, I was interested in your discussion of the terminology of the day for people who used to be called handicapped. I have always preferred handicapped to disabled because the latter means unable while the former indicates something that can be overcome. On the terminology itself, society accepts the good changes and the press follows suit. I remember when Ms. was considered an abomination and now it is standard. I saw the change from Negro to Black to African-American. My own feeling is that retarded is too harsh, so challenged is acceptable.

Marc Fisher: Thanks--as I said on the blog today, language does indeed evolve, and it was barely half a century ago that moron, idiot and imbecile were used to categorize different levels of mental disability. But the job of a newspaper is not to blaze linguistic trails for political purposes; rather, we ought to be a lagging indicator of how the language changes and let the readers, the wider community, shape the language without having self-appointed news people push them around.

_______________________ Retarded? Disabled? People With? (Raw Fisher, June 15)


Washington, D.C.: Marc,

I agreed with a lot in your soccer-interview blog, although I can appreciate soccer every four years. One quote struck me as ridiculous, though:

"It's very nice for soccer-loving countries to have their little tournament, but to call it the World Cup is rather arrogant and overblown."

Why is it arrogant to call a tournament which nearly every nation competes to get into, and which at the start will have representatives from at least five continents (Australia counts as Asia for the WC) a World Cup?

Do you find it similarly arrogant to call the World Baseball Classic that? What about the World Series which nearly every year fields teams from only one country? America's Most Prominent Soccer Hater, Reporting for Duty (Raw Fisher, June 12)

Marc Fisher: Good question. Of course, all of these titles are simply hype--World Series, World Cup, World Baseball Classic.

Soccer is an extremely popular sport in Europe and South America. Elsewhere, not so much. A sport that has little impact in China and the United States, for example, can hardly pretend to be the globe's sport.


Washington, D.C.: Marc, 1998 called, and they want their soccer put-downs back. Are you still ignoring a World Cup that so many people here find deeply interesting?

Marc Fisher: "So many people"? I don't think so. The numbers I saw on this week's first telecasts of World Cup games in this country were about 2 or 3 million viewers. That's very nice compared to hockey or tennis. But it's not in the same realm as football, baseball and basketball.


Washington, D.C.: While I find your commentary on soccer amusing (if wildly overstated), it would appear that there is a popular sport which provides a much more inviting target for your scrutiny. Why not go after NASCAR? The attraction of seeing heavily padded men driving in circles for three hours has always eluded me (and, I suspect, numerous urban dwellers).

Marc Fisher: NASCAR is not a sport in the same sense as athletic contests involving individuals or teams. It's a very entertaining and dangerous game, an exhibition of skills that should get the same respect as horse racing. But there is a difference between a display of athleticism and an expression of skill in driving a car.


Washington, D.C.: Marc, One thing you missed in your gas station blog is that increasing the number of gas stations in the city would probably decrease the number of people taking mass transit and put more cars on the road. Annals of Bad Ideas: Subsidizing Gas Stations (Raw Fisher, June 14)

Marc Fisher: Right--the proposal to subsidize gas stations in the District has many things wrong with it, but you've hit on the ultimate one. The District ought not be in the business of encouraging driving beyond what's necessary.


Silver Spring, Md.: I agree with the Nay to the school principal and Ida Ruben. At least the kids are interested in current affairs and the running of the county government. Would they rather the kids wrote about who wore what to the prom?

Marc Fisher: Right--what harm can come of a student paper's endorsement. Ruben complains that the students did not interview her, but today's story makes clear that she had ample opportunity to meet with the student journalists and chose not to.


Arlington, Va.: I don't see the problem with student newspapers endorsing candidates for offices. Other newspapers do it (from community ones to those the stature of the Post), so why can't they? Some high school students are 18 and can vote. On top of that, every election young voters are called apathetic, disinterested and other things due to the small turnout. It's disheartening statement about the youth, especially for those of us in that group. Making room for political issues and endorsing candidates can raise the level of youth interest and awareness in politics and the voting process outside of Homecoming Court or Student Body President. So I say keep at it!

