» This Story:Read +|Watch +|Talk +| Comments
Potomac Confidential
Thursday, June 19 at Noon ET

Potomac Confidential

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, June 19, 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.

This Story

Fisher was online Thursday, June 19 at noon ET to look at who gets nominated to military service academies, a court's finding that blacks are overrepresented in the D.C. jury pool, and the Nationals' ban on shirtless men.

A transcript follows.

Today's Column: District Ill Served When Nominations To Service Academies Go Begging ( Post, June 19)

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.

The Supremes did not rule on the D.C. gun ban today, meaning that next week is the week. Your one-sentence prediction on what they will rule, along with your guess as to the vote on the case, is welcome here on the big show today. The contestant who comes closest to the actual outcome next week will get a fine prize from the Vast Vault of Values, so please do two things if you are entering the contest today: Include in your entry a handle or pen name of some sort so that I can name you when you win next week. Then, come on back next week to find out if you are indeed the winner.

Today's column looks at D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton's problem using all the slots she's allotted at the nation's military service academies. Do D.C. kids have a greater reluctance to join the military than kids in the suburbs?

What's next in the Comet Ping Pong case, the saga of the Northwest Washington eatery that's been targeted by a wayward neighborhood commissioner who sees evil in the idea that people might want to eat late at night or, shudder the thought, sit out on the sidewalk?

What did you make of the decision by a D.C. Superior Court judge declaring that the city's jury system is not racist and far from being biased against blacks, is actually overrepresenting blacks in its jury pool?

And kudos to WTOP's Mark Segraves for a juicy scoop today -- he reports that the District's taxpayers are making a hefty contribution to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, like it or not. Segraves reports that Mayor Adrian Fenty spent more than $50,000 of your money to bring three members of his staff, 10 police officers and three detectives with him on his journeys to campaign for Obama. Contrast that with how Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine handled his campaign trips -- he didn't charge the taxpayers for any of his expenses. He had his staffers take vacation days to accompany him and he made sure that Obama's campaign covered the cost of the air travel.

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

Yay to the kids at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School who pulled a lovely little prank, as reported in today's Post. The pranksters sent letters to some seniors informing them that they must attend summer school. Nicely done.

Nay to the Washington Nationals for forcing a bunch of shirtless male fans to put their clothes back on. Is there still a minimum standard of decorum at a ballpark or are the Nats being too fussy? I vote for the latter. Yes, I'd love to see a return to the days when gents wore fedoras to the ballpark, but that's not happening anytime soon, and on a steamy summer day, a guy without a shirt is hardly among the more offensive things you will see at a ballpark.

Your turn starts right now....

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: Something to Get Off My Chest (Post, June 15)

Marc Fisher: Here's that piece about the Nats banning the shirtless look.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: I was a bit confused by your article today about the military scholarships. You make it sound as if D.C. students should jump at the opportunity to go to military school. D.C. is one of the most liberal cities in the nation, and I don't see any parent in the city jumping to send their child into a war they don't support.

Marc Fisher: Obviously, it's up to each student and family to decide whether a military career or education is right for them, but in a city where shamefully few kids even graduate from high school, and college attendance is at one of the lowest rates in the nation, any chance to get a free and excellent education for top-performing students should be a high priority. My concern is that Norton's office is not doing all that could be done to get the word out and to recruit kids who could qualify for one of the academies.

Sending your kid to, say, the Merchant Marine Academy is hardly the same as shipping the kid off to Iraq, though of course that is very much a possibility for graduates of the academies.

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: District Ill Served When Nominations To Service Academies Go Begging ( Post, June 19)

Marc Fisher: Here's the column on that....

_______________________

Bethesda, Md.: Norton says big-city residents seem less enamored of the military these days. "There's no question the military is less popular than ever," she says.

Eleanor Holmes Norton becomes less relevant every instance she opens her mouth. She's just insulted every service member that has and is currently honorably serving this country, especially those from the District of Columbia. Norton owes every service man and woman, past and present, an apology.

Marc Fisher: Well, insult or not, Norton may be correct in that there may well be less intrinsic interest in the academies and the military than there is in some suburban communities, especially in places where there are lots of military families.

But it's a false stereotype to conclude that because Washington is a largely impoverished, black community that there are weaker ties to the military than there are elsewhere. In fact, the proportion of D.C. residents who are veterans of the military is highest in heavily black neighborhoods, and there are very active veterans groups in much of the city.

