Potomac Confidential

Potomac Confidential: Driver's Licenses for Illegal Immigrants, Bloomberg in Va. Politics, the Nats, More

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Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Wednesday, April 15, 2009; 11:00 AM

Metro columnist Marc Fisher was online Wednesday, April 15, at Noon ET to look at Maryland's decision to stop giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's foray into the Virginia governor's race and the sorry state of the Washington Nationals.

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Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks, on a rare Wednesday edition of the big show. Back to our regular Thursday noon slot next week.

In the news, Maryland is getting tough on illegal immigrants who until now have enjoyed easy access to state driver's licenses. That practice has hit the end of the road, with a new law requiring every single Marylander, immigrant or not, to prove that they are in the country legally before they can get or renew their license. So, for the sake of finding a new way to crack down on illegal immigrants, every American now has to go through a complicated and needless bureaucratic nightmare just to continue driving in their own country. All under the guise of homeland security--alas, the security hysteria so long associated with the Bush Administration shows little evidence of easing under the Obama presidency.

What do you make of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg elbowing his way into the Virginia governor's race, buying TV time around the commonwealth for ads smacking Republican candidate Bob McDonnell for being soft on guns? Bloomberg has had a strange series of run-ins with Virginia on trash, guns and other crime issues--is this a personal vendetta or is he trying to extend his political influence beyond the Big Apple?

Alas, the Nationals--as of today, the only winless team in professional sports. Still, Opening Day was a blast--a big display of power, a full house, festive atmosphere. The food from the new vendor is good, noticeably better in quality than last year's offerings. But the service--the main reason given for making the change to a third vendor in three years--was glacial; no sign of improvement there. Counters were understaffed and workers took their sweet time fulfilling even the simplest order. Supervisors seemed exasperated by workers who failed to replenish the dogs on the grill or repeatedly told customers that they didn't have products that they indeed did have. At one sausage counter, I heard four people try to order the advertised Andouille Sausage before finally one was able to persuade the worker to serve one up. If training's not the answer, maybe new workers would be.

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

Yay to the Washington Capitals, who begin their Stanley Cup quest tonight at the Abe Pollin Center. The Caps, under Ted Leonsis's energetic ownership, have become the model franchise for sports facing tough times and a customer base struggling to make ends meet. Leonsis has turned the hockey team in a non-hockey city into an exciting attraction for casual and even non-fans, building buzz in what is generally stereotyped as a uni-dimensional sports town. Most important piece of the excellent marketing strategy: Fulfilling the promise to do what it takes to build a contender. A couple of other franchises in town could take a lesson on that front.

Nay to Maryland's lawmakers and governor for a hysterical and ultimately grandstanding move to save the Preakness, the legendary horse race that puts Baltimore on the racing map. The legislation approved this week is full of bluster and bravado but in the end, likely signifies nothing. It's unnecessary: The developer who was initially believed to be threatening to tear down Pimlico Race Track now says he meant no such thing. It's possibly illegal: Other such efforts around the country to legislate the location of a sports team or event have generally failed on both legal and practical grounds. And it's a waste of resources: If horse racing is dying a natural death because consumers have moved on to other interests, what business is it of the state to intervene to try to prop up the sport?

Your turn starts right now....

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Dunn Loring, Va.: What are your thoughts on Courtland Milloy's race-baiting column which implies that black people should never celebrate anything at the zoo because, get this, animals (including the Great Apes) are displayed there?

washingtonpost.com: Easter Monday at the Zoo Does No Honor to the Black Family (Post, April 15)

Marc Fisher: I've always found the tradition of black Washingtonians going to the zoo on Easter Monday to be both a wonderfully grassroots folk tradition and a perplexing and slightly cheesy event. I liked it a lot better when it was a naturally-occurring ritual, but the zoo decided sometime in the 90s to embrace the tradition and give it a name and cater to the crowd. That's probably good marketing--why fight reality?--but it does open the zoo to the kind of criticism Courtland levies in today's column.

That said, I don't see why my pal Courtland is so exercised over this. He seems a bit ashamed that black families choose to spend their day off taking part in a tradition that traces back to when domestic workers had to go to the zoo on Easter Monday because their employers wouldn't give them the day off on Easter Sunday. But he ends up somehow blaming the National Zoo for this, when the zoo officials never lifted a finger to encourage the ritual until long after it was well-established. Anyway, I'm afraid I don't see this as a big deal--it's families going to the zoo, and what's wrong with that?

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Springfield, Va.: Once you accept the fact that the Nats are truly awful, and likely to remain so for some time (sorry, Bos) you can go ahead and enjoy being at the park, an experience that will only improve once the weather warms up a bit, and surely the team will get a little better? I realize Opening Day is an anomaly, huge crowd and still getting the kinks out, but our one complaint is still the amount of time you have to wait in line for concessions. We were buying hot dogs and burgers, nothing too complicated. And we HATE those new statues -- ugh -- but fortunately we don't have to look at them often. Here's to another summer of, if not good baseball, at least good times at the Park.