Marc Fisher: The students would also be more likely than some professional journalists to ask questions on issues that voters really care about, as opposed to the insider, process questions that too many reporters ask.


Silver Spring, Md.: I am a former student of Jamie Raskin's, a potential constituent, and a huge fan. I wasn't aware of the story on the student paper. What's ironic is that Jamie is a committed 1st Amendment advocate for student newspapers. I believe that he represented the same school's newspaper on a 1st amendment issues a few years ago.

Marc Fisher: Raskin is a professor at American University who is indeed active on civil liberties issues. I didn't know that he'd done any work for the Blair paper--if that's the case, the student paper's endorsement should note that.


Silver Spring, Md.: As a Blair parent, I was appalled that Ida Rubin went over the students' heads to the administration over the Raskin endorsement. Sen. Rubin may be upset that a Democratic challenger is getting so much attention, but her approach to fighting back certainly leaves a lot to be desired!

Marc Fisher: I hope you and other parents will express your support for the student journalists at the school and to the school system.


Is it November already?: I don't get the point of primary elections. From what little politics I understand, it seems the most extreme, pre-registered politicophiles (is that a word?) get to choose a candidate that no one in the center really likes. What if you vote on issues and have no real party loyalty? Can you register with more than one party and vote in all the primary elections? Is a vote for "Try again, they all suck!" allowed in a primary?

Marc Fisher: In Virginia, there's no party registration of any kind, so all voters are free to vote in any party's primary. That's not how many party politicians would like it, but it's an extra dollop of voting power and freedom for Virginians--not that they seem particularly eager to exercise it.


Washington, D.C.: In defense of the small-town Virginians, most people outside the orbit of the East Coast metropolises (metropili?) don't think that what happens in Washington has anything to do with them. Further, they don't think that they have any influence over what happens here (unless they can hire Jack Abramoff). To a great extent, they're right. So why not let them enjoy their fair? Good weather for it.

Marc Fisher: Quite right. And in fact, when elections do matter to them, they turn out in reasonable numbers. That same city I wrote about today, Norton, turned out in disproportionately high numbers in last year's vote for governor--a close race that clearly felt more important to folks there. Local races and close national and statewide races do bring out the interest. A major contributing factor to low turnouts is the preponderance of races that are noncompetitive, such as nearly all congressional races in our heavily gerrymandered districts.


Annandale, Va.: Hey, we don't need to do a primary. Republicans rule in Virginia, except for the People's Republic of Arlington and Alexandria. In Virginia, we have good schools, less crime, and better libraries than any Democratic-controlled locale. Same on the national level. Show me a Democrat and I'll show you a special-interest only official. Donna Brazille told me once by e-mail that there was room for even me within the Democratic party. I wanted to tell her sorry, I don't sit on the back of anyone's bus.

Marc Fisher: Um, the last two Virginia governors have been Democrats, Dems won back a number of seats in last year's legislative races, and Fairfax's local officials are also heavily Democratic. Virginia is becoming one of the more competitive states in the land.


Washington, D.C.: Marc --

In your discussion intro, could you please hit the "Enter" key between paragraphs? That long block of text you start with would be far more palatable with a few paragraph breaks.

Marc Fisher: Will do.

The system here isn't very friendly to paragraphing, but I'll see what I can do. Thanks for the feedback.


Washington, D.C.: Loved your blog on Philip Merrill. Thanks for writing it!

There will be a memorial service for him on 6/22. Phil Merrill and the Vanishing Iconoclastic Publishers , ( June 13, 2006 )

Marc Fisher: Thanks--today's obituary has some classic Merrill moments in it, and Rox Roberts' appreciation in Style adds more of the flavor of this guy who was, depending on who's talking, either frightening and domineering or brilliant and driven to do good work.