_______________________

Bethesda, Md.: My husband and I are reasonably well off, but even if we weren't, we wouldn't let one of our children attend a military academy because of our opposition to the war in Iraq, which may well still be going on when the current entering class graduates.

Our family are huge baseball fans, and have been distressed and disgusted to see large numbers of recruits sworn into the military before both Orioles and BaySox games. This may well have happened at Nationals games as well, but not when we were there. I made a point of talking to some of the BaySox game inductees, and to a person they said they were doing it not out of patriotism but because, as they saw it, they had no other option and, "if I die, my family will be rich." How sad is that?

Marc Fisher: That's pretty sad, but it is a longstanding truth about the volunteer military--as Norton told me last night, "what they call the volunteer army is really a mercenary army." That doesn't mean the recruits want or expect to die to get survivors' benefits for their families, but it does mean that many people sign up to learn trades and skills that could be parlayed into careers once they complete their duties.

I was at a Chicago White Sox game last summer where an induction ceremony was held before the first pitch, and a crowd that at first welcomed the recruits with warm applause turned eerily quiet at the sight of so many young people getting ready to go off to war. I found the setting inappropriate, making light of some very, very serious decisions.

_______________________

Gaithersburg home/Southwest D.C.: Marc, I guess I missed something. The title of the column on the Catholic school going charter indicates it won't happen, but the column states it probably will. Can you clarify? Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Officials at SE Catholic School Offer an Improbable Prayer (Post, June 15)

Marc Fisher: Indeed, the charter school board voted Monday night to approve the conversion of those inner city Catholic schools to public charter schools, which is what I'd said they'd do in Sunday's column. The headline was apparently referring to another aspect of the story, in which the church pastor lamenting the loss of his parish school offered the hope and prayer that the newly secular school would be as able to offer a values-based and excellent education as did the overtly religious school that is closing.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Service Academies do NOT provide a free education -- there are strings attached. Those strings include years of required military service commitments during a time of war.

A $250,000 education may not be worth much if you are serving in dangerous areas like Iraq where you may get killed. And minorities are more likely to be sent and serve in war zones. These D.C. students may be making a very wise choice.

Marc Fisher: I've not seen any evidence that minority officers are more likely to be sent to war zones than white officers, and all academy graduates are officers.

Yes, there are strings attached, just as there are with ROTC programs at many colleges. But that doesn't negate the fact that the military academies are tuition-free and that they also offer kids who are not quite at the top level academically a prep program that extends their high school career and builds them up to academy standards.

I'm not recruiting or advertising for the academies and I would not choose them for my own children. My point is only that they are a viable option for some families, and that it behooves D.C. officials to get the word out and use the available slots since it's free money for a city that sorely needs more college options for its young people.

_______________________

Charlottesville, Va.: It's interesting that the Bethesda, MD poster said she wouldn't allow her child to attend a service academy because of their (the parents') opposition to the war.

Since when do cadets need their parents permission to attend. It struck me as a profoundly overbearing statement.

Marc Fisher: Parents do play a large role in those decisions, and certainly it ought to be a consultative process. But Norton's staffers told me that what they are finding is that there are some kids who are very interested in the academies but are either dissuaded or blocked by parents who oppose either the concept of the military or the reality of this war.

_______________________

College Park, Md.: Some of the reasons cited for lack of DC students in the service academy don't quite add up. If danger of war was truly keeping many students from the service academies, why are students vying for spots in every other area of the country? Also, surely the bright, hard-working students at the service academies had opportunities to attend liberal arts colleges or large research universities. I don't think that the danger of joining the military or presence of appealing alternatives are unique factors to DC students.

Marc Fisher: Norton's staffers argue that there are different attitudes toward the military and the war in the District than in surrounding jurisdictions. I'm not sure I buy that, given that politically there is little difference in either voting patterns or demographics between the District and at least some of its close-in suburbs.

_______________________

My husband and I are reasonably well off, but even if we weren't, we wouldn't let one of our children attend a military academy : What makes you think all people who go to service academies are poor? Many go because A. they want to serve their country (I know, it's a shock, but we're out there) B. they want a career in the military and C. some go because graduating from a school like West Point is unbelievable for networking after your service is complete. I would confidently say that the free education is a huge perk, but does not factor in at all with 99 percent of those who attend these academies. Your (and this chatter's) thought process is flawed on this matter.

