Potomac Confidential
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Potomac Confidential

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Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, March 20, 2008; 12:00 PM

Potomac Confidential fills the midday lull with discussion by Metro columnist Marc Fisher, who looks at the latest news with a rigorous slicing and dicing of the issues that define who we are and where we live.

Latest Blogs

Fisher was online Thursday, March 20, at Noon ET to look at the Supreme Court's D.C. gun law debate, Maryland's embrace of speed cameras, and Gov. Tim Kaine's pardon of a woman who robbed four Fairfax banks.

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. Yesterday's tiny band of anti-war protesters have moved on, and today it's college hoops fans who are heading downtown for the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Abe Pollin Center. In the midst of all this movement, Metro and the Washington Nationals are doing dry runs of the trip that baseball fans will begin making to the new stadium starting next week.

Lots of movement politically too, as Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and legislators begin considering tolls as one way to break their impasse over transportation funding. And in Maryland, the longstanding stalemate over speed cameras may be ending, as the legislature moves to legalize the gotcha-cams, which have been in use only in Montgomery County up till now.

A whole lot of other topics are on your minds, so let's get right to it--after we call the Yay and Nay of the Day:

Yay to the parents and neighbors of Wilson High School in northwest Washington, who are refusing to let the D.C. school system ignore concerns about a wave of violence that has hit the school since the city transferred dozens of students from the juvenile justice system and alternative schools into Wilson. With some new ninth graders now as old as 16 or 17 because they'd been left back several times, the school is suffering from a series of incidents in which older students have been harassing or assaulting younger students. Chancellor Michelle Rhee acknowledged the problem at a community meeting this week, and now the challenge to the system is to move out those kids who cannot behave decently and assure a safe environment for the great majority of students who are there to learn.

Nay to Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, who apparently cannot be bothered to use the same bathroom as the mere mortals who work at his Rockville office building. The county is now spending $65,000 to install a bathroom inside Leggett's locked suite, as The Post's Ann Marimow reports this morning. "I don't see this as a big expenditure," Leggett told Marimow. Oh, goodness--all this just as the county is trying to deal with a $300 million budget shortfall. Why do pols get themselves into such nonsense?

Your turn starts right now....

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School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University: Hi, Marc. I was interested in the Metro Section article on the Largo HS whose students are learning Chinese from a teacher who does not speak or, presumably, write Chinese. Chinese is a very complex language and it takes many years of study to become even reasonably proficient. However, if Georgetown were to admit a student with 1, 2 or more years of Chinese, we would expect that student to demonstrate competence at a level consistent with serious study for that period of time. I'm sure my colleagues at other colleges would concur.

Not that many high schools offer Chinese courses, and we do not have the time or personnel to evaluate these programs. A student with A's in Chinese would definitely stand out, but would likely crash and burn when his or her true level of competence became known. We would share that information with our Admissions Office, waving a red flag in the case of future applicants from that school.

They seriously need to rethink their approach.

washingtonpost.com: Effort to Stretch Curriculum Comes Up Short at Largo High ( Post, March 20)

Marc Fisher: The story by Nelson Hernandez in today's Post is a scary one, illustrating the disconnect between the dreams of school leaders and politicians who want to show that they are running rigorous and high-quality schools, and the facts of life in too many American schools--not enough qualified teachers, insufficiently high expectations of students, and not enough support from parents and the broader community.

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University City, Md.: Marc, if my child was taking Chinese in HS, I would certainly want the course to be taught by someone who spoke Chinese! And this person is also teaching Chinese II?

I think it's time for the school to fish or cut bait, i.e., discontinue the program until such time as a qualified teacher can be found. Sure, it gives the students an easy A, and probably looks good to a lot of colleges, but at what cost? If the students attempt to pursue Chinese at the college level, it will quickly become apparent they are in over their heads.

Marc Fisher: Obviously, the Largo school is not doing its kids any favor by pushing them through a Chinese language program that has zero useful content. The even more troubling question is how many other programs at other schools are similarly empty--to hear kids tell it, there are quite a few, especially in foreign languages, math and science classes where many schools struggle to find good teachers.

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Arlington, Va.: I have an off-topic rant that I hope you will publish, especially as it involves TV weathermen -- though not snow, specifically.

Although some still debate the causes, there seems to be little doubt that the phenomenon of global warming bodes some perilous results in our lifetime if present trends continue. I don't claim to understand the science behind it, and I admit that in my personal life I have made no radical changes to "go green," but still acknowledge the problem.