Washington, D.C.: There was an article in the Post this week regarding a study to determine whether meters or the zone system would result in less costs to riders. You need to call this out. It is so easy to rig the study. First, since there are no meters in DC cabs, there are no rates to compare with. Second, while some riders will win or lose depending on the system, there is no way that cab drivers will be allowed to get too much more or too much less total revenue. They will adjust the meter rates based on when gas prices go up.

Marc Fisher: The study, as I understand it, puts meters in some test cabs to measure the two systems in the same situations. But you're right--the meter system will inevitably result in higher prices, especially for those who can least afford more expensive rides.

_______________________ Debate Over D.C. Cab Fares Revs Up , ( Post, June 13, 2006 )


Frasier Crane, Wash.: Marc, in your Listener column on Sunday I read this bit about WJFK: "Hughes saw his talk station lose nearly half its market share in the first three months of this year, but he's confident that WJFK is on the rebound. And by adding 'Opie and Anthony,' one of the raunchiest of raunchy radio shows, in middays, he's hoping to create a solid offering of guy radio from the Junkies through to the 'Don and Mike' show in afternoon drive time."

Did you happen to ask Mr. Hughes to explain the two-hour Bill O'Reilly gap that will be right in the middle of his solid offering of guy radio? A couple of years ago after the short-lived experiment of WJFK airing a taped version of O'Reilly late at night, which resulted in his show being moved back to a prime mid-day spot post haste, Don Geronimo speculated on-air that Bill O'Reilly is the real program director of WJFK. Could this still be the case?

Marc Fisher: WJFK has aired the Bill O'Reilly radio show because it's produced by the station's parent company and it's kind of a must-carry. The show obviously doesn't fit in with the Guy Radio approach of the rest of the station, and there are rumblings that the O'Reilly show will be moved to evening hours or removed from the schedule. Right now, WJFK is a strange mix of guy talk and right wing political stuff, and it's likely that the political piece will fade away over the next year or so.

_______________________ The Audience Howard Stern Left Behind: Mysteriously, Neither Here Nor There , ( Post, June 11, 2006 )


Vienna, Va.: Language Police, reporting for duty.

What in the HECK is a "busker"?

Marc Fisher: Someone who plays music in a public place and puts out a hat or somesuch for money. Britishism.


Music acts at metro: So who decides what acts get to play? Will they be paid or do they get to beg for money the way they do in N.Y.? I find it tacky and would really hate to start my day having to listen to crappy music at 5:30 am while going to work. The amount that the noise would echo is also enough to make me want to take my car & not metro - If I'm going to have a headache when I get to work, I'd rather get it in my own car, thank you.

Marc Fisher: I haven't heard what the mechanism would be for selecting the musicians, but in New York, they have to apply and be screened before they can get a permit to appear in a particular station.


Silver Spring, Md.: My initial reaction to buskers was, uh, NO. But I do really like them in the New York system. I'd want there to be a pretty solid test period - not only for their effects on traffic flow, but also to test the acoustics. I suspect that the same effect that makes announcements completely inaudible in stations might do weird things to music - you should talk to an acoustical engineer about the design of the stations and all that concrete, and what music would sound like.

There are two musicians who play at Farragut North (just outside the exit on K street) who I just love - they brighten my day whenever they're there. That's the guy with the electric guy and crooning voice, and the guy who plays that one-stringed Chinese classical instrument. I love that thing.

Marc Fisher: There are some odd echoes in the Metro stations, but also some spots where music reverberates in dramatic, almost moving fashion. And some players have already found some of those spots.

Don't worry about missing the station announcements--they're inaudible and incomprehensible already.


Alexandria, Va.: To all the moaners and complainers who worry about the "buskers" idea in the Metro: lighten up! If properly auditioned and licensed(per NY and London), the musicians can be a welcome distraction to an otherwise boring or bad day. I lived in Chicago throughout college and coming down into the station after a stressful test and hearing an a cappella group singing Sam Cooke always put a smile on my and my fellow passengers face. Support the "buskers"!