Marc Fisher: I don't think the chatter was saying that all academy students come from poor backgrounds -- indeed, that's anything but the case. But the academies, like the military itself, are great levelers, and because they are tuition-free, they do attract a larger proportion of kids from low and moderate income families than do the fancier colleges that charge many tens of thousands of dollars.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Marc, in today's article, you seemed extremely critical of Eleanor Norton Holmes' track record of actively looking for qualified candidates. What is your overall position on Holmes' representation of the District?

Marc Fisher: Norton is a non-voting delegate. I don't believe that position should exist. The District should either have full representation or if we are to continue to be a ward of Congress, the people of the District and the D.C. government ought to refuse to allow the House to use the delegate seat as a sop and should refuse to conduct the election for delegate or to take the seat that's been allocated for the District.

_______________________

My point is only that they are a viable option for some families: You are acting as though academies are begging kids to come. In fact these academies are the most selective in the nation, West Point and Annapolis especially. I know kids who turned down Ivy league education to attend academies.

Marc Fisher: Yes, they are indeed very selective. But each member of Congress gets to make 10 nominations to each academy, so while there is no guarantee that any one kid will get in, it seems important to me that each congressman use all of the slots he's got to offer candidates.

_______________________

Bethesda, Md.: Marc, Thanks for being one of the few on WaPo's staff to reflect concern for people who live in D.C. itself rather than its affluent suburbs. You're probably right that Rep. Norton should do more to recruit for the service academies. But we must admit the possibility that many D.C. students simply are not prepared to enter these prestigious institutions, free education or not. Michelle Rhee's accountability campaign is a wonderful thing for the schools but ultimately will not mitigate the root cause of much underperformance: the near-insuperable combination of fatherlessness and poverty afflicting most D.C. schoolchildren.

Marc Fisher: Thanks, and sure, as Norton noted, there are obviously major problems with the quality of preparation that D.C. school kids are receiving. But just because many D.C. public school students come from difficult and dysfunctional homes doesn't mean that they cannot learn. To the contrary, good schools consistently prove that kids can and will learn if held to high standards in a tough and supportive atmosphere.

Does that mean they will achieve to the level required by the service academies? Obviously not, but some, perhaps a very few, can and will. The fact that the only D.C. public schools from which any appreciable number of academy candidates routinely emerge are Wilson, Banneker and Walls shows that the city has not yet made a serious effort to demand the same standards at the majority of its high schools that it does at its top institutions.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: You got it exactly right...Norton is making excuses for herself and for the sad state of DC public schools. She isn't recruiting hard enough (perhaps due to her own prejudices), and there is a too-small pool of candidates even eligible for the academies. It is shameful she is denying so many kids a chance at a real education.

Marc Fisher: Take a look at the Web sites of the various local congressmen and you will see a real difference in approach to service academies. Some members make a big deal of their nominees, announcing their names in press releases, holding receptions for them, celebrating their success at their high schools, bringing in officers from the academies, etc. And some don't.

_______________________

CP again: I'm surprised reading the negative sentiment regarding the military. Who do people expect defends our country? Why does it have to be someone else or someone else's family member. The entire military is not in Iraq. There was a USN battle group waiting for weeks to help out in Burma, and they have helped with tsunamis and earthquakes in the past. Whether you think that we should have that role or not, I hope there can be some recognition that there is more to the military than Iraq. If you don't like the policies set by the government, then vote, but keep in mind that someone has to carry out what our democracy votes for, and it is ok if that someone is you, a friend or a family member.

PS: Newsweek reported on June 12 that women and minorities report better job satisfaction in the military than white men.

Marc Fisher: Well said. Thanks.

_______________________

Clarksville, Md.: Heller Case

7-2 decision that there is an individual right to keep and bear arms

5-4 decision overturning the DC handgun ban

Marc Fisher: Hmm, two separate votes? Not likely, but this may well be the kind of case where we see a flurry of opinions, each taking a somewhat different tack.

_______________________

Maryland: Hi Marc, regarding the Supreme Court gun case I would be absolutely shocked if the city doesn't lose the case. At least a 6-3 ruling, if not 7-2.

Marc Fisher: If the majority opinion is very narrowly drawn, affirming an individual right to bear arms but remanding to the D.C. authorities for further action on how to regulate firearms, then you could well see a large majority.