This year we experienced yet another balmy winter. I'm sure in a few weeks we'll read how this was the warmest winter on record, or at least top five. But towards the end we did have a little cold snap. And how did our local weathermen react? Of course, they led cheers for whiners and weather wimps, assuring us that if we "could just hold on," that spring was on the way. When the heck are they going to catch on the fact that a few cold days in winter is a good thing, kind of like when we get rain during a drought? I'm not asking them to become sanctimonious about climate change, just to quit acting like adolescent naifs.

Marc Fisher: If you like weathermen who are cold and snow boosters, check out the Capital Weather Gang, right here on the big website. Those guys love snow and root for it at every turn. I'm with you--I'm often slackjawed as the local TV weatherfolk begin rooting for high heat starting in May. Yum-yum, the 80s are coming, they say. Ugh.

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washingtonpost.com: County Executive to Get $65,000 Bathroom ( Post, March 20)

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Rockville, Md.: Mr husband and I are very near to losing our house, even though we work two jobs, have not had a vacation in several years and drive old clunkers that should probably not be on the road.

Mr. Leggett's $65,000 bathroom is absurd.

Marc Fisher: More than absurd, it demonstrates a detachment from the people he is elected to serve that's quite disturbing. Leggett says he didn't ask for the bathroom, and I take him at his word. But that doesn't mean he couldn't have stopped it and asked that that money be redirected to something that's truly needed.

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Arlington, VA: It appears that you have angered Mr. Leonsis. Here are a few select quotes from his blog Ted's Take about you and the newspaper business in general. I believe that this was in response to your comments last week about the Caps.

"I think the question to be asking Marc is this: "Is D.C. a newspaper town or a Washington Post town anymore?"

"Have you seen your numbers of late? Your circulation is down. Your revenues are down. Your profits are down. Your newsroom employee count is down. Your prospects are bleak. You don't even publish your circulation numbers in your own paper. Why is that? Young adults don't read your paper. You are a software company with a newspaper aside it now. If I were you, I would write about what you know and not throw out opinions as facts regarding other businesses."

"If Marc would like to compare the Washington Post's numbers alongside the Washington Capitals numbers, I would be glad to do so in a public forum."

Any thoughts? It's hard for me to take him too seriously since AOL didn't exactly do a great job adapting to the evolving Internet.

Marc Fisher: Wow--I hadn't seen or heard about that. (This is apparently picking up on our conversation here on the chat over the past few weeks about whether Washington is indeed a hockey town.) My conclusion so far in our discussion here has been that there are a good many diehard hockey lovers who support the Caps, plus a larger group of casual fans who can get engaged when the team is doing well or has a genuine star, as it does now. But there does not appear to be the same kind of broad, bedrock support for hockey that you find in more northerly and snowy places where the sport has been around for many decades.

I'd be more than happy to talk to Leonsis about the two businesses--indeed, both the Post and the Caps have been leaders in their fields in jumping into new media and embracing the technological changes that promise to redefine what we do. And both are also struggling institutions. I don't remotely see that as a bashing comment, but rather as a good and important conversation to have, whether we're talking about journalism or hockey.

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Arlington, Va.: Marc,

What did you think of the protesters yesterday who stopped traffic and blocked the IRS? I thought it showed a huge lack of understanding to think that the IRS has a say in how their money is distributed or that they didn't care about destroying the commute of anyone in the K Street area. If these people focused on legally protesting the issue, they might receive more support.

Marc Fisher: First of all, if you were out on the streets yesterday, what you saw was a preposterously exaggerated protest--a relative handful of people, literally only a couple of hundred of them, marching along K Street, gumming up traffic, splattering businesses' front windows with paint and generally acting like spoiled children. All of that was accompanied by a ludicrous show of strength by the D.C. police, who filled more than a full city block, three lanes across, with squad cars, lights flashing. Ok, so maybe the cops wildly overestimated how many protesters would show up, but they could at least have pulled back on their commitment of resources when they realized how few protesters there were.

As for tactics, the people have spoken, and the American people are choosing to register their views about the war at the ballot box and through this presidential campaign, not through silly antics on the streets of a city business district that has no more to do with the decision to go to war than does the Main Street of Cincinnati or Des Moines.

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Washington, D.C.: There has been a lot of coverage this week of the protests in Tibet and elsewhere. Are there any related protests in D.C.? I keep looking in the Post to see who is protesting in front of the Chinese embassy but don't see anything.

Marc Fisher: I haven't seen any local protests on that, but I may have missed it--anyone?

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Olney, Md.: Why is the Post writing gotcha stories about Ike Legget's bathroom when there are far more important problems like a economic recession, housing foreclosure crisis, the Iraq occupation entering its sixth year, and $50 million in D.C. tax money stolen. A private bathroom for the chief executive of a county of over 1 million people doesn't even reach the level of a drop in the bucket. Also, spending $65,000 for a commerical grade bathroom with shower is not very much.