Marc Fisher: And for the other point of view....


Re: Buskers: I enjoy plenty of musical entertainment on my Metro commute. It's called my iPod. I hate, HATE this idea.

Marc Fisher: And some people want to get you off your iPod....


Arlington, Va.: The poster who would prefer the iPod to Buskers hits the nail on the head. We are so consumed with our own lives in this area that we tend to favor sucking all the color and life out of an idea, just so our little cocoon we've enveloped ourselves in, does not get disturbed. If you are listening to an iPod, then why do you care if there is other music playing? And Buskers being in the way? Please. Not any more than the Express Paper People, or vendors, etc. We spend so much time in the proximity of people we are try to avoid, only to sit at our computers to interact with people thousands of miles away that we will never meet. Can we all just accept the idea that our lives are connected by more than just our plumbing?

Marc Fisher: And who knows who might be discovered in the bowels of the Metro system....


Arlington, Va.: Tracy Chapman was discovered in the subway system in Boston. I'd rather listen to someone of her likes than listen to my neighbor's iPod. (How are these people not deaf with the volume at which they play music with headphones on?)

Marc Fisher: More on all this later....


Germantown, Md.: I used to think that the most annoying passenger on the Metro was the chatty, clueless, door-leaning tourist. But recently, a new contender has emerged: the last-second leaver. This is the rider -- presumably, a commuter -- who waits until the very last second to get out of his or her seat and dash for the door.

Metro etiquette works both ways: people getting on the train should wait for others to get off and people getting off should get off quickly.

Honestly, Marc, I don't understand why this happens. You have plenty of notice that your stop is coming up. Put down the Sudoku and the cell phone, and pay attention!

Marc Fisher: I think they're just trying to get that one last gulp of high-quality Metro air conditioning before heading out into the murk that awaits them this time of year (speaking of which, the old Triple H is about to hit. But this is the latest I can recall holding out against turning on the A/C--June 15 is pretty good, no?)


Washington, D.C.: Another issue with the meters versus zones dispute that always bothers me is that whether or not you get charged more for traffic, it's much harder for a cab driver to take a longer route to get more money than it is for him to just lie about the fare. I'd imagine that while, on paper, tourists going from Union Station to Georgetown might pay more with a meter during certain times of the day, it also seems that cab drivers are very inconsistent with using the honest zone systems.

Also, is there any good reason why the Cab Zone map, unlike every other map ever made, doesn't have north facing the top of the page? It's like they're just trying to make an already-complicated system completely incomprehensible.

Marc Fisher: A good map is the simple, cheap solution to any complaints about the zone system.


Zones vs. Meters: If DC's zone system works so well, then why is it the only place on the planet that uses such a system? It is entrenched because Capitol Hill and the lobbyists (and the journos?) who travel there so often love the $3 ride. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left open to fraud and abuse.

The zone system is one big reason we stay west of the Potomac when it comes to dining and nightlife.

Marc Fisher: No one who can read a map can be cheated in the zone system--to the contrary, the zones protect you against rampant cheating in metered cabs that encourage drivers to take longer routes, doctor the machine, and sit in traffic.


from Texas to Maryland: We didn't have to pick a party in Texas either. So I just voted in the primary I felt most strongly about. (you could only vote in one primary every election). But here in Maryland, I don't consider myself in any party, and I find it frustrating that I have to pick a party.

Marc Fisher: Many Marylanders who feel as you do switch their registration with each election so as to be able to take part in whichever primaries have candidates they are most inclined to support or reject.


Cambridge, Md.: Your blog today hits the spot with me. I'm a 32 year old childhood rheumatoid arthritis victim (over 40 operations and counting) and I'm CRIPPLED. I'm not mobility challenged or lacking fine motor skills or (my personal favorite) getting-around-the-neighborhood-challenged/shopping for groceries challenged/etc. etc. etc. because I cannot drive a car. I think we should stop focusing on these "feel good" labels and put the energy into making life better for we "challenged" people. However, I do agree that truly offensive terms such as "lunatic" have to go.