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: Traveling with Taxpayer Money (WTOP)

Marc Fisher: Here's that WTOP story on Fenty's travel expenses....

_______________________

Contrast that with how Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine handled his campaign trips: How nice of Gov. Kaine to force his hard-working staffers to take the very little vacation time they probably get to go campaign. It's a shame you're using him as a model in that respect. As a former staffer in the House and Senate I often saw staffers being forced to "vacation" in campaigns. Not only is it unfair, I wish it were illegal. Shame on you for being okay with it.

Marc Fisher: In theory, you're right, but in fact, the people who are in those jobs working for a governor are almost always the folks who ran the politician's campaign -- they are often in the game more for the campaigns than for the governing, and they are, in my experience, almost always very eager to get back out on the campaign trail, even if it's for someone else. I don't think you'd find that those folks went kicking and screaming.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Marc,

I'm surprised you didn't comment on that sweet deal Marion Barry got from Metro for his alleged car accident. Someone needs to ask the Metro chief what would have happened if a regular tax paying citizen made the exact same claim as Barry did (i.e. no police report, no witnesses, a month after the accident happened, no damage at all shown on the bus that allegedly hit Barry's car), does anyone honestly think Metro would have paid out? It is something like this that makes people think poorly of D.C.

Marc Fisher: I'll have more to say on that outrageous case tomorrow over on Raw Fisher -- stay tuned.

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: Hoax Played on Bethesda-Chevy Chase Students (Post, June 19)

Marc Fisher: Here's the prank story....

_______________________

Kingstowne, Va: re: shirtlessness

If restaurants can ban service for patrons sans shirts, why not at Nationals Park which is just a very large restaurant with live entertainment (food optional)?

Marc Fisher: There's no question that the Nats can set whatever standards they wish -- the issue is whether that's a good use of their ushers' time and energies. I agree that some guys with megaguts are painful to look at, but there's also an amusement factor there, and anyway, given the clothes that some folks wear in public, I'm thinking that bare skin is almost a better alternative.

_______________________

and on a steamy summer day, a guy without a shirt is hardly among the more offensive things you will see at a ballpark. : Eeeew, I disagree. Nothing worse than a seeing a shirtless dude with a beer belly while he's dripping sweat. I'm getting the dry heaves just thinking about it.

Marc Fisher: So maybe the team is acting because the sight of the bellies was depressing hot dog sales?

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: I will put with with fat, hairy bare male chests at the park if we can also have bare female ones. That is a trend I'm all for.

Marc Fisher: Well, that was inevitable.

_______________________

D.C. Jury Question: There's one thing I really did not understand from the article. Maybe you can explain, Marc. Why did the two sides come up with such differing percentages of African American on juries? The difference was something like 53 percent to 36 percent. That's a huge discrepancy. I understand why different calculation methods might leave a slightly different number, but what caused this difference?

Marc Fisher: The story explains that the two sides used very different methods in coming up with their numbers, and in both cases, the numbers are a bit fuzzy. The relevant numbers are not necessarily the final composition of juries, but rather who is in the pool that gets summoned to jury duty, and then who actually responds to those summonses. The response rate is pathetically, embarrassingly low.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Marc, do you know if the recent investigation of the DC jury selection system included data about citizen responses to summons? And if those who do not respond are punished in any way? I have always assumed that many people in this city simply ignore the summons. I get called to jury duty every 2 years, like clockwork.

Marc Fisher: You're right -- the majority of those summonsed do not show up. And while the court has threatened year after year to get tough on those who don't show, it's never done so in a strong enough way to make much difference.

_______________________

Clifton, Va.: Kaine's staff like Fenty's is paid with local tax dollars. Its unfair to the tax payers to have these staffers and security folks working on a campaign instead of on D.C. or state business.

If they don't want to take vacation time then they don't go. I don't want Feds or state employees working on campaigns on my tax dollar. And any elected official who lets this happen should be executed!

Marc Fisher: Executed!

Tough crowd.

Speaking of tough crowds, yes, yes, I'll get back to the military issue, as many of you are clamoring to do.