Marc Fisher: I was reserving judgment on the new statues of Josh Gibson, Frank Howard and Walter Johnson, but spending some time walking around them and listening to the comments from fans on Opening Day, I have to say they are a failure. The idea that you would communicate action and the snapping-off of a pitch by equipping the players with multiple arms is clunky to start with and extremely awkward in the execution. That said, lots of folks were posing for photos in front of the sculptures on the centerfield plaza, so they are at least a conversation piece.

For a more successful bit of public art in the stadium, walk around to the area behind home plate, along the main concourse on the first base side, where a new piece of hanging sculpture, a sort of metal merry-go-round of generic baseball players, has been installed. With accompanying carousel music, this is a charming piece that is capturing the fancy of passing fans. Since the piece hangs from the ceiling, there's not much of a photo-op attraction, but the art is pleasant enough and makes for a good meeting spot as well. Too bad what was designed to be the main entrance to the stadium remains virtually unknown and unused, thanks to the total lack of development along the waterfront so far.

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Rockville, Md.: Whatever happened to the Nationals demanding $100,000 a day from the city because their offices at the ballpark weren't ready on Opening Day last year? I don't recall ever reading about a conclusion to that, and the only thing I can find about it through Google is your original story:

Nats Demand $100,000 A Day For Unfinished (?) Stadium (Raw Fisher, May 22)

Marc Fisher: The team and the city resolved their differences, the city agreed to make a whole slew of repairs and improvements that the team owners had demanded, and this season, the Lerners paid their rent in full before the start of the season. That tiff, at least, has been put aside, but now we have yet another ticket spat between Mayor Adrian Fenty and the D.C. Council members. It's hard to know who's more juvenile in this recurring nonsense: The mayor who holds the city's free tix close to his heart and is less than magnanimous about sharing, or the council members who seem so desperate to use the fabulous and free seats that they ought to be ashamed to take gratis.

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Washington, D.C.: A Post chatter asked Stan Kasten last week whether the Nats would take down that red tent on the parking lot that blocks out the view of the Capitol dome from the left-field upper deck viewing area. In words that seemed to come straight out of Ted Lerner's mouth, Kasten said that the parking lot is the only place they can host parties and that that's more important than a view.

Marc, could that response be any more typical of these owners? I guess if you're building a shopping mall, utilitarianism is more important than aesthetics. But the Capitol view is what distinguishes Nationals Park as particularly a Washington ballpark, and it's also a welcome attractive sight amid the depressing construction zone that is the neighborhood. The fact that the front office doesn't perceive that ugly tent as detrimental to the fan experience speaks volumes about what is wrong with them as owners. Am I wrong to be so annoyed with this?

Marc Fisher: The problem is not the red tent atop the parking deck. The problem is the parking deck. The cynical and short-sighted decision to build ugly parking towers immediately outside the stadium, creating a barrier between the ballpark and whatever pedestrian-friendly retail development finally occurs along Half Street, will hinder the area for many years to come. It's hard to fault the Nats for trying to create revenue streams and gathering places for fans on the few available pieces of property they control. Unfortunately for the Lerners, the next chapter in the ballpark area's development will depend almost entirely on the companies that bought up all the land around the stadium--not on the Nats themselves.

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Washington, D.C.: Interesting comments on bookstore closing. I do use amazon.com because the prices are the best, and you can't beat free shipping and no sales tax. But I also buy at B and N and Borders, but only when I have a 25 percent off coupon.

I recently purchased a Kindle (electronic book reader) because the typical price of $9.99 per book, which includes wireless delivery over a cell phone-like 3G network (no PC needed), is absolutely incredible. No left-over books to recycle, no waiting for the U.S. Mail to deliver the item, instant gratification! Amazon has devised an almost-perfect business model. I can honestly see Kindles putting a huge dent not only in independent book stores, but also the large chains and amazon.com itself.

Independent bookstores did not sufficiently change their own business model to meet the competition, so I can't really feel sorry for them.

Also, I still carry a bitter memory of innocently asking an employee of an indie store (which shall remain nameless) whether it carried a book written by an conservative author. The employee very rudely questioned my intelligence and education and told me that her store would NEVER carry "fascist propaganda" like that. I never went back.

Marc Fisher: Today's item on Raw Fisher looks at the closing of one of the region's best independent bookstores, Vertigo Books, in College Park (formerly of Dupont Circle.) I've got a poll up over there about your attitudes toward indie bookstores and what obligations we have as consumers to support small local businesses--but come ahead with your thoughts here as well as your votes there.