Marc Fisher: Thanks--the last time we got into this was when they added the wheelchair statue of FDR to his memorial, marring the whole artistic concept of that excellent memorial, and I heard from many people then who expressed the same view you have today.


Bethesda, Md.: Sorry Mark, The zone system is defunct. I agree it might be better if cabbies actually stuck to it. If D.C. cabbies were honest I'd be all for the zone system, but they're not. As to the people who can least afford it, you can't even get a cab in those areas. And what makes you think a cabbie will be any more honest with them?

Marc Fisher: Stories about cabbies abusing the zones seem far more common than actual cheating, at least in my experience and that of other folks I know. In fact, the opposite problem seems much more common--the cabbies generally don't say how much the fare is and leave it to the rider to figure it out, perhaps hoping that the rider will overpay.


Washington, D.C.: With regards to the zone/meter debate, we have the technology today to create a hybrid of both, using GPS. Keep the zones, but equip all cabs with GPS devices that can register zones crossed, giving those folks with little knowledge of the system a fair and accurate accounting of their ride.

Marc Fisher: Excellent idea.

_______________________ Retarded? Disabled? People With? (Raw Fisher, June 15)


Washington, D.C.: I became nauseated earlier this week when I read the article about the local Duke lacrosse players and how their parents strongly supported them by saying "look at him, does he look like he could have done it?" These are well educated and wealthy parents who went to college. Do they not realize that college kids run wild on college campuses since they were college kids at one time? I hope behind the scenes, these parents are really doing some parenting, because in the press, they look like elitist buffoons. Lacrosse Players' Case a Trial for Parents (Post, June 10)

Marc Fisher: It's hard to see how the parents of these kids can be so deep into denial, but they indeed are. I'm finishing up a cover story for our Sunday magazine on the culture wars between permissive parents and parents who see themselves as more involved and responsible--it's scheduled to be in the July 30 edition of the magazine.


Alexandria, Va.: Marc, good advice as far as it went on food at RFK, but here's the skinny on liquids: water only, no beer or soft drinks. We figured no alcohol, but thought soda would be OK -- wrong -- so we had to take several liters back to the car. There is such variety among the parks, you really need to check this out before you go. And a pox on those stadiums that don't let you take any food or drink inside and then charge $8.25 per hot dog (Atlanta).

Marc Fisher: Yes, good point--water is ok, other liquids not.


Washington, D.C.: The city has only itself to blame in the apparent deadlock with the Lerners over stadium design upgrades. It had a critical bargaining chip and revenue source: the stadium naming rights, which it simply gave away as part of its effort to lure the Expos to this city.

Sure, the Lerners want those funds to recoup some of their investment in the team. But if they really are planning to own this team for a long time, the naming rights become somewhat less important.

The city should have negotiated a deal that would have earmarked a portion of the naming rights for stadium construction and infrastructure costs.

Marc Fisher: Baseball wasn't exactly in a charitable mood when it came to negotiating its deal with the District, and relations only got worse over all those months. But the ruckus over the underground parking is a bad sign, not only for relations between the Lerners and the city, but for the idea that the owners would be on the same page as the District government in assuring that the ballpark neighborhood be developed as an alluring entertainment district.


Triple H?: Heat, humidity and, um, what is the third H?

Marc Fisher: Hot




Section 213, Row 12: Marc,

Why the backlash against the Lerners for not wanting to ante up extra money to build underground garages, which would not be ready on time.

Shouldn't the backlash be against the DC Council for trying to spend more money and add delays to the project? It hasn't even been 90 days. Can you say "Buyer's Remorse?" If underground garages are such an issue, why did the Council approve the plan with them included?

Note - in light of a large number of oil tanks (barrels?) recently discovered buried on the stadium site, would you want to start digging deeper and deeper?