_______________________

Bethesda, Md.: To the posters from Bethesda who would not allow their child to attend a military academy: Our daughter wanted to attend Annapolis so, in her words, she could go somewhere where your values and your work ethic would matter. As parents, we respected her decision and she was fortunate enough to receive an appointment from Mrs. Morella. What did we find there? A first-rate formal education and the finest group of young men and young women in the country. She left the service after fulfilling her obligation because the civilians with whom she worked didn't measure up to the career Navy enlisted men and women. So, you should be cautious about foisting your anti-military views on your child. Frankly, this country could do with a lot more of the men and women our daughter encountered in the Navy, officers and enlisted.

Marc Fisher: Thanks -- good insight.

_______________________

Disrespectful Americans: I'm truly embarrassed by BETHESDA, MD who implied that rich folks did not need to support the military. I myself am well off and about as non-military as you can get. My family has no military background at all. However, I deeply respect and cherish the military institutions for the freedoms and protections that they provide me and my family. Thanks to them, I was able to grow up with the choice to be in the military or not and do so in a safe country with little worry from military concerns. When you hear about the martial situations in Asia, eastern Europe, Africa and the middle East, you should realize how precious our way of life is that is ensured by the military.

And to disregard the entire military on the decision of one bad commander-in-chief and one mistake is disrespectful as well. The military deserves our respect and appreciation. Although I, too, do not support the war, I hope that I will teach my children to respect the institutions, honor those who serve and, if they feel the call, to join the military. I don't like it anymore than any other family member who has sent a loved one to military duty, but I would hope that they would do the uniform proud and I would be proud that they served our country and preserved the freedoms that many take for granted.

Marc Fisher: I'm always amazed by how many Americans confuse the leadership of the military with the political leadership of the nation, when the two are actually often at odds. Just yesterday, I got into it with someone who was peddling an October Surprise conspiracy theory about an attack on Iran, with the basis of his argument being that the military was in cahoots with the Bush administration. Sadly, we live in such a divided society that most people have little or no contact with folks who are in the military, so they make up assumptions about attitudes in the military.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: I'd agree that overall, the politics in the close-in suburbs are similar to those in the District, but keep in mind the huge number of active duty and retired officers in the area that tend to live in the suburbs rather than the District and who are likely to encourage their children to apply to the service academies. Although these folks can also receive Presidential or Vice-Presidential appointments, they also apply through their Representatives and Senators, so this probably affects the data.

Marc Fisher: Yes, there are lots of military families outside the city, especially in Virginia, but the strong numbers of academy inductees even from places like Montgomery County and Prince George's County indicate that the reason for the District's lagging in this regard are not a matter of demographics or density of military families in the area.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: RE: "I'm not recruiting or advertising for the academies and I would not choose them for my own children. My point is only that they are a viable option for some families, and that it behooves D.C. officials to get the word out and use the available slots since it's free money for a city that sorely needs more college options for its young people."

Sorry, Marc, but you're wrong on all counts. First of all, it is up to the Defense Department (which certainly has more money than Rep. Norton's office or the D.C. government) to recruit students.

Second, as several other posters have pointed out, it's not free money.

And third, you most certainly ARE advertising for the academies. That's your right, of course, but please don't pretend you're not doing so -- particularly when you don't want your own kids to attend military schools.

Marc Fisher: Sorry, but you're wrong -- while the services do spend unfathomable sums on recruiting, many members of Congress do quite a bit of outreach in their districts to make sure they get strong candidates for academy admission.

If you want to call my belief that the academies offer a fine education and are essential to our having a well-educated and skeptical corps of officers "advertising," then I am happily guilty as charged.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.:

I can't talk to Air Force or West Point, but I can talk about my experience as a Blue & Gold Officer for Navy. I am a 1980 grad of Annapolis and was part of the Blue & Gold Officer Team both in Maine and here in DC. B&G Officers are representatives of USNA that visit schools in assigned regions and are the first line of contact with high school students who show an interest, either by contacting USNA directly or through a HS Guidance Office. We help with the paperwork, track progress, schedule visits to USNA, set up meetings with Mids and interested students, and generally try to make the admission process easier.

In Maine I was the New England B&G Officer of the year. I got a great deal of help from the Maine Congressional Delegation and high schools, as well as the Academy itself. When I moved to DC, I found the DC Rep at the Academy (each state or region has an assigned officer within the Admissions Office) was also the Minority Recruiting Officer for the nation.