Actually, to your point, the best indie bookstores indeed have changed their business models dramatically, and now draw large portions of their incomes from cafes, entertainment, events and online sales. They're not just books anymore--those that are tend to be the ones in deep trouble.

Yikes--sad to hear that bit about the politics of bookstore clerks, but it would make sense that businesses that are trying to create community might sometimes choose to tap into the political divisions in the country and create spaces attuned to the politics of whatever community they serve. That's not the kind of bookstore I'd set foot in, but I imagine there are places where that approach would work (college towns and other such closed-minded places, in particular.)

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washingtonpost.com: Getting Vertigo Over Lost Bookstores (Raw Fisher, April 15)

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D.C. detective is paid more than $450,000: over a 3-year period and refuses to pay taxes. It was in today's paper. How the heck does he pull down a salary like that?

washingtonpost.com: Income Tax 'Defiers' Include D.C. Detective (Post, April 15)

Marc Fisher: One word: Overtime. We've done some remarkable stories about the huge pay given to many local police and fire fighters as a result of massive overtime hours.

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Arlington, Va.: Marc, thanks very much for your columns on the ridiculous zero tolerance policies. I'm sure none of the enactors of these policies ever took a pen from work as that would be theft for which they should be fired and sent to the county jail. I was really upset about the destruction of the life of the girl who took birth control pills (with her mother and doctor's consent). Which school districts have these policies? I want to make sure I don't buy a house in any of them.

washingtonpost.com: Zero Tolerance: Parents Talk Tough, But Are They Really? (Raw Fisher, April 14)

Marc Fisher: Many school districts have adopted zero tolerance policies, mainly because they are simple to administer and provide protection against the difficulty of dealing with each child individually and against the potential lawsuits that can result from a more flexible and child-oriented punishment system. I've had a boatload of notes from teachers defending the zero tolerance approach--not because they think it's better for kids (they don't), but because they say counselors and teachers are overwhelmed and don't have the time to give kids the individual attention they need. So the one-size-fits-all discipline system takes those worries out of the counselors' hands. That's the ugly truth.

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New York, N.Y.: Denying driver's licenses to illegal immigrants will NOT make us safer. The 911 terrorists were in this country legally and had driver's licences. So did Tim McVeigh who bombed the Oklahoma City Federal Building. People who are intent on hijacking airliners bombing federal installation and committing other illegal and terroristic acts will not be deterred by lack of proper ID.

Marc Fisher: The Real ID Act, the federal law that is pushing states to reverse policy on granting driver's licenses to illegals, is all dressed up with the notion that this will somehow provide protection against terrorism. But as you note, it will do nothing of the kind. What it will guarantee is that we have vastly more illegal drivers on the roads, people who have no insurance and who pose a menace to every motorist. It's one of the dumbest bits of lawmaking to come along in many years, and yet by wrapping it in the flag of homeland security, it gets by with little opposition.

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Tax question: This came to me in the middle of the night last night: If I have taxes properly taken out of my paycheck all year long, why do I have to go through the annual tax-filing agony? I have never owed taxes and always get a refund because I've withheld too much or had many deductions. Doesn't the IRS already know how much tax I've paid when my employer reports it to them?

Marc Fisher: Sure, but they don't know how much you've spent on various stuff that might qualify you for deductions, and they don't know if you've added a kid or sold a house or all sorts of other tax events. They could in theory know all that, but then the privacy nuts would go bananas.

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Arlington, Va.: Regarding Black Family Day at the zoo -- it feels a little weird to me, as a white guy. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but it doesn't feel right. I can see why Milloy was exercised about it.

Regarding the Nats: Who cares? I mean, really. There is a WaPo columnist (possibly you) who has said that he "doesn't get" the idea of pets -- well, I don't get the idea of professional sports. I suppose if you have young children, it's a fun outing for them to see "real" baseball players (or football, or whatever), but I personally have no use for the multimillion-dollar stadia, $5 hot dogs, $10 cups of crappy beer, and large crowds. And people get so wrapped 'round the axle about this stuff -- they show up wearing team jerseys, carrying flags, etc., etc. Jeez, people, get a life.

Marc Fisher: Oh please. Sure, you can easily deride any mass event, any object of communal activity or group affinity. I feel that way about political demonstrations--I cannot imagine a cause that would make me want to spend an afternoon wandering in circles with thousands of strangers. Others have the same attitude about, say, religious gatherings or concerts. Pro sports at their best give people a way to express and solidify community--it's something for people to come together around, to root for, to identify with. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, and its power is evident in how loyal people remain even after team owners and league presidents treat fans like dirt year after year after year.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Courtland Milloy is a columnist so he's GOT to say something on a variety of topics, which he does well. The Zoo column, though, seemed like a stretch. Was he stumped for an idea and just pulled out a discarded draft of a column he wrote after the troubles in 2000? It's not like I agree or disagree on what he wrote; it just seems like he was stumped for something to write. Should we expect him to come roaring back next week?