Marc Fisher: Sure, the city should have paid for the underground garage, but the backlash against the increasing cost of the project was more than the Council could bear, so they punted and said surely the new owner will insist on underground parking and therefore will pay for it. The city was so certain of this scenario that the architects of the stadium barely bothered to offer a design for the garage that connects to the ballpark; the architects repeatedly told us not to worry about the drawings of an aboveground garage because that would never happen.

And now it is happening, most likely.


North Bethesda, Md.: The buskers will never work. It will bankrupt Metro.

Imagine a band auditions for a busker permit. They don't get it. So, they do what any red-blooded American would do. Practice and get better? No. SUE THE METRO!! That's right. This is America were we sue at the drop of a hat.

After having to defend themselves from all these lawsuits, metro will be bankrupt.

Save metro and drop the busker idea.

Marc Fisher: The nightmare scenario. Thank you.


Cycle of terms: We've outgrown moron and idiot. Then there was retarded. Now there's intellectually disabled. People have wondered what we will do when that becomes a slur. I submit that idiot is losing it's negative connotation and will become a preferred term. Case in point: Johnny Damon and a "bunch of idiots" won the world series in 2004.

Marc Fisher: Old terms do have a way of coming back into fashion. There was even a bit of a movement for reviving "Negro" a few years back. Not a happening thing, luckily.


Wheaton, Md.: OK, so I've seen the TV spot twice now -- I think it's for George Allen ...or is it maybe the Webb guy? My memory is failing me this morning. Never the less, I live in MoCo and it's for one of those Virginia guys. BUT, the ad starts listing some of the candidates accomplishments while they were in office, and one of the things listed is "Ended Parole." Huh? What on earth does this mean, Marc "the guru of local politics" Fisher?

Marc Fisher: Yup, that would be George Allen, who, while governor of Virginia, got parole abolished in the state. Which helps explain why Virginia's prison population keeps soaring.


Washington, D.C.: I feel sorry for the kid who got shot in the IHOP parking lot, but since the recent disclosure with regard to the internal investigation which cleared the officer, I've heard a lot of on-air commentary about how this should have never happened. It shouldn't have, and what shouldn't have happened is that the kids should have never committed the crime of skipping out on a check at 3 a.m. in the morning, never mind having drugs in the car.

People have been quoted as saying that the officer should have just let the car drive by, which is ridiculous, since the security guard was earning his living trying to prevent this from happening, and IHOP clearly hired him because it couldn't have been the first time security was needed. When will some of these parents take responsibility for their kid's actions? Too many kids who stay out late have died already in this area. Do we now have to require the schools to teach kids how to be responsible as we're requiring schools to teach students about sex also, which all should be parental responsibilities?

Marc Fisher: I agree this is really about parent responsibility, but the kids were there and the guard was there, and so the question becomes what was the appropriate use of force. I tend to side with those who say that shooting is never a proper response to a crime as minor as skipping out on a bill. But if the guard was truly in fear of his life, saw the car coming at him, believed he was going to be hit, or anything like that, the calculus changes. I've not made a close study of this case, but from my casual reading, it has seemed muddy enough that I don't feel strongly either way. Sorry to be gray about it, but sometimes events are indeed gray.


Bethesda, Md.: I know RFK was built pre-ADA, but had no idea the place has no escalators and only one elevator, which goes up only to the 4th level. Plus there are very steep steps and no railings on any of the aisles, necessitating what one friend calls "the rear-end" approach to going up and down stairs. My husband, who's on crutches following knee surgery, managed OK, but he's 33 and otherwise in great shape. Those a bit worse off should be forewarned, and those even worse off or in wheelchairs should probably await the opening of Lerner Field, whenever that might occur.

Marc Fisher: All true, but don't expect anything to be done about it. The Lerners are trying to spruce up RFK by next month, but they're not about to pump any real money into a place that they hope to abandon in less than two years.