Marc Fisher: I've never priced bathrooms, so I'll take your word for it, though it sounds awfully pricey to me. But the point here is not so much the cost of the bathroom, but the arrogance and tone-deafness involved in the decision to use county taxpayers' dollars for such a silly project. The comparison to Iraq or the economy is apples and oranges--we ought to cover all of that, and we do, but the existence of big stories elsewhere in the world and in other parts of our lives doesn't relieve us of the responsibility we have to give readers information they can use to hold accountable the people they elect to run government at all levels.

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Rockville, Md.: Is your reading comprehension that bad?? The article about the bathroom says:

"We have had some challenging, disgruntled employees or citizens demanding to see the county executive, and from a security perspective he can walk into that," Chief Administrative Officer Timothy L. Firestine said. "Quite frankly, Ike didn't want (the new bathroom), but we more or less suggested from a security perspective that he needs it."

Why are you giving the Nay to Leggett? He doesn't want it but the Chief Admin Officer says they need it. Try reading before pontificating.

Marc Fisher: And Leggett's job is to tell the administrator thanks for your concern, but I'll use the same bathroom as everyone else. We are not talking about the president or the secretary of defense here--this is a county executive, and just as members of Congress travel about without security, local officials should resist the temptation to pretend that they are bigger deals than they really are.

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Arlington, Va. - A follow up on the weather comment: Actually numerous reports have come out in the last few days that the "warming" trend has virtually stopped over the past five years. NPR had an extensive report on ocean temps flatlining over the past five years and also an interesting look at certain publications that are now saying "global climate change" instead of "global warming" in their publications. And hey just look anywhere outside the Beltway, the Northern half of the country is setting record cold marks and record snowfalls for this winter.

So let's not presume to think that something as large scale as the global climate is a flat give. Because it isn't.

Marc Fisher: I don't pretend to know how serious a problem warming is, and certainly most of the science I've read from responsible folks on both sides of the argument consistently warns that it's a huge mistake to confuse weather with climate--what's happening in recent years may have zero to do with longer-term changes, or it may be directly related.

But the point here was somewhat more quotidian--why do TV weather forecasters generally root for warm and even hot weather, while expressing revulsion for cold weather? I don't get that. Anyone have an explanation?

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RE: I'm not asking them to become sanctimonious about climate change, just to quit acting like adolescent naifs. : It would be nice to have the weather news announced by people who don't act shocked that it's really hot in July and August, and that we get cold weather in the winter. I happen to enjoy the differences in weather each season. Makes life more interesting.

Marc Fisher: Indeed--that's a great reason to choose to live in this region. We have four genuine seasons, and fabulous springs and falls. We're just a bit weak in the winter and summer departments.

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Baltimore, Md.: Jeez, I used to live in Glover Park in the 70s and 80s when Wilson High was considered the best secondary school in the system. And now this is where they are putting kids who, in the euphemism, have been "court involved?" The potential for violence, leading to a huge parental lawsuit, is obvious.

I also imagine the merchants in Tenleytown are just thrilled by this development.

Marc Fisher: There's been a whole bunch of traffic on the various neighborhood listservs and bulletin boards about not only the violence in the school, but incidents at and near the Tenley Metro station right near Wilson. So now a much wider group of residents, beyond the parents and kids at the school, is up in arms about this.

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Arlington, Va.: How would you suggest we protest this ill-conceived, hideously protracted, ignomiously fought, financially draining war in an adult way?

Marc Fisher: There were some large, moving and arguably effective marches earlier on in the war, both here and in other cities, and some say that those efforts played a part in turning popular opinion against the Iraq effort. But the current campaign seems pretty good evidence, both in the voting and in the extraordinary increase in campaign donations, that many American are choosing to express their opposition to the war with their dollars and their votes. That doesn't necessarily replace street action, but it's a pretty direct and potentially effective form of public speech.

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Washington, D.C.: I wonder: What if the Court finds for an individual right to own a gun, but then finds our gun laws in D.C. "reasonable" regulations? Or even short of that -- they strike down the outright banning of handguns (though presumably not machine guns under some contorted logic) but then uphold background checks, licensing, registration, one-gun-per-month laws (like Virginia's)?

What will the NRA-types really have "won" then? They have their precious "individual right," but gun control would be constitutional, after all. In a perverse way, that sounds like a pro-gun loss to me, and one that cuts against the NRA's very reason for being.

What do you think?