Marc Fisher: Courtland always comes roaring back, and he hits for a remarkably high average. Even if you don't like one, he'll be back with something that really makes you think, or lets you see someone else's life in eye-opening fashion.

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GO CAPS: How can we persuade Ted Leonsis to buy the Redskins? Now that is the kind of owner that doesn't make me cringe every time he holds a press conference!

Marc Fisher: Good luck with that. Danny Boy seems to love his toy, even if others must avert their eyes when he comes out to play.

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It all starts...Right Now: Marc,

Is your "right now" line borrowed from the Nats' PA announcer? And I noticed he didn't say that the game begins "right now" on Monday -- was that because of the moment of silence for Harry Kalas (a classy touch, by the way, that I, a life-long Phillies fan, appreciated), or have they dropped that tagline? I hope not: that's the best part of the game!

Marc Fisher: No, it's borrowed from the WUSA Channel 9 news of the early 1990s. The Post's legendary TV columnist Captain Airwaves, John Carmody, picked up on the catch phrase--which for a time was all the rage on local TV newscasts across the country--and used it for some years to jumpstart his daily column, and I stole it from the captain.

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Sec 114, Row E: Is it wrong to wish for a few more Nats losses so that Manny get canned. I know that he is trying to exude a quiet confidence, but it looks to me like he doesn't care and has no fire.

From the outside, it also looks like he runs a lax team -- there doesn't seem to be any punishment for the poor fundamental play that is at the center of this 0-7 team.

But if the Nats fall to 0-10, do the Lerners care enough to fire Manny?

Marc Fisher: I've gone from being a Manny advocate to being Manny neutral, mainly because there are just too many managerial decisions that seem unthinking or done by rote. That said, he has so little to work with on the pitching front that a little bit of panic and little bit of just throwing everything up against the wall are to be expected.

I don't know that you can blame Acta for the pathetic fielding--all kinds of crazy things happen on a team that just loses and loses. Anderson Hernandez's embarrassing performance at second on Opening Day could be first-day jitters, or he could be really lousy. But look at all the players who stink on the Nats and then go elsewhere and do fine or even better--that says something about the psychology of playing on a cellar dweller, but also possibly something about management. (Does anybody not want the Emilio Bonifacio trade back?)

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South Riding, Va.: So how did the new food vendor do at the National's home game on Monday? I heard one of the radio stations say they started running out of food early in the game. Unless they are making the food fresh every day, that surprises me as you can buy and store hot dogs in bulk and cook them fairly quickly. I know that I don't go to many games, but like the fact they have $5 seats. How much should a family of four expect to spend when you add in parking, food, drinks, and maybe a hat or t-shirt?

Marc Fisher: The $5 seats are a great bargain, and given the smaller crowds expected this year, it should be possible to move up to better seats over the course of a game. The $5 seats are only available day of game, but you can buy the $10 seats in advance--in many ways, a better deal.

No need to pay for parking--Metro is faster and easier. But if you insist on driving, it will generally run you $20 or $15 if you're willing to walk a few blocks (and even cheaper if you enjoy a longer walk.) Put it all together and a family of four can do the whole thing for under $100, which is pretty amazing compared to other entertainment options, and unbelievable compared to other pro sports.

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Floris, Va.: So Marc, how soon before Nationals Park is renamed D.C. United Park? Seems to me that this would be a perfect way to put our "baseball" team out of their misery if you ask me.

Marc Fisher: The soccer team wants a much smaller facility so its crowds won't seem diminished by a huge park, as happens at RFK Stadium. And soccer plays best in a stadium designed for the game, which of course requires different dimensions than a baseball stadium.

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Arlington, Va.: It's me again -- the guy who "doesn't get" pro sports. You wrote, "Pro sports at their best give people a way to express and solidify community -- it's something for people to come together around, to root for, to identify with. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, and its power is evident in how loyal people remain even after team owners and league presidents treat fans like dirt year after year after year."

As far as I'm concerned, the fact that fans remain loyal even after being treated like dirt year after year may speak to the power of pro sports, but it doesn't speak to anything I regard as a positive thing. If people remain loyal fans despite years of mistreatment, that's sad -- it speaks to some kind of void in their lives.

Marc Fisher: Could be that you're right--there's a void in all of our lives. But it could also be that there is something emboldening about rooting for and feeling an emotional attachment to a loser. Go rent "Damn Yankees," or read the book it's based on, "The Year The Yankees Lost The Pennant." The story is based in Chevy Chase, and the book sets the scene there beautifully. It will teach you a lot about the value of letting yourself fall in love with a loser.