Washington, D.C.: "If DC's zone system works so well, then why is it the only place on the planet that uses such a system? It is entrenched because Capitol Hill and the lobbyists (and the journos?) who travel there so often love the $3 ride. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left open to fraud and abuse."

I don't get this. In other cities I ask the bellhop how much the cab ride is going to be and they say "It'll be around $10 to 15" Here, they say "It will cost $9.60 plus tip." The people left open to fraud and abuse are those that have to rely on cabby's tally sheet, cab owners and the tax collectors, not the cab riders.

Marc Fisher: Exactly. Thank you.


Baltimore, Md.: Re the evolution of language to describe conditions: The late, wonderful baseball man Bill Veeck lost a leg in World War II, yet played tennis with a prosthesis. (He used to flip people out by stubbing out cigarettes on that leg.) Anyway, someone asked Veeck how he could play tennis with such a handicap and Veeck, in mock dudgeon, said, "I'm crippled. But I'm not handicapped by it."

Marc Fisher: Fabulous.


Nats fan, D.C. : Random question. On WashPost radio (love it), an ad for the Nats includes several people singing, "Take Me Out..." However, not one is female. I happen to know that a reasonable number of fans are female, as I happen to be one of them. What's the deal?

Marc Fisher: I don't think there's any meaning to it--there are lots of women fans in the Nats' other ads.


Washington, D.C.: "If D.C. cabbies were honest I'd be all for the zone system, but they're not."

This makes no sense. In the zone system (unlike with meters) the fare is not dependent on the driver. You know how much the fare is before you get into the cab. Why does it matter whether the cabbies are honest or not?

Marc Fisher: Right--of course, some cabbies may try to rip off tourists who don't know the geography and can't read the map, but as earlier poster said, the concierges and desk clerks at hotels can always tell guests precisely what the fare will be, which can't happen in cities with metered cabs.


Falls Church, Va.: Urbanites who dismiss NASCAR do so out of prejudice of its general audience, much like less affluent people do of golf because you basically have to be rich to afford tee time, equipment, etc. Well, car racing isn't exactly a cheap sport to get into. I agree with you its a sport of skill rather than athleticism and it takes much more mental capacity to understand its nuances than it does to understand soccer, baseball, or even football. It makes for a good tailgate or picnic, but I would recommend drinking, because even though its interesting to watch crashes and pit stops, I would agree that after 100 laps it becomes very monotonous.

Marc Fisher: Yeah, I've never been terribly able to get into games that involve people, things or animals going around in circles.


Last-Second Leaver, Metro: I'm not exactly a "last-second leaver" on Metro, but if I'm lucky enough to be seated on a train, I always wait until the train has come to a complete stop before getting out of my seat, even if I'm on the inside and have to ask someone else to stand so I can get out.

I grew tired of anticipating my station stop, rising well ahead of the station, only to have to grab onto something as the Metro car braked, stopped, and/or lurched into its station.

So I wait. There's always enough time to get out of the car before the doors close.

Marc Fisher: Thanks for the explanation. As for me, I live for the lurch.


Washington, D.C.: Queer went from an adjective about something being different to a slur, and now it's back to a word describing the LGBT community in a good way.

Marc Fisher: Right, but that's another example of a shift in language pushed by advocates for a particular point of view, and news organizations properly hold back and refrain from adopting the term until and unless the language evolves convincingly over a long period.


Falls Church, Va.: Speaking of small cities, did you know Falls Church is the smallest locality in the country? Falls Church City, which is a town at best, and less of one than unincorporated Reston, is next to the most city-like non-city in the world probably, in Arlington. Something ain't right here.

Marc Fisher: That's Virginia for you.


Silver Spring, Md.: Does metro know that people use the elevator entrances in order to avoid paying the fare? I see people jump the gate almost daily at the Gallery Place elevator entrance. Can't metro place a metro officer there?

Marc Fisher: News to me--the Metro folks are often reading along here, so perhaps they'll take a look.