Del Norton's office had no interest in talking to me or high school candidates and I was directed by city school officials to target private schools since "no one who would be qualified to attend a Service Academy at a public DC school would want to go into the military". That last line is a direct quote from an Eastern High School Guidance Counselor. I was also told to tell qualified people at the private schools to try for nominations from MD, VA or other states since DC was supposed to be a source of minority candidates (that came from USNA itself). I gave up after 2 years.

It's not just the people in DC, it's the schools, Ms Norton and the Academy's.

Marc Fisher: Thanks -- that's very much in line with what I heard from parents and others who have been through the process in the District.

_______________________

Okay, I'll tell you: Do you want the truth as to why there aren't many D.C. kids seeking nominations? Because they're not smart enough, pure and simple. These academies are among the most selective in the nation, some more so than Harvard. D.C. public school just don't make the cut I'm afraid to tell you. So it's not the war and it's not the parents, it's the fact that a 2.9 gpa or even a 4.0 gpa from a laughable D.C. public school doesn't compare to those attending better public schools or private high schools.

Marc Fisher: Nice try, but it won't wash -- yes, the academic preparation of far too many D.C. graduates is pathetic. But look at the lists of admits to the best colleges in the country and you will see a steady supply of D.C. public school kids -- mainly from the aforementioned top three schools, but nonetheless, a steady stream. So if those students are good enough for Harvard, Princeton and Stanford, they are very much in the running for academy positions as well.

_______________________

Service Academies: "Wouldn't let" your kids go to a service academy, huh? Well, I'm glad, because none of the services need officers who allow others to make their decisions for them.

Marc Fisher: I get your point, but come on -- what 17-year-old makes a college choice with no input from parents? It's certainly true that far too many parents these days play way too big a role in their kids' decisions, but it's not an either/or kind of thing.

_______________________

I still don't see how it's Del. Norton's fault: And I've read the column and the chat comments. People don't want to do it. She can't make them. And D.C.'s population is not the same as that of Maryland and Virginia and it doesn't seem they are sending hordes of folks over either, based on your column. Seems like it's a tempest in a tea kettle. Get some business.

Marc Fisher: True, D.C. population is not the same as Virginia or Maryland, but we are not comparing the District to those entire states. We are comparing the District to individual congressional districts in those states, and so the size is almost identical.

_______________________

Silver Spring, Md.: You got it -- an all-volunteer army is a mercenary army. Mercenary doesn't mean money is the ONLY motivation. There are people with family military connections, and others for whom it is a good ticket out of their home situations. I can't tell you how many of my nieces and nephews got their chance to grow up in the military after pulling terrible high school grades.

I'm glad they had the option. I wish they never had to go to war.

Marc Fisher: Right -- for some, it's a calculated risk, and indeed, some academy graduates and others who join the military were shocked to find that they really did have to go to war. But life is about making tradeoffs and deciding what risks are worth taking.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: One of the best moments ever on the Daily Show was when former Marine Rob Rigel went to interview the Pink Ladies about Berkley banning the Marines from their town. As she went on and on and on about free speech, Rigel asked, "wouldn't it be great if there was a organization that was set up to defend our right to talk freely and do things like ban the Marines?"

With no sense of irony, she replied, "yeah -- that'd be great."

And I should point out I'm that about as liberal as they come.

(However, I do think the military leadership should just come to gripes with reality and allow homosexuals to serve openly. I know a lot of active duty military men and women and NONE of them think it's an issue.)

Marc Fisher: All of these issues are about finding the right balance. Think back to the uproar in Montgomery County a couple of years ago when parents rebelled against the military using more in-your-face recruiting tactics in the high schools. The military does tend to be overly aggressive about recruiting in some schools, and unfortunately they often choose to do so in places where kids and families are least likely to have the knowledge or resources to put the recruiters' claims in context. But that doesn't mean kids shouldn't have the opportunity to find out what the deal is from the military.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: 6-3 D.C. loses on handgun challenge. Stevens writes the opinion for the Court because he actually knew a number of the Founding Fathers personally and, thus, is privy to the meaning of the Second Amendment.

The Voice

Marc Fisher: Wow--Stevens writes the pro-gun opinion? We have our longshot contestant.

_______________________

I know what happens: Weingarten mocks Justice Stevens, who then dies, and there's a 4/4 tie.

Marc Fisher: And then Gene has to step in as tiebreaker? Yikes--not only would all guns be confiscated, but Gene would require a dog in every house and a constitutional ban on VPL.