Marc Fisher: You've posed the question nicely, because the more I read into the briefs in the D.C. gun case, the more I became convinced that this issue is far narrower than we make it out to be both in the media and in the public conversation. There is, for example, agreement by nearly everyone on both sides of the case that the government has the right to regulate gun ownership and use--the question is how far that regulation can go. The Bush Administration's very centrist position, that the Court would be wrong to toss out the D.C. government's arguments entirely because that would scrap important regulation of machine guns and other dangerous weapons, may be an indication of how the Court will come down--concluding that yes, there is a Constitutional guarantee of the individual right to bear arms, but that yes, the government still gets to regulate who, when and where you keep and bear arms.

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Arlington, Va.: I agree that Leggett deserves responsibility for the decision, but I wish you had tied it into the larger context. How many billions of dollars have been spent in recent years in the D.C. area alone on new construction and redesign because someone trotted out that magic word "security?"

Marc Fisher:"Security" has become the mantra governments use to win nearly carte blanche in their spending--often for absurd purposes. The decision to deny public access to the giant federal garage right next to the Nats stadium is a classic example.

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Re: We have had some challenging, disgruntled employees or citizens demanding to see the county executive: Marc, glad you haven't had to see it, but angry citizens can get scary. Our new municipal building is way more secure than the last one and we've had to call the police more than once. People are scary now and blame county figures for elected officials' decisions. It is Fair of a boss to required his staff stay clear of potential conflicts. Corporations require their CEOs fly chartered jets for insurance and security reasons and it's reasonable for municipal staff to do the same. A county administruation is actually a CEO of an organization that employs thousands and thousands of people, it's like running a big company.

Marc Fisher: So if I'm reading you right, it's ok for everyone else who works in the county office building to bear the wrath or insanity of raging citizens, but the boss himself must be placed behind protective glass. Sorry, that doesn't wash. Nearly all government buildings now have security checkpoints at the front entrance--that's plenty of security and the chief doesn't need an extra layer unless there've been personal and serious threats against him, or unless we're talking about people of a vastly higher level--the president, the pope, that sort of figure.

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My feelings exactly!:...and just as members of Congress travel about without security, local officials should resist the temptation to pretend that they are bigger deals than they really are.

Marc Fisher: Sadly, the existence and extent of the security detail becomes a status symbol for many in public life. But the proof that all this is unnecessary comes from those fine public servants who jettison the trappings of power and get along just fine.

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12th and Penn: How is it that yesterday's protests received so much press? Every article revealed how few people were actually involved in the scattered protests, yet they received huge play on the front pages of the A section and the Metro section.

This stands in contrast to a number of other much larger protests that receive scant coverage, including the March for Life just two months ago, which had 10's of thousands of protestors and received little coverage.

Don't give me the yearly occurrence excuse either -- these anti-war protests are now regular occurrences.

Marc Fisher: Good question. My sense was that yesterday's protests got vastly more coverage than they deserved--for two reasons: 1) Reporters and editors fell for the organizers' glowing and showy predictions that they would attract a much larger crowd than they did. 2) These protesters are very good at street theater, and as the photos in our paper and others show, there are wonderful images in the protesters's masks, confrontations with police, and vandalism of local businesses.

And then there is the novelty question--the March for Life gets covered every year, mainly because its organizers are so insistent about demanding coverage. But like the antiwar groups, the anti-abortion crowd is hardly offering any new message or representing any groundswell of public opinion. If I had my own paper, I'd skip both of those events. But I don't--the Post covers both.

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Many American are choosing to express their opposition to the war with their dollars and their votes: So the poor and non-citizen legal residents (whose children comprise a large contingent of the armed forces) have no outlet available to protest "effectively?"

Marc Fisher: The poor have the same vote as the rich.

And as they are demonstrating in the Obama campaign, people of modest means can make a huge difference in the economics of presidential campaigns.

As for non-citizens, no, they don't get the same level of voice in the political process, for good reason. If they're legal residents, gaining access to the political process is a good incentive for them to move toward citizenship.

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To Arlington's Question:"How would you suggest we protest this ill-conceived, hideously protracted, ignominiously fought, financially draining war in an adult way?"

Oh, I don't know, how about not hindering the people you're trying to influence, i.e. blocking traffic and preventing ordinary people to do their business; protest at the right venue, i.e., Capitol Hill and the Congressional offices; don't go around vandalizing property.

I'm sure there are other ways.

Marc Fisher: Right.

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Hockey: The question you should be asking is, "Is the U.S. a hockey country?" I think we got that answer when the players struck for a year and a half and hardly anyone noticed. Hockey's a punchline. A joke. A peculiarity like the duck-billed platypus.

Marc Fisher: That's a little too harsh, no? After all, the NHL is a highly profitable business with a large following. It's not football or baseball, but it's certainly a very popular sport regionally, and there's nothing wrong with that.

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Arlington, Va.: Marc,

Over the weekend, I got my first glimpse of the highway signs on 295 and 395 advertising the routes for Nationals Park, and seeing it filled me with a lot of spirit! But that spirit soon faded when I realized a few things.

One, you can't park at the ballpark, so the highway signs are almost a moot point.

And two, when it comes to the shuttle from RFK, I tried visualizing the traffic route it would take to Nationals Park, and came up with heading down Independence Avenue to South Capitol Street, but then wondered if the roads would be blocked off around the Capitol, so I'm guessing the shuttle will take several back roads.

Not to be a killjoy, but in rush hour, wouldn't that just be a traffic nightmare around Capitol Hill? I can't imagine a straight shot down 295 to Howard Road would be much better, either.

Marc Fisher: The Nats Shuttle from RFK to the new stadium will avoid most of the more crowded streets and use the back road that connects the RFK lots with I-395, so the buses should be able to avoid a fair amount of the traffic.

And don't look now, but the Nats may come up with more parking spaces than their publicity implies. Not all the season ticket holders bought the parking space they are entitled to, so some of those will open to fans with day tickets.

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Alexandria, Va.: Breaking news....Scooter Libby just got disbarred, so it would appear that there is a God!

washingtonpost.com: Cheney Ex-Aide 'Scooter' Libby Disbarred ( Post, March 20)

Marc Fisher: Next: Eliot Spitzer?

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Chantilly, Va.: Marc,

Quit beating up on DOT and the parking issue. The gov. should not be made to help a private corporation because of poor prior planning.

If D.C. hadn't put the kibosh on a 4-5 story parking garage, we wouldn't be talking about this. Go shovel the blame onto the D.C. gov.

Marc Fisher: It's not a matter of helping a private company--the Nats would cover all costs related to using that or any other garage. It's a question of one arm of government standing in the way of another: The baseball stadium is entirely a project of the D.C. government, and the only losers if the parking problems depress attendance are the D.C. taxpayers, businesses and fans who pay for the stadium.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello Marc,

I am on the Nats mailing list and got an e-mail late last week soliciting "votes" on favorite songs to be played at the new park (during the 7th inning stretch, after Nats homeruns, etc.). They sent an update e-mail this week with the standings. I assume anyone can go to the Nats Web site and vote (after providing a little biographical information that no doubt helps the marketing department).

Just in case any of your readers want to make their views known on "Sweet Caroline" and other infamous tunes . . .

Marc Fisher: Yes, please do get on that site and get rid of "Sweet Caroline" and the infernal "Cotton-Eyed Joe." There are some good options on the Nats' ballot, including Chuck Brown and several others far more suited to Washington than the generic pap that they've been piping in from other cities.

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Handicapped parking at the new Nats Stadium: I'm glad there is going to be some, but $35? Many handicapped people are financially strapped to start, and this is just out of the question. I'm one of those who needs the space; I walk with 2 canes due to advancing MS and a wheelchair is looming on the horizon.

If I somehow manage to come up with this money, I'm wondering if I can call in advance to reserve a space, to void a trip down from Olney only to not be able to park. Arena Stage, among others, does this. I'm planning to contact the team directly with this question. BTW, I'm not planning to go to any of the "big draw" teams in hopes of improving my odds.

Marc Fisher: The Nats' plan for handicapped access certainly leaves much to be desired. The team has opened up spaces for the disabled at the garages right next to the stadium, which is good, but they aren't saying how many spaces will be available, and charging the big, big money for access doesn't seem fair. Sure, the handicapped should have to pay, but why not have them pay the average cost of spaces in stadium lots, rather than the top price level?

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. F: Technology on the march -- Arthur C. Clarke, the great science fiction and science writer who died this week at 90, was the first (in 1945) to postulate that a satellite in orbit at the same speed as the earth's rotation could be used for radio and TV transmissions. He later wrote, in the 1960s, he asked if that idea could have been patented. The answer was "no" -- it was too visionary in 1945, and, by the time it wasn't, the concept was so widely known it was unpatentable.

Marc Fisher: Really? Hadn't heard that--thanks for passing it along. That whole classic generation of sci-fi writers is moving on--it's not clear that another will follow in short order.

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Comus, Md.: Do any other Co. Executives have $65,000 bathrooms? About to go up to $78,000? So that Mr. Leggett is not attacked in the hallway on his way to a public restroom?

I'm showing my political stripes here, but this reminds me of when Pres. Reagan explained he failed to attend church ervices out of fear that he might be attacked. Many people pointed out that this same fear was present whenever he appeared in public! Esp. with today's security what it is, are assailants likely to be lurking on his walk to a public john? I don't think so and hope this story comes back to bite him bad.

Marc Fisher: Again, it's a question of individual character. Some top government officials make a point of using the same bathroom as the mortals. Others believe it makes the rank and file uncomfortable to have the big boss come sauntering in. But that argument seems rather overthought and overwrought.

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Rockville, Md.: I guess we are on the opposite side of an issue again. Why not spend for a shower so the guy can work later in the day without going home? The Montgomery County budget is millions. This is just petty reporter envy, in my opinion.

You going to count how many springs he has in his chair or how many drawers in his desk?

Marc Fisher: Envy? Well, hereabouts the bosses share the same 1950s bathroom with puddles on the floor and holes in the wall and nobody seems to mind. And Leggett could easily change in the same washroom that everyone else uses--or in his private office. He does have one of those, you know.

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Arlington, Va.: Public officials really have to get past the idea that they can do their jobs better if they're encased in a bubble. In many respects, John Lindsay was a disappointing mayor of New York City in the turbulent late sixties and early seventies. But I vividly recall his walking around the most volatile sections of the city throughout his tenure. I wish our elected officials would have the same courage as their constituents -- use the same bathrooms we all do and live in the same communities. Might learn something about yourself and the people you serve!

Marc Fisher: Yes, and those officials who do make a point of getting out benefit enormously from it. It's the heart of Adrian Fenty's success, for example. Or, to be bipartisan about it, George Allen, who both as governor and senator made it his business to head out to the diners, gas stations, and convenience stores, without security folks, so he could hear what people had on their minds and let people know he was accessible.

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RE: how about not hindering the people you're trying to influence: One of them yelled me as I was waiting for the bus. He started screaming at me -- why wasn't I joining the protest? Wasn't I aware of what's happening? Why don't I care about the people dying? After he stopped yelling at me, he turned to his friend and said "look at her, sitting there in her bubble, oblivious to the real world around her."

It made me mad at the protestors, because they know nothing about me. I am very much against the war.

Marc Fisher: It's an odd protest ethic, but it's been consistent through the past few years--screaming at and belittling the very folks whom you'd think they'd be trying to reach and persuade.

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So if I'm reading you right, it's okay for everyone else who works in the county office building to bear the wrath or insanity of raging citizens, but the boss himself must be placed behind protective glass.: You don't get it. MoCo citizens will recognize their county executive. Doubtful they'll recognize his chief of staff or admin assistant when they are on their way to the bathroom. H'e recognizable Marc, he's elected. Man you're thick today. Admit you're wrong and move on.

Marc Fisher: Plenty of recognizable elected officials continue on with their daily lives and ordinary rounds with nary a worry. Just off the top of my head, congressmen Tom Davis and Al Wynn, and senators Jim Webb and Barbara Mikulski are out and about, without security, without pretensions. And plenty of local officials get by without their own special bathrooms.

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Parking Garages in D.C.: All the people who claim that the Fed shouldn't have to help a private corporation are missing the point. Opening federal parking garages during non-business hours would help me, the private citizen. Yes me, one of the many who contributed funds to build those garages. Whether I am going downtown to visit the Smithsonian, or a D.C. restaurant or shop, or even a baseball game, it would be nice if parking wasn't completely impossible.

As for Metro, it's a nice thought, but I live in Annapolis. By the time I drive 20 minutes to New Carrollton, wait forever for a train, pay $15+ for my 4 family members to get their smart cards (so I can get out of the garage and plan for future trips), unfold and fold the stroller, and make sure we have the diaper bag, I have sworn that I won't repeat the experience for a year.

So lighten up, curmudgeons. The parking garages should be open.

Marc Fisher: Right--but actually the drive in and switch to Metro routine works rather nicely, not just for baseball, but for all manner of center city trips. Lots of folks do it, especially on weekends, for museum hopping, street fairs, and the like.

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Anonymous: Why would being physically disabled result in a lower fee for parking? Sure, some disabled folks aren't rich, but that's no different from any slice of fans.

Marc Fisher: It shouldn't be lower or higher than what other fans pay. The only difference should be that the parking is closer.

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Boston, Mass. -- Not so Sweet Caroline you plagerizers: The Sawx have been singing that song for a while now -- is the Nats PR department that inept that they can't come up with their own 4 or 5 song choices? I mean good grief, Cotton Eye Joe? The O's sang that one 10 years ago or so and maybe still do. Has the PR staff never heard of iTunes?

Marc Fisher: The ballot choices aren't exactly adventuresome, but there are some good selections, and decent range to choose from. Vote now, vote often.

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Arlington, Va.: Hockey, like lacrosse and basketball are wonderful sports that spectators must pay attention to ... the action can be so fast. UNLIKE baseball, soccer, and football...BORING!

GO CAPS!

GO BAYHAWKS!

GO WIZARDS!

Just my 2 cents worth!

Marc Fisher: Couple more on that topic....

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Arlington, Va.: You had better be careful, how DARE you mention sports (hockey, baseball, football, etc.) and not mention THE GREATEST THING EVER...SOCCER! You know the crazies will come down on you for you "bias" again.

I wish all 20,000 soccer fans would just be happy with their sport instead of playing the poor, poor pitiful us card.

Marc Fisher: Interestingly, the soccer folks seem to have a much bigger chip on their shoulders than the diehard hockey fans, who arguably have more to complain about than the soccer aficianados, who are deservedly gaining in news coverage and public attention.

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Anonymous: Can we get a link for the stadium songs vote page on Nationals.com? The site is a big mess. 7th inning stretch should be "Go-go Swing" by Chuck Brown.

washingtonpost.com: Nationals.com

Marc Fisher: There you go.

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Tibet protesters: I saw about 30 people protesting in North Dupont Circle, Connecticut/Florida on Tuesday evening.

Marc Fisher: Ah, thank you.

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The poor have the same vote as the rich.: Pul-leeze. Let's take Citizen A who works as a day laborer, and Citizen B who works in an office. Who will have more chance to say to his boss, "I'm leaving a little early today so I can vote"? As long as we hold election day on a regular work day and keep polls open for such a short band of time it will always be Citizen B.

Marc Fisher: Short band of time? Twelve to fourteen hours is short? Come on, there are a lot of reasons people don't vote, but "can't get to the polls" is a really weak excuse.

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Petworth: Marc -- Adrian, even a Ward 4 councilmember, traveled with a giant entourage in giant SUVs. Not really a man of the people, no matter what image he tries to project.

Marc Fisher: Actually, as a council member, he almost always traveled alone, and as mayor, he at first sought to do same, but the security people quickly pushed him into their routines.

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Greater Green Bay: Seems to me that exec doesn't need a bathroom, he needs a panic room.

Marc Fisher: Ouch.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Legett has been good about holding town meetings, in person and vitually. I say the bathroom is okay. Furthermore, MoCo should probably get metal detectors. The council building is confusing to enter, especially for evening events. I voted for Leggett, and I want him and the councilmembers I support to be safe.

Marc Fisher: Metal detectors are a far better solution--they protect everyone in the building, not just the top man.

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Public security: The difference lies between those who believe they are civil servants, and those who think they are above the rest of us.

Marc Fisher: Or, from the other side of the issue....

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Public officials really have to get past the idea that they can do their jobs better if they're encased in a bubble. In many respects.: Honey, work for a municipality with the public and then make such a statement. I've had screaming citizens threaten me, call me very rude names, lots of threatening things. I don't want to work in a bubble, but I do need to get some basic stuff done without fearing for my safety so you can flush your toilet when you get home tonight.

Marc Fisher: We're way over our alloted time here, so just a few more on some other issues....

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Re: warming: Do we have more thunderstorms and floods when the politicians and press come back from recess and bring their hot air with them?

Marc Fisher: I think you need to commission a multi-million dollar study of that. And then build a garage for the staff and don't let anyone else use it.

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Alexandria, Va.: It's unfortunate the school lost their Chinese teacher, and they probably shouldn't have tried to keep the class open, but if the parents and kids have been given the option to transfer to other classes and have chosen not to take it, I don't think they have a whole lot to complain about. Chinese language, while nice, is simply not a subject every high school student in America has the opportunity to learn.

By the way, something similar happened to me in high school... our French teacher didn't come to work one day early in the school year, and never came back. Since this was a small rural school where the French teacher was primarily an English teacher (she taught one session each of French 1 and French 2 the rest all English classes), when the school replaced her they were only able to get an English, not and English-plus-French teacher. They contracted with the state university for a correspondence course and the new non-French-speaking English teacher did the best she could with us for the rest of the year. It was certainly not ideal and I can't really claim to have learned all that much, but the school did the best it could under unfortunate circumstances. It sounds like this one is trying to as well.

Marc Fisher: Ok, but French was probably part of your school's curriculum for a long time, so that was, we hope, a temporary circumstance. In the case of the Chinese class, the problem is that the school is at one level reaching for a new model, a new way to demonstrate rigor, yet is failing its students. The question is how much of the addition of Chinese is for show and how much is a real bolstering of the academic offering.

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Alexandria, Va.: I didn't get a chance to note this last week when you had a column on the Postal Service and junk mail. But since Thanksgiving or so, I've probably gotten at least 1,000 preprinted return address labels as "gifts" from various organizations looking for donations. I already have a few hundred saved from previous solicitations, and I've gotten to where I just automatically toss them unless they're really well-printed and attractive. But it's more than I could possibly use even if I lived in the same place for the rest of my life -- let alone the fact that so many billing transactions are moving online that you can almost avoid using the mail entirely.

Marc Fisher: I like those stickers! But you're right, it's an overused gimmick.

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Clifton, Va.: Marc,

You need to do a column about Tyson's Corner allowing customers to bring their little rat dogs into the mall in their bags!

On a Friday night a couple of weeks ago I saw several little dogs in bags or purses in the mall. This is discrimination. I complained and asked if I could bring my two collies to the mall. No, they won't fit in a bag but the chances of getting bitten are a lot less than some designer little Munchkin dog. I was told no. And these folks bring these dogs into the stores. My dogs work for a living herding sheep and are better behaved then any little fluff ball that isn't worth the food it consumes. Either they ban all dogs or allow all dogs. Service dogs are the exception. My dogs would be on leash. And they wouldn't pee on the lingerie in Victoria's Secret like one of these little fluff balls did. And folks need to get real dogs that work -- not a mini yorkie that serves no useful purpose other than to waste resources.

Marc Fisher: Next week: An all-rat dogs edition of Potomac Confidential. (Maybe I'll need a security detail after that.)

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Falls Church, Va.: I know D.C. and Nats officials want fans to Metro it to the games, not drive. There are few parking spots even if you wanted to drive.

Question is whether tailgating is part of the baseball culture? It's huge for football. Is this one of the things that these officials had to sacrifice in order to get the stadium built?

Marc Fisher: That's one of the team management's regrets about the parking situation--tailgating was a big thing at RFK. That said, there will be blocks and blocks of parking lots near the new stadium, it's just that they're mainly restricted to the season ticket swells.

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D.C. Protest: I was talking to some co-workers yesterday about the protest, and while we all supported the goals of the protest -- we also found the protest to be ineffective. I wish that the protest organizers would just steal a play from MLK and organize a Sunday's Best protest. No stupid puppets, no anarchists and no screaming idiots. Just have all of your members show up in their best suit/dress and march through the streets of D.C. to the reflecting pool. There is no better TV image that having a huge crowd of normal looking nicely dressed people march proudly and confidently for a cause. It's called winning the hearts and minds of middle America -- and it is the key to getting average Americans mobilized and engaged on these issues. All the ranting and publicity stunts look foolish and extreme to most American's watching at home.

Marc Fisher: A giant march of people in business wear would certainly win a load of media attention.

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Switching to Metro: The switch works fine with one kid, less well with more. Especially true if trains are crowded and kids are tired. If I drive, I buckle everyone in and they are asleep before I get past the arboretum. On the train, I get to stand with the sleeping baby as people glare at me because the other one is whining, then have to get the sleeping one into the car without waking, blah, blah blah.

I see the merits of Metro, but it's not always the greatest solution for everyone.

Marc Fisher: True nuff.

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Parking: I work at said headquarters, and I have to say that when I heard they were expecting the Department to accommodate I thought, "get real." Security makes people here squirm.

Marc Fisher: And yet plenty of government building garages are open to the general public with no problem.

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Washington, D.C.: The O's may have played "Cotton Eyed Joe," but the 7th inning stretch song, going back to Memorial Stadium days, was John Denver's "Thank God I'm A Country Boy." It made no sense at all in Baltimore, but when the team tried to change the music, there was an uproar -- perhaps because it was the only carryover from the days when the Os were one of baseball's great teams.

Marc Fisher: Some of the most unhappy reactions I ever heard at RFK were when the Nats PA went with country tunes between innings.

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Why do TV weather forecasters generally root for warm and even hot weather, while expressing revulsion for cold weather?: The lunatic weatherman on NBC4 does this all the time and it drives me nuts. No idea what his name is, he's on at night. I live on the east coast because I enjoy seasons, if I didn't I'd live in Florida or California....

Marc Fisher: We should have the TV weatherfolk on and get their responses on this.

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Petworth, Washington, D.C.:"the streets of a city business district that has no more to do with the decision to go to war than does the Main Street of Cincinnati or Des Moines."

Actually, we have MUCH LESS to do with the decision to go to war than those other cities do. You know, they have elected representatives with votes who can actually influence the war decision, unlike us.

Yes, yes, the K St lobbyists had something to do with it, I'm sure. But we the people of the District of Columbia cannot be blamed for this one.

Marc Fisher: A point the protesters seem utterly oblivious to.

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Marc Fisher: That has to wrap it up for today--thanks very much for coming along.

No show next week--please come on back the following week, when we'll have a better sense of how the new stadium logistics are working out.

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