No one who can read a map...: ... in the dark, when the map is a poorly photocopied thing with tiny print, encased in dirty laminate?

Marc Fisher: Right--fix the maps, not the system.


Washington, D.C.: I'm 52 years old. I've used a wheelchair for over 30 years because I'm CRIPPLED. That's the word I use and I'll use it until the day I die because I'll be CRIPPLED until the day I die. Screw the language police.

Marc Fisher: Got it. Thanks.


Anonymous: Come on, no one was shot for skipping out on a bill. It's a nice, graphic, somewhat popular way to portray the incident: execution for petty theft, but it's not what happened. If you drive your car at a police officer, then swerve at him as he moves away, you should expect a weapon to be discharged. The saddest part of this, I would say, is that the deceased is probably the member of the group who was most blameless.

Marc Fisher: Yes, the danger that the officer perceived has to be the governing factor here.


Falls Church, Va.: Lets hear it for the ushers at RFK....NOT!

I went to a game on Tuesday and had an experience that makes me never want to go back. Well, it wasn't that bad but it did leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.

There were 8 of us with 2 sets of 4 tickets each in different areas. About halfway through the game we tried to join the others in the better seats. The ballpark was 70% empty and we made our move in the 5th inning so it was safe to assume the open seats would not be filled by their rightful owners.

When we sat in vacant seats an usher came up and asked for our tickets which we couldn't provide since we didn't belong there and after some discussion and pleading, she kicked us out.

What's the point of this? I know she was technically right and we were wrong, but we were only trying to enjoy the game with our friends. We were also trying to get close to the field to cheer on the team.

Why won't they let fans move to better seats if they're open? Are they worried that fans may get engaged with the game and the team? I can see being strict with seats in sold out games or in the first few innings, but the place was empty in the fifth!

It will be a while before I fork over more of my money to them.

Marc Fisher: That's a bad sign--till now, I've found the ushers to be extremely accommodating of folks who wanted to move around, join friends or check out some different views.


Rosslyn, Va.: You've written often about local perspectives on immigration issues. Well, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (S.2611, as amended) would authorize 66 million new legal immigrants over the next 20 years. Since roughly 100 percent of these immigrants will come from soccer-loving countries, for the first time in American history it will be feasible for the major broadcast networks to eliminate all of their non-soccer programming. Should we worry now, or when it's too late to do anything about it?

Marc Fisher: Don't worry--soon after they arrive, they will discover the complexities and rituals of other sports and free themselves from the chains of the single-sport obsessions of their homelands.


Metro string quartet: This goes back maybe 10 years or more, but the Arlington (?) stations had string quartets a couple times -- art week or something. Beautiful and peaceful to have a cello playing you up the escalator and on to home in Ballston.

Maybe we could invite over the 8-piece Moscow Dixieland Jazz band that I would hunt out every weekend I spent in the capital of Russia (that's 104 weekends I was there...)

Marc Fisher: Let me know when they get here.


Arlington, Va.: Last night I saw two George Allen commercials on TV. And. It's. Only. June.

Shoot me now...

Marc Fisher: Your wish is my command.


Arlington, Va.: Last Saturday at the ballpark (love my Chad Cordero bobblehead!), I found that they DO have soft serve ice cream (right next to the Dippin Dots). Now, ditch the waffle cones and get some mini batting helmets! And fix up the space for Red, Hot and Blue. I can understand the Lerners not pouring tons of money into upgrading concessions at RFK, but RHB deserves better facilities, so their menu can be expanded.

Marc Fisher: New Nats president Stan Kasten was here for lunch yesterday and he promised to have announcements of a slew of improvements to RFK services in the next couple of weeks. Stand by.


Marc Fisher: We're way over the time slot, folks, so I have to close up shop despite having a full queue of comments and questions I couldn't get to. Come on back next time, which will not be next week, when Potomac Confidential takes a week-long vow of silence. Back here with you on Thursday June 29. There's always more on the blog, at

Thanks for coming along.


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