_______________________

Marc Fisher: Oops--my mistake--he'd require all women to submit to government testing to determine if they must display VPL whilst parading in public.

_______________________

I will put with with fat, hairy bare male chests at the park if we can also have bare female ones.: I will gladly attend a game while I'm breastfeeding this summer. Enjoy.

Marc Fisher: Hey, there was a poster earlier in the hour whom you've just made very happy.

_______________________

Sterling, Va.: The person from Arlington wants fat, hairy bare female chests? I'll pass, thanks.

Marc Fisher: I think what we have here is a failure to communicate.

_______________________

I know you have more important topics to discuss: But I'll come down on the side of yes, it is disgusting to see some sweaty shirtless slob at a game. Why do men think this an inalienable right to expose their flab to everyone in public?

Save that for when you exercise -- which would be a really, REALLY good idea, guys -- or your own backyard bbq, or the pool or beach. Not the stadium.

ugghh.

Marc Fisher: But the stadium is where they want to show off their handiwork. It takes a lot of effort to create some of those guts, and they are there to parade their wares before their peers.

_______________________

Baltimore: Shirts at ball games: Why is it that the guys who want to take their shirts off are always the guys you would least like to see half naked. It's always Homer Simpson, never Brad Pitt.

Marc Fisher: So this is an argument for admissions standards. Which is what some of us have been clamoring for in regard to the Nats' players.

_______________________

Silver Spring, Md.: Marc, exactly WHY does the mayor of D.C. need a security detail when traveling away from the area? I strongly doubt that anyone in, say, New Hampshire or Ohio has the slightest idea who Adrian Fenty is.

Marc Fisher: It's all about showing people how important you are. Remember, this is the same mayor who travels around his own city WITHOUT a security detail, driving himself (in his sporty new Smart car.) So just as that is a political statement -- I'm a man of the people, I'm my own guy, I don't need the trappings of imperial power -- so is the decision to travel like royalty while out of town.

_______________________

Petworth, D.C.: Fenty is a disaster. From implementing a South Africa style passbook system in Trinidad because the DC gun control laws are working so well, to gallivanting around town in motorcades, to taking DETECTIVES on the road with him for campaigning. Maybe those detectives should be solving homicides. Just a thought. DC was better when the NightOwl ran the town. Both times.

Marc Fisher: Ouch -- aren't we going a tad bit too far?

_______________________

Vienna, Va.: Please don't applaud Gov. Kaine for asking that his staffers take vacation days. It's what they are SUPPOSED to do. I worked for a governor 10 years ago, and I always had to take vacation days when I went to help campaigns. Nothing against Gov. Kaine, but it is just not that special. Taking detectives on a campaign trip is, however. Perhaps Elvis Costello needs to watch those guys.

Marc Fisher: Maybe the detectives were on a national tour trying to solve the Chandra Levy murder.

_______________________

Singing drinkers: The other day you questioned whether folks should get their underwear in a knot over boisterous late night walkers through the neighborhood..maybe you live in the quiet burbs, but try getting awakened night after night--even if it's just a few minutes, and see if you develop some sympathy. I live an easy walk away from about six restaurants, and I can tell you chatty, singing or arguing folks that wake you up at 2 a.m. -- yes, it IS a quality of life issue, bud.

Marc Fisher: Yes, it is a quality of life issue, and I've lived over a very busy restaurant row and I know the pain of crowds emerging all boisterous at 3 a.m. every night. That's why there ought to be strong enforcement around late night establishments. But that's not what the Comet Ping Pong dispute was about. The commissioner I was quoting doesn't live on a busy restaurant row, but on a quiet residential street, so this is not a matter of a constant stream of rowdy revelers; rather, it's the occasional clot of AU students, and I've also lived near AU and experienced that. Yes, it's bothersome, but it's hardly the basis on which to make public policy about eateries and late-night establishments several blocks away.

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: D.C. Official: Outdoor Seats At Pizza Place Will Mean Rapes And Murders (Raw Fisher, June 18)

Marc Fisher: Here's yesterday's blog item on the latest wrinkle in that dispute...

_______________________

Washington, D.C. : What are your thoughts on the Mike O'Meara Show, now that it's had 2 months to develop? I like that they have started drinking on the air, but how long can that last?