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Photo Nazis strike aga, IN: Hi Marc, You were the first person I thought of after this happened.

On Monday after the game, my husband, 1-year-old daughter and I were walking by the DOT building on our way to the car. They put in some new sculptures and signs along "Transportation Walk" -- specifically, three vintage gas pumps that were restored. My husband took a couple of photos of our daughter in front of one, but when he went to take a photo of another gas pump by itself, the security guard came up and told him that he was not allowed to take photos.

There are no signs posted that prohibit taking photos there, and it's a public building. So why isn't he allowed to take photos there?

Time for an organized protest?

Marc Fisher: Yes, absolutely--the only proven effective way to get these absurd anti-photography tactics stopped is to organize and protest. Effective letter-writing, publicity and civil disobedience campaigns have turned around such idiotic practices at Union Station, at the downtown Silver Spring shopping area, and in front of several federal government buildings. But you do need to embarrass them and confront them or the security guards will run roughshod over innocent tourists and photographers.

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Brookville: I don't think the Nats have an audience substantial enough to merit all the press they receive. In an area of several million I would guess that avid Nats fans number in the thousands, and that the total number of folks interested in the Nats, including casual fans, would be in the neighborhood of 50,000.

Marc Fisher: You may not be interested, but the attendance at Nats game proves you wrong--attendance was less than stellar last year and is likely to drop considerably this year, but looking across the first four years of baseball's return to Washington, it's clear that 2 million people a year value having the team here. Of course, that's not two million different people--the team had about 24,000 season ticket holders last year, but remember that many, if not most, of those season tickets are shared by groups of people, so the actual number of folks coming to games is much larger than the number of people registered as season ticket holders. In any event, no one would yet call this a solid baseball town, but the interest level has been more than sufficient to put the Nats in the middle of the pack in attendance through their first few seasons.

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Washington, D.C.: According to the D.C. City Council Web site, the Act renaming South Capital Street by Nationals Park to Taxation Without Representation Street become law on March 21 (Law# L17-0332). Yet when I walked along Taxation Without Representation Street on Opening Day, there were no street signs acknowledging the change. Given that the Act renaming South Capital Street was passed late last year, the City had ample time to prepare for the law's enactment -- yet nothing has been done thus far. What gives? While I can see the Nationals ignoring the law that renames South Capital Street by the ballpark, I am perplexed that the city is also giving this symbolic change lip service at best. In your opinion, how serious is the City in its efforts to obtain full representation in Congress?

Marc Fisher: I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for those street signs. Many of the symbolic little gestures that the D.C. Council and government offer in response to the voting rights movement are meant mainly to get the activists off the politicians' backs. Some D.C. pols are really committed to voting rights, but others just see it as an annoyance, a persistent reminder of how powerless the city's elected officials really are. They consider the voting rights and statehood activists to be annoying pests, and they often throw them sops of that sort, without any real intent of following up.

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Section 409, Row F: Glad to see a sell out on opening day -- how do they "sell out" with so many empty seats? And how could the beer vendor I stood in line for run out of beer cups in the 4th inning? The Teddy bobble-head sold in the team store is labeled "Rossevelt" -- is this supposed to be a joke? I think it's going to be a long season.

Marc Fisher: I didn't see many empty seats except for the continuing foolishness of the vast empty stretch immediately behind home plate, the megabucks seats that have never sold because they are preposterously overpriced. The team seems not to care in the slightest that the most common TV picture of the stadium is of a broad swath of empty seats right behind the batter--an image that cements in casual viewers the idea that no one goes to the games, even when the rest of the stadium is full.

The modern baseball economy is very much based on those ultra-high priced seats, but if they're not selling at all, then oughtn't the model be a bit tweaked? And what would be so horrible about giving away at least some of those unsold seats, if only to the uniformed service members whom the Nats seem so solicitous of? (What was the deal with the "surprise" Opening Day first ball tosser who turned out to be five random military service members? The Nats couldn't get a single well-known, interesting figure to do the honors?)

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Falls Church, Va.: If I get hit by an illegal immigrant, let's not pretend that it makes a difference whether or not he has a driver's license. And the notion that he's going to get car insurance if he has a license is just fantasy.

Look, it would be great if I could walk into the DMV without any proof of identity and say "sign me up." Heck, I'd get a bunch of different driver's licenses if that were true. But the reality is that we all have to provide some sort of proof of who we are, and we have for a long time. The suggestion that also having to prove citizenship is somehow an enormous additional hardship is at odds with reality.

Marc Fisher: Well, it is indeed a big change and an onerous one--when I renew my license, I don't need to show anything but my old license. Now, people are going to have to bring in a passport, and if they don't have one, all manner of other documents, and you know how wonderfully flexible the DMV people tend to be about which documents you have with you...

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Kensington, Md.: Having owned a profitable used book shop for 23 years, I can feel for what Vertigo (a new book store) is going through, but the truth is that unless you're in a certain type of neighborhood that has both lots of high income folks AND a sense of obligation to support local businesses, there's only so much that can be done -- nobody, but nobody worked harder than Vertigo to give back to their community.

One particular thing that the Post might do, though, is to write more features on good independent book stores BEFORE they croak, not just when they're on their last legs. The best used book shop in the area by far, far and away is Bartleby's in Georgetown, which amazingly enough operates in the black, and yet it's been well over a decade since I've seen anything written about John Thomson's wonderful shop in your paper. It might be a story worth pursuing.

Marc Fisher: Agreed--Vertigo gave it their all and did a fabulous job of spreading the word about their shop's special character, unique events and personal service. But in fact, the Post has if anything way overcovered the independent bookstores for years and years before they close. I cannot begin to count the number of pieces we did, for example, about Chapters, the ill-fated downtown D.C. bookshop that was beloved by some of the paper's best writers and therefore became a kind of cause celebre in this newsroom. But for all the vaunted power of the press, the fact was that the downtown market just didn't support a smart and literary bookshop, no matter how attractive it may have been to newspaper feature writers.

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Alexandria, Va.: "How can we persuade Ted Leonsis to buy the Redskins?"

If the Caps beat the Rangers it will be their first series win since Leonsis bought the team, in that time the Redskins have twice advanced to the second round. The first seven or so years after Ted bought the Caps they were one of the worst teams in the league, giving them the lucky break of having the first overall draft pick in a year when the best player of his generation happened to be available. More than half the teams in the NHL make it to the playoffs; the Caps still have a lot to prove.

Marc Fisher: Sure, they have a ways to go to win a championship, but they are real and serious contenders, and for many fans, that's more than enough. Everyone wants to go all the way, but being in the game is what it's about. More important, the experience of going to a Caps game has been dramatically improved and you won't find a more involved and satisfied sports crowd in town.

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whether it carried a book written by an conservative author. The employee very rudely questioned my intelligence and education and told me that her store would NEVER carry "fascist propaganda" like that. I never went back.: It's okay they don't carry the conservative book, but it's not okay to be rude to customers. All they had to do was diplomatically point out that they don't have it, and wouldn't likely be getting it due to the stores liberal leanings. And in any case, the clerk didn't know why you wanted the book. Maybe you wanted to read it to be better informed before knocking it. Or not. Either way, no cause for rudeness.

Marc Fisher: Absolutely--businesses that sneer at their customers and lord their own political views over the folks who keep them afloat won't be long for this world.

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Silver Spring, Md.: On the not filing if you don't owe thing...I remember a while ago a citizen did not file for years, as he did not owe. He did it to make a point, I forgot where I read or head about it. I remember him saying that according to statute he actually did NOT have to file if he did not owe and was not entitled to a large refund.

Marc Fisher: These are called tax defiers, and there's a fascinating piece about them in today's Post, by Del Quentin Wilber, focusing on a case of a D.C. police detective who didn't pay a penny to the federal or city governments over a three-year period in which he earned more than $450,000. Amazing.

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Street Renaming: In answer to the earlier chatter's question about "Taxation Without Representation" Street, here's my take: The requisition for new street signs has been resubmitted for the fourth time, after the procurement office lost the first three. The signs will eventually be produced and delivered, through a no-bid process, by a company owned by the brother-in-law of someone in the D.C. procurement office. They will be the wrong size for the mountings. New signs will be ordered, and by about 2011 you might see them. My personal prediction is that the signs, if they ever actually get produced and mounted, will read something like "Taxation Without Represation."

Marc Fisher: My, what a splendid crystal ball you have there. Can you also tell me how long America's newspapers will remain in print?

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Washington is a one sports town: It's not a stereotype, it's true. That doesn't mean they don't support winners, they do. But the 'Skins are the only sports franchise that gets support come hell and high water. And if you don't believe that, all you have to do is follow the way the Post covers sports. Or have gone to a Caps game three years ago. Whenever they played Pittsburgh, Philly, New York, Detroit or Buffalo, you'd have thought you were magically transported to the visiting team's city.

Marc Fisher: Ah, but you're leaving out basketball--this is a very strong basketball city, not necessarily at the pro level, but certainly over the years at the college and high school levels, both in terms of producing talent and in fan support.

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Sec 114, Row E: Sure - it would be nice to have a view of the Capitol from Nats Park. But the fact is, in a few years, there'll be multiple buildings blocking that view of the Capitol. Assuming the economy bounces back and that area gets built out.

I wish that they'd move the tent from one garage to the other -- they DO have a view of the Capitol for now. It's patently ignorant for them to block it now in the short time that the do have it.

Marc Fisher: Good points--putting the tent on the other garage would help.

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Washington, D.C.: When Stan Kasten and the Lerners complain about low attendance at Nationals Park this summer, I wonder if they realize the public relations damage they did when they refused to pay taxes last year because the stadium wasn't "completely finished."

They decided to play hardball with the same people who gave them a FREE 600 million dollar stadium. I used to go to games all the time, but it will be a long time before I go again. These guys are the definition of penny wise and pound foolish.

Marc Fisher: Well, the team seems to have gotten that message and not only resolved their dispute but made a point of paying early and fully this year. That said, the owners are tough cookies and making generous gestures to fans or to the city doesn't seem to come easily to them. Still, they have lowered ticket prices this year and upped the number of giveaways at the stadium. The fan experience is clearly stronger this year; alas, the experience on the field, despite all the hype, may not be.

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Nats comment: I love the free RFK shuttle, couldn't come to games otherwise, but the handicap shuttle was not running after Monday's game and this caused problems for a lot of people. There were numerous trans, but they were all "VIP" trams that were taking able-bodied people to restaurants and couldn't divert to the RFK buses unless you paid them some ungodly sum, e.g. $20 or $30. One of them said, the restaurants pay us; the Nats don't. Apparently the Nats' drivers rely on tips?

I am hobbled and recently had a heart attack, so have to catch my breath every few steps. When I told my sister I had walked back to the bus stop, she asked, are you calling from the hospital? I've left a message for the Nats but it has not yet been returned. I know they read your chat so hope this will alert them to the problem.

Marc Fisher: That's not good--I hope that gets fixed. You should not only call the Nats general number, but also leave word with ownership--that's the sort of thing that may require executive attention to fix, but that needs to happen.

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Washington SW: Re: Nationals, Last season we heard the team boasting about its depth at reliever, the team could not score, so now they traded off what talent they had for hitting, so we are losing games in high score shootouts?

How long till this team learns that you have to keep your talent to become better.

Marc Fisher: They did seem to focus on hitting to the exclusion of everything else, relying far too heavily on the idea that their bright young pitching prospects would come along soon and in a big way. That seems overly optimistic at this point, and you cannot be a respectable team without decent pitching. But the shortage of good pitching is evident throughout the sport right now--it's a real problem.

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re: Jeez, people, get a life.: Haha. I suppose one could say the same about people who get all hot and bothered about people who like sports. It's not like you've given some reason it's bad, you just don't like it. So use your brain to think about something else that is worth your time.

For those of us who enjoy watching sports, many of us like it because it gives us a break from thinking about all the bad news in the world. Sure, there is some bad news in sports, but it's mostly fun. Going to the ballpark, getting a hotdog, yelling with the other fans. If you don't like it, do something else. I'm sure you're into something others don't "get," doesn't make it stupid.

Marc Fisher: Exactly--jeering at a game is the equivalent of Orwell's Two Minutes Hate, and with far more jovial intent and impact. It's sad to see high schools and colleges trying to crack down on fans exercising their emotions, often in clever ways. Athletes get all the glory; the price they pay is they get to be the targets of all sorts of public criticism--most of it in the end fairly fun and anything but serious.

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Silver Spring, Md.: You want want the Emilio Bonifacio trade back after just 7 games that Willingham has barely played in? Do you follow the game? This is the kind of thinking that permeates WP coverage of the team. I firmly believe that WP would prefer that the team keep losing so the reporter who's embarrassed to cover sports has an angle handed to him. Stay out of the ball park if all you want to do is complain about the team. They will win someday and there you'll be with your homer hanky, rally monkey, and rally sticks, right.

Marc Fisher: That's pretty good--sportswriters, like any writers, love a good story. Doesn't much matter if it's a winning story or a losing story, though being around world-class losers isn't as much fun. I grew up rooting for teams that never won, so it's deeply ingrained in me, so much so that I feel sort of guilty when the teams I like do become big-time winners. But not that guilty.

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Pentagon City, Va.: Marc, great article on Vertigo. And maybe the Post is oversaturated with stories on disappearing bookstores, because that's the affinity of journalists. I would suggest telling the stories of some of the many other small independent retail chains that are trying to remake themselves into unique 'destinations' on razor-thin diminishing margins -- shoe stores, bicycle stores, hobby shops, etc. Independent retail is a dying breed in so many industries, it's time to document its final days.

washingtonpost.com: Getting Vertigo Over Lost Bookstores (Raw Fisher, April 15)

Marc Fisher: Excellent point--I've been trying to do that in recent weeks (my visit to a struggling used car dealer, for example) and more such stories are in the works, including a very different kind of local independent business coming up this Sunday.

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Chapters: Chapters failed because they could not keep a lease and because they were too snooty and because they did not make people feel welcome in their store.

I tried to support them, but it just got too wearing.

Marc Fisher: My problem with them was one that all failing businesses confront--just when their most loyal supporters wanted to give them a boost, it was hard to do so because the stock in the store was so deeply diminished. It's hard to keep up the appearance of offering lots of service and wares if you're barely holding it together financially.

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Montgomery Village, Md.: Marc -- Any idea IF or when D.C.'s "Tax evader for Life" Marion Barry will file his 2008 taxes or will keep his string of late filings alive? His record is worse than the Nats. They are only 0-7.

Marc Fisher: We'll find out more on that front tomorrow, when the ex-Mayor For Life appears in federal court.

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Leesburg, Va.: Marc, was it difficult to get into work today considering the thousands of protesters and their billions of tea bags? Was Metro able to handle the surge of ridership, and how did it compare to the Cherry Blossom ridership from the other week?

I can only imagine that things are a logistical nightmare right now.

Marc Fisher: Ha!

This is not exactly the market in which you'd find much support for that cause. No sign of any big protests anywhere near here.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: I moved here from Atlanta and lived there when the Braves were really bad. We had $5 seats (I doubt those are offered these days), took our kids (had dinner or whatever before going to the ballpark) and had a blast! Go to the games, have a good time and a little patience . . .

Marc Fisher: Even a loser of a team offers many fulfilling experiences--there are always interesting players with great potential, and then there's the camaraderie in losing.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: I moved here from Atlanta and lived there when the Braves were really bad. We had $5 seats (I doubt those are offered these days), took our kids (had dinner or whatever before going to the ballpark) and had a blast! Go to the games, have a good time and a little patience . . .

Marc Fisher: Even a loser of a team offers many fulfilling experiences--there are always interesting players with great potential, and then there's the camaraderie in losing.

Marc Fisher: Even a loser of a team offers many fulfilling experiences--there are always interesting players with great potential, and then there's the camaraderie in losing.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: I moved here from Atlanta and lived there when the Braves were really bad. We had $5 seats (I doubt those are offered these days), took our kids (had dinner or whatever before going to the ballpark) and had a blast! Go to the games, have a good time and a little patience . . .

Marc Fisher: Even a loser of a team offers many fulfilling experiences--there are always interesting players with great potential, and then there's the camaraderie in losing.

Marc Fisher: Even a loser of a team offers many fulfilling experiences--there are always interesting players with great potential, and then there's the camaraderie in losing.

Marc Fisher: Even a loser of a team offers many fulfilling experiences--there are always interesting players with great potential, and then there's the cameraderie in losing.

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Response to Arlington Non-Sports Fan: If I may answer the person earlier in the chat who didn't understand the appeal of pro sports: I go because I get to see people play a game I love at a level of skill far above anything I could ever do myself. I mean, lots of people play musical instruments but few would qualify to join the National Symphony Orchestra.

Marc Fisher: Nice answer.

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Arlington, Va.: Please, no more first dog stories -- especially on the front page! If I wanted to subscribe to a gossip and celebrity rag I'd send my subscription $ to People. If the Post want to do more dog stories, count this 10 plus year subscriber out.

Marc Fisher: I don't read dog stories, I don't write dog stories, and I don't get dog stories. But, that said, they are hugely popular and they will never go away. It's like the posts earlier this hour from the reader who is left flat by professional sports--you can never please everyone, nor should you try, but rather just accept that there are certain kinds of stories and interests that you will never get. Dogs, for example. Or anniversary stories--who cares if it's 35 years since some battle or some structure was built? But we do the stories and when we don't, people go ballistic. Go figure.

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Bedbugs: What's your thought on Milbank's not-so-serious article on bedbugs? As someone who got a nasty infestation of bugs from a neighbor a while back, I was upset at the cavalier attitude of many of the comments.

Bedbugs are nasty, and very difficult to eradicate once they are in a home. If you live in a condo or apartment, you can become infested simply by a neighbor bringing in an infected item to THEIR house, and the bugs can travel to yours.

This has become a larger problem in recent years, but the author and many readers took it as something of a joke - what are your thoughts as to why?

washingtonpost.com: Going to the Mattress (Post, April 15)

Marc Fisher: We once had bedbugs, in Miami, the result of...dogs. Somebody brought a dog into our place and it brought bedbugs, and the result was ugly. So I get your point that they're nasty. But it's still funny, and Milbank scored with this column. I give it an 8.8.

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Marc Fisher: That has to kick things in the head for today--thanks for tuning in on an off day. Back in the regular slot next week, and in the paper tomorrow and Sunday. The blog's always cooking over at Raw Fisher. Have a great rest of the week.

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Archives: Discussion Transcripts

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