Marc Fisher: The guys are talented and funny and there are some nice bits, and a very comfortable banter. But what I miss the most is what Don Geronimo brought to the show, which was a remarkable Top 40 sensibility that drove the pace and energy of the show -- he knew how to use sound (jingles, bumpers, bits of music, voices) to create an almost unstoppable energy to the program, and that's what it now lacks.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: The court will avoid any broad statements and limit their decision to the case at hand, ruling that since the federal government, and not the states, is the only body that can enact bans on specific types of firearms. Since the D.C. handgun ban is therefore illegal, the case is moot, and there will be no ruling on the overall meaning of the 2nd Amendment.

Marc Fisher: Interesting...

We're about to wrap up, but if you want to enter the contest, please come ahead over on Raw Fisher (washingtonpost.com/rawfisher), where I will shortly set up a place for all to enter our Gun Ruling Contest.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: After reading stories about the DC Mayor using taxpayer dollars to support a political campaign and the Metro Chief giving a Council member thousands of dollars simply because he asked, I have decided to move to DC. Can you tell me exactly which neighborhood has streets paved with gold?

Marc Fisher: Goodness, child, don't you know -- in the grand and fantabulous capital of the free world, every brick of every street is made of handspun gold threads and every house has running absinthe.

_______________________

D.C. resident: While I would love representation, I would love more not to have to pay Federal taxes. And I say this as a civil servant.

I know it's been said, but some things are worth repeating.

Marc Fisher: Oh yeah, you'll be given that option any day now. Just you wait.

We'll go out today with a few more comments on the Norton military academies issue....

_______________________

Frank Winstead: The more I read about him the more I'm reminded of the pants judge.

Marc Fisher: We love our characters.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: To answer an earlier question, when I graduated high school in the 1990's, I wanted to go into the military to be a pilot. My parents had the final say, since I didn't turn 18 until after college started. This was all a good thing, probably, since few of my peers, even those in the ROTC, truly understood the horrors of war.

Marc Fisher:....

_______________________

RE: There's no question the military is less popular than ever: How exactly is that statement an insult? It's either true or not true. She didn't say, "people today hate soldiers" or "kids today think others who serve in the military are immoral." She was stating a fact that fewer people are interested in joining the military these days. She didn't even say "nobody is interested" just fewer.

Marc Fisher: another on this point....

_______________________

Apology?: Um, what Eleanor Holmes Norton said was not an insult and does not require an apology. As quoted by the poster, she said "There's no question the military is less popular than ever." She didn't say it was bad, or those that join are bad. She said it is less popular. I think this is pretty much a fact.

Why do so many people want to demand apology for being insulted when no insult was delivered? The letter in Free For All last week about being insulted because someone said adopting a pet was almost as difficult as adopting a child was laughable. Yes, it was a personal insult aimed at the LARGE CHIP on your shoulder. Be outraged. Maybe you can sue.

Marc Fisher:...and one last one on that question...

_______________________

Baltimore: RE: Bethesda

Oh, honestly. It's an insult for Del. Norton to say that the military isn't as popular as it used to be? An insult is "the military is a terrible place to end up and the caliber of its recruits is lower than ever." Her words are merely a statement of the facts as she sees them -- fewer people talking to her about the military in a positive way. Politicians have plenty of screw-ups for us to criticize without our taking offense at perhaps ill-chosen words.

Marc Fisher:...and the last word goes to....

_______________________

Franconia, Va.: Marc:

Almost to a man (and woman), every military person I've talked to says that they are proud of their country and proud to serve. And their pay rate is far from market. This is far from a "mercenary" army.

Please apologize.

Marc Fisher: Nothing to apologize for. As one comment above said, the fact is that the military very much recruits young people to join up for the financial and educational benefits. There's nothing terribly wrong with that, but it does indeed mean that there are a significant number of people who are in the military for reasons beyond love of country or intrinsic interest in things military. That doesn't preclude those same people from developing a real love of mission and a real sense of purpose.

_______________________

Marc Fisher: That kicks things in the head for today. Thanks very much for some good and thoughtful comments today, and apologies to the many I couldn't get to this time. Come on back next week, and again, if you'd like to put your predictive powers into the gun ruling, come on over to Raw Fisher and add your voice.

_______________________

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


» This Story:Read +|Watch +|Talk +| Comments
© 2008 The Washington Post Company

Discussion Archive

Viewpoint is a paid discussion. The Washington Post editorial staff was not involved in the moderation.

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity