Opinion: Tangier Island needs Help no Matter how you Define its Woes by Tom Horton

When I began a documentary film this year about climate change and the Chesapeake, I knew that even though local residents were affected by it, I’d never be able to record most of them talking about sea level rise.

They know what they see. And around Dorchester — Maryland’s lowest-lying county and the focus of our film — residents see erosion of the shoreline, high tides that seem to come more often and forests dying along the marsh edges.

It’s easy to talk past one another, we who are comfortable with the lingo and concepts of climate science, and those who are not — even while all talking about the same thing.

This was on my mind recently when my friend, James “Ooker” Eskridge, the mayor of Tangier Island, VA, appeared on a CNN Town Hall with former Vice President Al Gore, one of the world’s foremost proponents of how humans are warming the planet.

Eskridge, who’s not convinced that this is really happening, was invited on the cable TV show because of a phone call he got earlier this summer that brought him in early from fishing his crab pots.

The caller was President Donald Trump. He’d heard about Tangier’s plight: battered by erosion that will soon spell its demise if it can’t find an estimated $25 million to $30 million to bulwark its Bay shore with rock. He’d also heard that the island of some 400 residents, with a culture harking back to 17th century England, had voted nearly 90 percent for him last November.

Ooker heard Gore out, but maintained: “I’ve lived there 65 years and I just don’t see it (sea level rise).”

I talked about the disjunct between the two men with Michael Scott, a colleague at Salisbury University and a professor of geography whose specialty is environmental hazards.

He and I are both in Gore’s camp on climate; but Scott has as good a feel as any scientist I know for explaining the nuances and complexities of such global, long-term phenomena at the level of the average citizen.

“I was upset that CNN portrayed (Eskridge) as this sort of pro-Trump nut job,” Scott said. Eskridge is not wrong at all when he says Tangier’s problem is erosion, the professor said, adding that it’s happening very quickly and is very noticeable.

“But there are really two processes going on and they are not separate,” Scott added.

The second process he refers to is sea level rise, propelled by a warmer climate that is melting glaciers. That’s exacerbated by land around the Bay sinking back to its original contours after being pushed upward by the glaciers that extended into Pennsylvania during the last Ice Age.

Add to that the thermal expansion of the oceans as they warm and the potential slowing of the Gulf Stream that could back up more seawater in the Chesapeake.

Rising sea levels make erosion worse. But Scott’s not at all surprised that Tangier’s mayor said that he “didn’t see it (sea level rise).”

Sea level rise at this point, unlike erosion, “is happening very slowly,” coming up mere inches throughout Eskridge’s lifetime on the Chesapeake.

“It’s been slight enough up to now that it’s actually very difficult to measure unless you’re taking very precise scientific measurements,” Scott said.

But the overwhelming scientific consensus, he continued, is that the Earth’s temperatures have reached the point where a measurable acceleration in sea level is under way. In the Bay, it will add 2 feet or more to everyday tides by around 2050.

The forecasts for 2100 are less certain because we can’t tell how fast the massive ice sheets of Antarctica will melt. But estimates foresee everyday tides 5.5 feet above present levels, “and that’s probably on the low end . . . every time we look at it, it seems our estimates are too low,” Scott said.

A couple wrinkles disguise the coming impact further, he said.

First, it is quite possible for waters locally to shallow up as seas rise. In our filming, we’ve found examples of this in Dorchester County. The sediment eroding from shorelines and disintegrating marshes has to go somewhere, and it may fill in channels and other places where currents carry it.

The larger complication, Scott said, “is that sea level rise is not linear.” In other words, it isn’t going to happen steadily, inch by inch, over the years. That would be relatively easy to predict and respond to.

Unfortunately, the path to 2, 3, 5 or more feet of daily tide around the Bay is going to resemble a curve that steepens as average high tide levels rise.

“The trouble with an increasing curve is that for a while, things will seem as if they’re OK, but then the rate’s going to really increase and you’re going to lose the ability to adjust to it,” Scott said.

Helping localities around the Chesapeake adjust is where Scott’s passion lies; and he said we’re still at a point on the curve where we can act reasonably and cost-effectively.

“This (Delmarva) Peninsula is very precious to me and to my family . . . we want to preserve it for our children and we can do that if we are honest with what’s happening and with how we can try to respond,” he said.

He finds most people don’t care too much about why the tides and the erosion are getting worse, or about the politics of climate change.

“They want to know what is going to happen to them and what they can do about it,” Scott said. For many, the real threat won’t come in their lifetimes, and they aren’t likely to pay tens of thousands of dollars to jack up their houses.

The key he said, is to honestly acknowledge the threat and install public policies that over time guide “the way that development takes place, rearrange the way people build their homes, the way roads are maintained.

“And as we lose marshes we are going to need spaces on the landward edge for them to move into. . . . We’re going to need to buy the development rights to such places from the people who own them now . . . a very appropriate response.”

In low-lying places like Dorchester County, he said he thinks that “if we can get a hold of this in the next five to seven years, we have time to fix it that way. If we wait, then we will be in crisis mode, and things are going to happen in a very shocking and upsetting way.”

As for Tangier Island, it won’t make much difference now whether Mayor Eskridge and his townspeople vote yea or nay on closing coal-fired plants to reduce the long-term buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Tangier needs rock, pretty soon, and no change in energy policies is going to change that.

Even the best seawall at Tangier is not the same as a dike, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and realistically isn’t going to happen. Even less likely are Trump’s assurances to Eskridge that his island would persist for “hundreds more years.”

But a seawall would buy time for another generation or two of Tangier residents to continue the island’s unique culture and heritage, time enough for hundreds of thousands of us to visit and enjoy that — a reasonable investment in my opinion.

Tom Horton has written about Chesapeake Bay for more than 40 years, including eight books. He lives in Salisbury, where he is also a professor of Environmental Studies at Salisbury University. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Bay Journal.

ShoreRivers: The Shore’s Uncompromising Voice for Clean Rivers by Jeff Horstman and Isabel Junkin Hardesty

 

The Eastern Shore’s rivers weave through farmland, forests, marshes and towns on their way to the Chesapeake Bay. Each river is unique, with its own character, but they share in common the fish, crabs, waterfowl and people that depend on them.

Much as these individual rivers ultimately come together as part of the Bay, three great Eastern Shore conservation organizations are uniting. Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Chester River Association and Sassafras River Association are merging into a single nonprofit, ShoreRivers, Inc., to serve as a leading voice for healthy waterways on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Through science-based advocacy, restoration and education, ShoreRivers will protect and restore Eastern Shore waters that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. We will work collaboratively with our communities, yet maintain an uncompromising voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

Our three legacy organizations each have a deep history of working collaboratively to improve the health of the waters in our communities, and that mission will continue. By joining together, we become more than just the sum of our parts – we will be one committed voice with more influence on policy, more capacity to enact programs, and more potential to undertake large restoration projects that directly reduce pollution.

We will need that influence to tackle the major issues affecting our environment. ShoreRivers will now be a statewide leader on conservation issues so that when we travel to Annapolis to meet with elected officials or to testify for legislation, we will have the backing of our 3,500 supporters who care about our waters and our Eastern Shore quality of life.

We will also have increased capacity to implement bigger, better projects. That means expanded work with our agricultural partners, broader funding to encourage innovative technologies that reduce pollution, and region-wide restoration projects that capture polluted runoff before it enters our rivers.

From Kennedyville to Kent Island, from Cambridge to Crumpton, ShoreRivers staff, partners and volunteers will work together across the Eastern Shore. You’ll see us out on the rivers and creeks as well as in farm fields and forests. Our leadership, staff and board of directors are comprised of members of the three legacy organizations.

The main headquarters for ShoreRivers will be in downtown Easton at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. We will also maintain regional offices in Chestertown and Georgetown, the former offices of the Chester River Association and Sassafras River Association, respectively. And we will heavily rely on watershed advisory boards for each major river to continue our strong local connections.

An important part of our mission is our Waterkeeper program. Waterkeepers are full-time advocates who regularly patrol and monitor their local bodies of water. Including the ShoreRivers merger, there are now 17 Waterkeepers working in the Chesapeake Bay region – 11 in Maryland. Waterkeepers focus on their individual waterbodies, but frequently work together with other “Keepers.” ShoreRivers will have four Riverkeepers: Jeff Horstman is the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper; Emmett Duke is the Sassafras Riverkeeper; Matt Pluta is the Choptank Riverkeeper and Tim Trumbauer is the new Chester Riverkeeper.

Despite encouraging signs of clearer water and more grass beds in recent years, the waterways of the Eastern Shore remain polluted – they are still threatened with excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff. At ShoreRivers, we believe there are real solutions to these threats, and we are committed to developing projects and programs that will improve the health of our waters and keep them robust and beautiful for all of us – now and in the future.

Jeff Horstman is the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper and Executive Director of ShoreRivers and Isabel Junkin Hardesty is the former Chester Riverkeeper and new Regional Director of ShoreRivers.

 

 

Op-ed: Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar by George Merrill

Everyone wants to be somebody. Strictly speaking, everyone is a somebody. For a few, however, just being a somebody doesn’t quite do it. They perform spectacular acts that assure they will gain attention. They are typically apprehended or die but not before leaving a legacy, something by which they’ll be remembered. On Halloween this year in New York City one young man left a legacy of heartache.

On Halloween, Sayfullo Saipov, 29, a native of Uzbekistan, drove a van into a bike path in lower Manhattan and killed eight people. He was heard to have shouted “Allahu akbar,” before being shot and apprehended.

Muslim-American lawyer and playwright, Wajhat Ali writes in the New York Times how he himself says these words routinely, as do most Muslims everywhere, as many as a hundred times a day in devotional life. The phrase means “God is greatest,” a term of gratitude, and it’s part of Muslim piety, the way a Christian might say, “Thank you Jesus.”

Before or after any violent act, Ali believes any Muslim shouting Allahu akbar would be profane. I take it that in the broad view of Muslim practice and piety, such a cry would be as profane as Christians calling out “Thank you Jesus” after  bombing Hiroshima. Ali laments how “two simple words so close to our hearts” have so quickly become the code word for terrorist atrocities. As a practicing Muslim, it hurts Ali how witnesses, “hearing Allahu akbar instantly shaped the entire news coverage and the president’s response.”

When a long and rich spiritual tradition is put into the service of hate and arrogance, it brings nothing but violence and suffering. The Christian crusades and the persecution of heretics are cases in point. Shakespeare wrote about this kind of spirituality gone toxic: “Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.”
Ali writes his piece as a plea to Americans not to stereotype the Muslim community for the acts of a fanatical group. As we attempt to do justice, hopefully the spirit of wisdom and discernment will guide us, not the kind of mob mentality that feeds on bigotry and gets votes while it distorts reality.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ken Burns “Vietnam” Disturbing Lessons for our Time by Rob Ketcham

I was 17 when I signed up for ROTC as a college freshman in 1955. In my immediate family, no one had served in uniform since the Civil War; they were either too old or too young. I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the US Army in 1959. I was obligated to serve for six months. However, I deferred serving in order to go to law school which got me to 1962, and a tour of duty for three years. I finally got my orders in December, 1962. I was now a First Lieutenant, MP corps, and received my first assignment to serve in Paris, France, assigned to the 175th MP Company.

The Vietnam war was getting underway and new MP officers like myself were just starting to be sent to places where integration required the deployment of federal troops like Oxford, Mississippi (where every single jeep windshield was broken and helmets dented by rock-throwing locals as their columns passed under overpasses coming into town); we went mostly to other places like Germany and Korea; a few to Vietnam.

The recently aired Ken Burns documentary, “Vietnam,” offers a valuable take on how the US got involved in Vietnam. In the series, Burns included never seen footage about the French involvement in Indochina and about their failure to appreciate the kind of war that was being fought. Somehow our leaders were equally blinded by the reality of what the U.S. would be up against. Many readers my age will remember that no movie started in a theatre until after the news clips showing the map of Eastern Europe and the Near and Far East with the ever creeping “spread of communism” depicted as the map became redder and redder. The words “communist” and/or “spread of communism” seemed to cause our leaders to lose any ability to reason and to appreciate that not only were we not refighting World War II, but that we were getting caught up in a civil war where we only saw labels, not reality.

We didn’t appreciate (or perceive) that the South Vietnamese leaders—the ones we were supporting— were corrupt and ineffective, quite a combination. In addition, our military leadership—William S. Westmoreland comes to mind—were like the British generals during the American Revolution, ready and willing to fight to the last man even when they were being shot at by farmers and civilian marksman hidden from view rather than in ranks across the battlefield. Burns repeatedly showed the sad footage of the battles and deaths on both sides for hills named by a number, hills that were won, then abandoned, and were the scene of yet another battle to take the same numbered hill at the loss of even more life.

Ken Burns and his co-producer Lynn Novick, deserve much credit for bringing to the screen a period of our recent history that had such an impact on our nation as it evolved following World War II. The use of narrators from the US, South and North Vietnam traced the steps from “advising”, to engagement, to war, to escalation, to a never-ending conflagration and mindless slaughter, until finally, both sides came to realize somehow it all had to end.

The documentary’s endless firefight footage taken from archives of all sides, starting with the French in the “50’s and then with the growing American presence and the larger and larger numbers of Vietnamese soldiers from the south and from the north was informative at one level, but could have used much more careful editing and still made its point about the slaughter.

As the war continued, both Johnson and Nixon engaged in massive escalation of troop strength and material, ordering more and more bombing, then adding the use of napalm and Agent Orange to what was already the use of more ordinance then for all of WWII. It was Secretary Robert McNamara’s obsession with numbers and measurement, so successful in producing and selling Fords, that led to using body counts as a way of measuring success in battle. This fact was well known in the anti-war movement, and it was indeed used to determine how success was gauged. We learn from the film that those in the field started using any dead person as a criteria for “winning” a battle even if the dead were farmers or women or children. It was reported that towards the end of the war in the Mekong Delta some battalions in the 9th Division were faking the numbers in order to validate their operations—one more step removed from reality.

What is particularly striking to me is the mendacity of those Presidents involved, starting with President Kennedy. Just recalling that he lied to the American people in several instances and squandered opportunities to work with Ho Chi Min (who in the early days was a student of American history and of our own successful war against the British) is another unpleasant memory. Kennedy’s advisors, venerated at the time by many—McNamara, Bundy, Westmoreland, and brother Bobby Kennedy, didn’t help matters.

Presidential integrity, which had been part of the makeup of the Roosevelts, of President Hoover, President Truman, and President Eisenhower began to give way to lies and duplicity. Lyndon Johnson, catapulted to the Presidency in 1963 actually looked good as he was getting started as President, but he too got caught up in lying, the body counts, the inhumane bombings, and the seeming willingness to ignore what was right in front of him—that we were supporting the wrong side, the side that was devious, corrupt, and not even backed by the South Vietnamese people. All of this is carefully documented in “Vietnam.”

As Americans began to understand that our leaders had taken us into a war being waged in a far off place with no clear purpose and where our soldiers were dying, in alarming numbers, they became increasingly aroused to find ways to challenge government policy in order to stop the war. Using the same tactics as those who were fighting for civil rights—marches, and generally peaceful demonstrations to show opposition to the war, their voices became insistent and the country and the Congress began to wake up.

The numbers of people in the streets in 1967 were almost beyond belief. I know, I was there with my wife and two young children. I had helped in the planning of the march on October 21, 1967, that started at the Lincoln Memorial and ended at the Pentagon. One night we lit candles to honor those who had died, and marched with the lit candle and the soldier’s name across Memorial Bridge to Arlington Cemetery, the most meaningful gesture I ever participated in. And ultimately, the Congress was forced to listen. When there are enough people in the streets that the White House is protected by City buses parked bumper to bumper, or garbage trucks parked bumper to bumper you know, you’ve got someone’s attention.

Congress woke up slowly and reluctantly. “Vietnam” really skims over this part of the story with very little mention of any of the goings-on in the Congress and very sketchy footage of the Fulbright hearings. At the outset, and for far too long, the leadership in the House and Senate was almost totally supportive of President Kennedy, President Johnson, President Nixon and President Ford. The establishment was for the war, the American Legion was for the war and both the Republican and Democratic parties were for the war. It took several years for Senators McCarthy and McGovern and Congressman John Anderson to find their voices. There was tacit support for the war as the huge increases in the military budgets were agreed to with little Congressional debate or discussion.
Some Congressional districts located in areas such as those in Rockland and Sullivan County, New York, and Lowell and Lawrence Mass, were anti-war, but very very few congressman took a lead against the war until the protest movement was well underway.
It is depressing to witness on film what happens when the politicians and generals, desperate for a solution to the situation they had created start using napalm, even on populated areas, after already using Agent Orange to defoliate the countryside. It was brutal and senseless. It demonstrates over and over again what happens when diplomacy fails and how war can so easily escalate into an inhuman enterprise of slaughter.

The war gradually staggered toward its end. The bombing didn’t stop. the North Vietnamese continued to send troops south; the South Vietnamese army continued to fight despite the withdrawal of American troops from the war zone. And Henry Kissinger, a holdover from the Johnson years, had successfully jockeyed for a continuing role in the Nixon Administration to determine how to end the war using secret diplomacy with the North Vietnamese leader, Le Duc Tho. The North Vietnamese leader had decided after the spring offensive failed to deliver a decisive blow, coupled with the near-certain re-election of Nixon, that it was time to make a deal. Finally, in 1975 it ended.

Although I did not serve in Vietnam, I came way too close due to the expanding war in Vietnam. When the time came in 1966 for me to get out, after my three years on active duty, my service was extended, and I was reassigned stateside to the 9th Division, a new Division being formed to go to Vietnam. I was assigned as the Company Commander of the 9th MP Company and deployed to Fort Riley KN. It took almost a year to get the division ready, and I learned to speak some Vietnamese.

One evening about three months before deployment I was in the officer’s club with the MP offer who was running the Post Stockade. He informed me how lucky I was to be going to Vietnam. After overcoming my surprise I learned he was serious, and I asked him if he wanted to go in my place if I could get the orders changed since he was regular Army ( I was reserve); he was eager to go. So the next morning I called a couple of my buddies who were in the Office of Personnel Operations at the Pentagon, and I was able to effect the change. The other MP Captain took my company to Vietnam, and I became the Stockade Commander. I was responsible for about 350 prisoners who were in my custody at a stockade built to handle about 150. Many of the young men who ended up in the stockade were just ordinary guys who did not want to go to Vietnam (this was 1967). They came from all over the midwest, and, generally, if they were sent back to their units they would go AWOL again since they figured that life in the stockade was better than going to Vietnam.

The last episode of the Burns documentary brought the reader up to date about how things are in Vietnam since the war ended. My wife Caroline and I spent a couple of weeks biking in Vietnam in 2009 and were there when President Obama was inaugurated. We found the Vietnamese people to be most friendly at all levels, and the children to be very engaging and warm. We were there during Tet (a Vietnamese holiday) and so the kids were out of school. Time after time, when they found out we Americans were coming by on our bikes in our colorful lycra gear and helmets they would line up along the side of the road and hold out their hands: “What’s your name?” “Where’re you from?” They laughed and they smiled when we passed and we exchanged high fives.

The Burns documentary raises serious and current issues that are before the American people today. Should the US be fighting wars that are not authorized by the Congress, such as the sixteen-year war the U.S. is supporting today with men and materials in Afghanistan? Recently, an NYT headline was, “U.S. Military To Conceal Afghan War Statistics.” The article points out that the Afghans know what’s going on, the U.S Military knows what’s going on, “The only people who don’t know what’s going on are the people paying for it.” Shades of Vietnam!

And what is our doctrine for dealing with places as diverse as North Korea, the Middle East, and Niger? It would seem, based on reports coming out of Africa, that there many more soldiers stationed abroad than Congress or the American people know about. One lesson that must be learned from the Ken Burns documentary is that small events can escalate and escalate.

I am grateful for the documentary and what it can teach and remind us. I hope it will contribute to a thoughtful review so that its lessons are assimilated as we struggle to find our way into the 21st century.

Rob Ketcham served as the chief of staff of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology and staff director of the Fossil and Nuclear Energy Subcommittee during the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to those positions, he was Special Counsel to the House Select Committee on Committees chaired by Richard Bolling (D-MO).  He holds a BA and JD from Washington and Lee University as well as a SG from Harvard University’s Senior Managers in Government Program. He has lived on the Eastern Shore since 1999 with his wife, Caroline.

The Night I Won the Raffle or How We Can Make a Difference by Suzanne Price

Brothers are the hardest to shop for – but last year I nailed it.

He and his wife are cooks, so I bought them some esoteric olive oils from Olivins of St. Michaels. I knew that my mother and sister would love the jewelry I found for them. Over the next half hour I bought more delightful gifts for other members of my family and friends. As I sat down for dinner with new sisters and old sisters, I realized that I had a lot of my Christmas shopping done…in early November!

I didn’t come to the Soroptimist Gala to shop, I came here for the party and the camaraderie of 100 women from Talbot County, so this was a bonus!

I was simply having a great time at “Girls’ Night Out”, the annual fundraiser for the Soroptimists of Talbot County… But, more on that later.

As I surveyed my loot, I saw the two bottles of wine I had gotten from the “Wine Pull”. This is where Soroptimist Members contribute a bottle of wine valued between $20 and $50 all wrapped up so you can’t see what it is. You then pay $20 for a wrapped bottle. You can’t lose if you like wine. Well, the first time I sort of lost, because my $20 only got a $25 bottle. So, I tried again and my next $20 got a $37 bottle of French Cabernet. Perhaps, tonight was my lucky night.

Anyway, I was polishing off a delicious surf and turf dinner at a table with eight women who are my friends from Soroptimist and others who I had just met, when all Hell broke loose.

Suddenly, lots of my friends starting looking at me. Some even pointed. Uh, oh, what had I done wrong? Had I taken the wrong bottle of wine, had I not paid for one of my gifts, did I have gobs of crab dip spilled on my blouse?

Then, the Soroptimist MC on the podium announced my name…and everybody looked at me again! But, she said it with a kind smile. She summoned me up to the stage. Before I got there, my old friends and my new friends started clapping… and, then I heard the Speaker say that I had won the Soroptimist Raffle! No way, Not me! I have never won anything like this before in my life!

But, yes it was me. And, I won $772.00!

So, I went to an event with my Sisters, bought almost half my Christmas presents, got two bottles of wine at a total bargain, and had dinner with my old and new friends. And, then I won the Raffle!

I have had worse nights.

But, the best thing about that evening was that I got to bond with women from all walks of life in Talbot County… Women who care for their families and their peers, but who also care and make a difference for others.

This year’s Girls’ Night Out event is being held next week, on Friday, November 3, at the Milestone in Easton. The proceeds go towards programs that help women and girls in Talbot County and the surrounding areas. In fact, they’ll be awarding checks to four organizations who work directly with women and girls right here: Habitat for Humanity Women’s Build, Ladies of Nia, Hunger Coalition, and Foundation of Hope.

I am just telling a simple story. But, there are 50 incredible women at Soroptimist who also have other delightful stories to tell.

BUT, NONE OF THEM COMPARE TO THE FACT THAT I AM GOING TO WIN THE RAFFLE AGAIN THIS YEAR!

There are 50 exemplary women in Talbot County who would like to meet you and bond with you next Friday. November 3. It is a party the likes of which you will not see anywhere else… and it is just for we women.

This is not a stiff fundraiser.

This is about women taking care of the women and daughters behind us.

This is where you will meet and make new friends

This is just a really fun event

Join us for the fun. You can buy your ticket at: www.talbotsoroptomist.org

Suzanne Price is a nationally acclaimed Interior Designer, and the Director or Training and Education for Decorating Den Interiors America’s largest franchisee of design studios. The worldwide Headquarters of Decorating Den is located in Easton, but Suzanne, and her male dog, are located in St. Michaels. Suzanne is an enthusiastic member of the Soroptimists. Her dog, due to gender reasons, is not allowed to attend this event
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From South of Left Field: Meandering by Jimmie Galbreath

Have you ever had a pause in your life where the sense of self and place in society fades away? A time when a vague sense of hopelessness hangs in the air like a dense fog? The conviction that something is terribly wrong. Yes, this does have to do with Las Vegas, but only because for me it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I have had a long break filled with meandering thoughts, roaming back and forth between memories of beliefs long past and recently past. Recalling the fading of confidence in my government while watching my draft number (280) being drawn long ago when Vietnam meant so much more than now. Prepared to serve, afraid of dying, and lacking any real, believable reason to die for. A journey from the confidence and faith left from the 50’s to the cynical view left behind by Vietnam and Watergate. The resurgence of faith and pride when Reagan was elected, to the sickening view looking back over two decades of his Republican economic formula which created a slow, sure decay of our overall standard of living due to growing income inequality.

What have we become? The respect Americans once held from people overseas has been dwindling now for quite some time, for nearly my entire life. A family member traveling outside the country has claimed to be Canadian to avoid the strange looks and embarrassing questions. Questions about us as a people. Why do we act like we do? Why do we believe what we believe?

From out there, others see a people who claim a moral superiority, but at the same time seem almost eager to kill just about anyone. We have become a people of greed rather than charity. We don’t value each other enough to provide basic security from want or disease. We don’t value each other enough to try to stop mass shootings; not even when they include our children. Our leaders who, like it or not, reflect who we are, display a self-absorbed and cruel world view. Bloodshed, starvation, and disease barely get a shrug even when it is here at home. There is no lack of self-righteous talk about not enough money to support each other but there is no lack of money to support a military that spans the globe killing nearly everywhere it goes. Murder from the sky. Wars, deployments, and strikes that, like Vietnam, just somehow doesn’t pass the smell test of critical thought. Creating enemies and corpses, both ours and theirs with no really robust reason beyond the fact we can do it. Don’t ask the other peoples if they would want to be an American. They may still want to come here, but I doubt they want to be like us. They likely have a stronger sense of community and a deeper desire to support each other.

We as a people were naive in our world view coming out of World War II, although we were learning fast. Sadly our education in this sphere came to a halt as we basked in our power and a sense that we were the best of peoples, with the best of governments, the best of businesses, the best of technologies and the best educational systems. A fair bit of that was true, but time has a way of passing and people and governments that are open to learning can change. Today we are reduced to being a military leader only, with a fair bit of wealth and little else. We are far more feared than admired. Most of the world changed and improved. We cling to a sense of superiority, a flag and turned inward believing we are better the “them.”

This place I meandered into finally is the realization that the current government was elected by us all; either by direct vote or indifferent negligence. In the end, the paint brush they wield stains us all equally. Our blood splattered nation, poor schools, and inhumane policies reflected in the recent deliberate sabotage of ACA and the effort to reduce food and medical support for poorer Americans is the lens every one of us is viewed through by the rest of the world. It is time we own this. If we don’t like this picture, then change it.

Assume responsibility for all Americans. The basis for the formation of a government is collective protection. We collectively support police and fire departments. We collectively support a military and judicial system. We collectively seek to provide education and provide emergency services to each other. Are we then content to see the poor suffer and die untreated?

The path to where we are today was laid out and paved by both the Democratic and Republican parties. These two wealth funded organizations have herded and manipulated us all for over 100 years. The tools and power of propaganda they wield remain effective only as long as we waste our time listening to them. If we continue to listen to them our life circumstances will continue to decline. They will smother us with bogey men like frightened children and lead us by the nose further and further down the path of decline. The path to greatness is paved by people working together toward a humane society. There is no real choice for me when confronted by either fellow citizen being armed and dispatched to kill foreigners or being trained and supplied to aid a suffering family here. Honor our servicemen and women by only sending them to die for real, concrete causes. Reserve more of our wealth to better our lives.

Countries like Australia reacted to mass killings by changing gun laws and the result was a considerable drop in mass killings and gun violence. Their police don’t face anything like the quantity and firepower our police do. Here over 1,000 citizens a year die under the guns of our own law enforcement. Faced by an increasingly well-armed general population with repeated demonstrations of a willingness to ambush police and kill unarmed citizens in our schools and streets this isn’t surprising. Honor our police by removing this threat so that we can trust them not to kill out of undue fear.

We cannot regain a real voice in America if we continue to play with the Democratic and Republican parties. They do not have our interests at heart; rather they seek to support their sources of money. Trying to reform them from within is agreeing to play their game by their rules on their courts. The end result will be their victory and our continued loss to the powers of wealth.

A Revolution is needed, but rather than waiting until our situation degenerates to large-scale violence in response to growing poverty, I recommend that Independents and disaffected Democrats and Republicans begin registering en mass with The Green party. A large influx of active voters would remake this organization’s leadership in short order. The tentacles of wealthy influence there are weak or nonexistent.
Having meandered from a youthful Republican, to an indifferent Independent, to an older Democrat, to being an active Independent, it is clear to me that a new Political Party of power is needed. I am changing my registration. What are you doing?

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served 3 years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Op-Ed: But How Did We Get Here? By Carol Voyles

But how did we get here?

Despite the hardships they may have faced, our nation’s settlers could be compared to lottery winners. Land ownership was a measure of our wealth, and the Land Ordinance of 1785, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 promoted “an empire of liberty” through broad land ownership at bargain prices. The Homestead Act of 1862 offered land at no cost, and the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1865 doubled the acreage.

Opportunity was ours, and we owe our forefathers a large debt of gratitude. Aristocrats claimed title to the land settled in South America. Our founding fathers revolted not only against taxation without representation, they made a revolutionary departure from a tradition of aristocratic oligarchy, and the United States of America would become the greatest nation on earth.

There were bumps in the road. From the ashes of our Civil War, we would transition from a predominantly agrarian society into an industrialized society. Our wealth doubled during the Industrial Revolution, but fewer winners made it into our Gilded Age. Labor unions gained ground following WWI, but market speculation ended in the Crash of 1929. We suffered our Great Depression.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal of 1933 included public works and financial reform. There were objections to government intrusion and an 8 percent increase in government spending, but WWII would increase spending by 52 percent. We also experienced levels of economic growth only dreamed of today, and would elect more Democrats and only a Democratic Congress over the next 3 decades.

Our veterans worked hard and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, but were offered a hand up at the starting line. Their education was free. VA mortgages made homes affordable, and wages supported a family. Our middle class became the wealthiest on earth during our nation’s Golden Age.

We were also paying down an enormous war debt, and likely complained about taxes as we piled our families into our new cars and headed out to dinner and a movie. I had wondered at this phenomenon at a family gathering, but those taking these complaints seriously had Frederich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom.” The “conservative bible” warned against government intervention.

Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” soon followed, also rejecting “collectivism.” Rand Paul was named for Ms. Ayn, but by 1973 journalist Irving Crystal had become the “godfather of neoconservatism.” Embracing supply side economics and the concept that tax cuts pay for themselves, he would later acknowledge a “cavalier attitude toward budget deficits,” but prioritize “political effectiveness over government accounting deficiencies.”

In other words, trickle down hadn’t worked, but one might claim it does. That message would persist, and the party that had led us into our Great Depression would create 2.5 times more debt as a share of our economy, advise us “deficits don’t matter,” and lead us into our Great Recession.

Since WWII Democratic administrations have, without exception, reduced budget deficits. Yes, even President Obama.

Jobs and wages top our list of concerns, though. Plowing through government data, we also find that since WWII nearly 3 times as many jobs have been created during Democratic administrations, wages and median household incomes increased more and faster, and minimum wages were up 16 cents annually versus 6 cents.

We’re all about business by now, and our bottom line is that our economy has grown more and we have all done better during Democratic administrations. Economists Blinder and Watson made our job easier by presenting undisputed government data, acknowledging economic cycles, and confirming that since WWII our economy has performed better by every positive economic measure during Democratic administrations.

This outcome may have been foretold in 1792. Record keeping was spotty then, but we chose the “tyranny of democracy” over the tyranny of aristocratic oligarchy, and our bill to revive our cod industry required everyone from the cabin boy to the captain to share in the profits.

Examining the eternal struggle between personal freedoms and a civilized society, William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” was published in 1954 and remained on required reading lists in 1980; yet we would be led into the Republican Revolution. We got tax cuts, and while our government is spending less as a share of our economy than other industrialized nations, it is not yet “small enough to drown in a bathtub.” We are being promised our “biggest tax cuts ever.”

As CEO compensation is reaching hundreds and even thousands of times the wages of average employees, and McDonald’s CEO recently tripled his multi-million dollar compensation package in just one year as taxpayers supplement employees’ wages, it’s hardly surprising to find that the 1 percent of us that amassed 40 percent of our nation’s wealth heading into our Great Depression is closing in upon than level once again.

We’re angry, and perhaps understandably have elected a president who is embracing the politics of division, tweeting “alternative facts,” and taking credit for deals made before he took office, magazine covers that don’t exist, phone calls he hasn’t received, and a nation called “Nambia.”

President Trump has advised, “When the president says it, that means it’s true.” We have no idea how frequently his “great friend” Carl Icahn is visiting, though. The White House visitors’ log has been done away with.
President Obama apologized for his misstatement, the one quoted so frequently, and advised, “Democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.” We have his birth certificate, his White House visitors’ log, records of those meetings, his tax returns, and millions more of us are at least seeing a doctor.

Accountability would be timely. William Jennings Bryan observed over a century ago, “There are those who believe that if you legislate to make the well-to-do prosper, their prosperity will leak through onto those below. The Democratic idea, however, is that if you legislate to make the masses prosper, prosperity finds its way up through every class.”

That’s what we have experienced in the United States of America. We all do better when we all do better, and achieving the highest level of income disparity in the industrialized world isn’t serving us well.

Thomas Jefferson feared an “aristocracy of our monied corporations,” and advised us to “leave no authority existing that is not responsible to the people.” He may have sensed that while capitalism is vital to our economy, working together for a strong middle class nets positive results, while moving in the opposite direction results in the dysfunction we’re experiencing today.

Our forefathers did their part to promote the general welfare. Now it is up to us.

Carol Voyles is the Treasurer of the Talbot County Democratic Central Committee and Board member of the Talbot County Democratic Forum

Letter to Editor: A Trust Has Been Broken

As U.S. citizens, we know that we are not alone in feeling a deep sense of betrayal.

We believe that a trust, treasured, and defended by generation after generation, is being steadily broken. This sense of betrayal has escalated during the current Trump administration.

We were always taught, and still passionately think, that citizens have a dual responsibility in life: first, to look out for ourselves, individually; and second, to look out for our fellow human beings, and the environment, as one United States — E Pluribus Unum.

We can still be free to act, as long as we don’t diminish someone else’s freedom. In turn, others can be free to act, provided they don’t dilute our freedom.

Among others, the Biblical writers, Socrates, modern philosophers, and democratic statesmen, have asserted the concept of the “social contract.” This bedrock idea has been the foundation upon which our people have joined together, and created an orderly society which, while honoring the individual, also preserves the collective.

Either by overt or tacit agreement, citizens hold certain expectations of one another, the larger community and its government. By the consent of the majority, rules, laws and social norms govern how individuals and groups treat each other. This shared contract is based on the trust that all will respect rights given equally to all..

For example, In the Pledge of Allegiance, we acknowledge that we are one nation, under God. A trust has been broken when a religious group of our citizens, Jews or Muslims, don’t receive the same deference or respect as Christians.

In the Pledge of Allegiance, we declare that liberty and justice are for all. A trust has been broken when black people, brown people, immigrant people, gay people, lesbian people, transgender people, and Indigenous people, do not enjoy justice and liberty, fairly and equally.

The United States Constitution proclaims that each citizen is entitled to speak freely about their beliefs. But a trust has been broken when a sports figure is called a, “son of a bitch,” by his president, and terrorized on social media for kneeling, as his way of exercising his freedom of speech.

A trust has been broken when both members of a couple have to work at not just one, but two or even three jobs each, yet still cannot earn enough to provide the basic American Dream of housing, health, and education for a family.

A fundamental trust has been broken when partisan politicians seek to maintain their power by gerrymandering districts and deliberately suppressing the votes of those not in power.

We could write a whole book of betrayals. Here is the point. Those who have broken trust with the social contract must be called to account. Citizens must speak out and act.

Contract-breakers, especially among the Republican Party do not deserve your vote on Election Day. Contract-breakers of any political persuasion do not deserve your business. Contract-breakers must not be allowed to silence us by relentless stoking of fear, and hate.

Citizens: wake up, stand up, and speak up, for what is right.

Rev. Thomas G. Sinnott
Kitty Maynard
Linda Cades
Erin Anderson
Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties, Maryland, Indivisible

 

 

 

 

Not Learning from Experience: The Dangerous Path for Tax Reform by Rob Ketcham

Are we going to witness the Republicans mounting another policy blitzkrieg, only to fall on their face as they ignore lessons that should have been learned?

As I write this, national attention is being directed by the President and Congressional leaders about a “tax overhaul”, a proposal for a sweeping rewrite of the tax code to reduce tax rates for corporations and individuals and eliminate some popular deductions.

The last major federal tax upgrade was enacted in 1986 and was years in the making. The process followed the path of what is referred to as “regular order”; legislative activities that involve the tax writing committees in the House and Senate, hearings, gathering information on impacts of the propositions being proposed, debating the propositions in the committees, ultimately reaching agreement on a legislative proposition to take to the floor where it may be debated further and amended, passage in both chambers and then, finally, a Conference Committee to settle the differences before the final agreement can be voted on in order to become law.

This process is almost never easy or speedy. A legislative history I am intimately familiar with, The Space Act, was signed into law on July 29, 1958, eight months after the Soviet launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. The Select Committee formed to write the bill was said to have “performed its tasks with both amazing speed and skill.” Players included the House Majority Leader John McCormack, Senate Majority leader Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, a future President, and Les Arends, the Republican Whip. The give and take between the Democratic Congress and the Republican Administration (which had its own strongly held ideas about what the Space Act should look like) became a healthy exchange involving Bryce Harlow, Deputy Assistant for Congressional Affairs, and Ed McCabe, Administrative Assistant to President Eisenhower. This arrangement evolved into a daily exchange under “…the stress of time requirements and pride of authorship”so that everyone was kept in the loop, White House, House, and Senate. In other words, everyone worked together.

I wonder if today’s elected Republican leaders truly understand the enormous legislative effort they have pledged to take on this September. It is, in a word, daunting. The simple facts are that this is: (1) a new Administration which came to power rather unexpectedly, and (2) a Congress with a Republican Majority that has not legislated in the tax area for more than twenty years, I’d guess that very few Republican members have ever served as an advocate for any such a massive legislative undertaking— their chosen role for most of their careers has been to be opposed to whatever proposition was being forwarded for their consideration. As a further complication: the key players, the President, and legislative neophytes Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Chief Economic Adviser Cohn are not familiar with the give and take involved in the legislative process, and continue to behave as though the Congress is a forum to make demands and power through until the other side caves.

The Administration’s tax overhaul proposal contains very little detail about the impact of the legislation on anticipated revenues gained and lost and the impact on the deficit in the short and long term. But facts still matter, and when taxes are being discussed and changes being made that affect most everyone in the country, individuals and businesses alike, legislative changes must be made in a fiscally responsible way based on the best information and analysis available.

The current lack of information and specificity appears to be an attempt at obfuscation and is drawing much commentary in the media. It is true that looking at something such as the tax overhaul proposal which has such potential large economic consequences does offer the real possibility to come to different conclusions based on the assumptions being made. A debate in the tax committees, hearings and testimony would help the legislators. For example, today’s news about inflation and the interest rate and the Federal Reserve Governors differing views illustrates this.

If the Republican Congress and the White House try to come up with a rewrite of the tax code and then attempt to ram through their proposition without consensus it is doomed to failure. Probably even more than with health care, everyone is affected in their pocket or on their ledger, from the highly paid Washington lobbyist to the tax payer just barely making ends meet, and every business in the economy, from Goldman Sachs executives to the small businessmen and women who are aware of how every tax affects their bottom line.

So, to close a loophole for one person is to create an additional tax liability for someone else. If the mortgage deduction is reduced, as an example, then the individual deduction would, all things being equal, be raised proportionally. Lowering statutory tax rates on businesses requires closing “loopholes” which means that someone who presently has the loophole will lose. Since tax cuts must be offset by revenue-raising measures, it matters greatly how the tax cut is paid for. Merely holding the line on increasing a deficit could mean there would be cuts in basic programs such as those for low and middle-income wage earners.

Two sacred cows that bring in considerable revenue are marked for extinction: the A.M.T. (alternative minimum tax) and the Estate Tax. Both proposals give more than a hint of who the beneficiaries will be. It was reported by the NYT on Sept 28, 2017, that the alternative minimum tax forced Mr. Trump to pay $31 million in additional taxes in 2005. The Estate Tax affects only the wealthy these days— estates worth more than $5.49 million ($10.98 million for a couple). Proposals for these sacred cows, if agreed to be eliminated, loom large because of the lost revenue which must then be made up in some other way. In other words, to benefit a few of the wealthy, there is a real possibility that the middle class and the poor would lose as the balance is tilted against them.

The dearth of information at this beginning stage about the effect of the tax reduction proposal could be deliberate, or it could reflect a lack of appreciation of how to propose legislation. For example: tax policy in America has contained an unwritten principle as reflected in the present code; progressivity—which means that the lowest tax rate which is for lower-income workers ranges from 10 percent, to the highest bracket for the very wealthy which is presently 39.6 percent. Nothing I have read so far pays any lip service or provides helpful information on this important point.

At some point in the legislative process, in order for a bill is taken seriously, the Congressional Budget Office undertakes the task of scoring the proposal, which simply means it is charged to put numbers to the proposal so the legislators will know the financial impact of what is being proposed, such as revenue gains or revenue losses. Doing the scoring came up during the health care debate and seemed an anathema to the Senate Majority Leader at least during its consideration.

All persons who are following the proposed rewrite of the tax code will need to be quite vigilant that the estimates are made by those reliable to make them. Trying to skirt this requirement and projecting positive economics because of the old saw that reducing revenue to business expands economic output just should not be allowed to happen. A good example follows of some of the hype used by proponents in the recent past. In an article in the NYTimes of 9/27/17 entitled Will Tax Holiday Generate Jobs? It Didn’t take a Decade Ago, Eduardo Porter writes that the tax break approved by a bipartisan majority in Congress in order to repatriate billions of dollars stashed overseas at 5.25 percent (instead of the corporate rate of 35 percent) was supposed to create more than 500,000 jobs in the US over the next two years. In point of fact, the jobs did not come in. The corporations who took advantage of the tax break did flow $299 billion in corporate earnings back, “but it did not result in an increase in domestic investment, domestic employment or R&D” the article states. “Promises, promises… ”

And just a word on bipartisanship. President Trump had dinner recently with “Chuck and Nancy” (the Senate and House Minority Leaders) at a time when things were unraveling over the debt ceiling: surprise! The President and Chuck and Nancy reached a deal that got everyone past the immediate crisis. As I write this there is news that a bipartisan group of legislators in the Senate who serve on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee have held hearings on stabilizing Obamacare insurance marketplaces, and have gathered input from some of their colleagues and are bargaining over the outlines of a deal which could stabilize the insurance marketplaces. Some reforms are being discussed, states would be given more freedom design and experiment, and even a lower level “copper” health insurance plan is being talked about. These events give me some hope—since if I learned one thing on the Hill it is when the members finally decide to do something and work together they find a way to do it.

I can only hope that today the Joint Committee on Taxation is as professional and competent as it was when I served on the Hill. At that time the committee had a deep bench of very able non-partisan staff headed by a Staff Director of impeccable credentials. Such experience and institutional memory are invaluable when taking on a task like tax reform or overhaul.

It seems almost inconceivable to me that the Republican Congressional leaders and the Administration would try yet again to legislate on a partisan basis. While I am very much in favor of improving the tax code and think it is long overdue, I just hate to think that so much effort could just be squandered by a group of Congressmen and the White House who appear not to have learned anything from their past failures, and who have not yet assumed the mantle of true leadership which requires working with everyone in order to achieve a result worthy of everyone’s best efforts.


Bob Ketcham served as the chief of staff of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology and staff director of the Fossil and Nuclear Energy Subcommittee during the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to those positions, he was Special Counsel to the House Select Committee on Committees chaired by Richard Bolling (D-MO).  He holds a BA and JD from Washington and Lee University as well as a SG from Harvard University’s Senior Managers in Government Program. He has lived on the Eastern Shore since 1999 with his wife, Caroline.

From South of Left Field: Political Drugs by Jimmie Galbreath

History is the unsung foundation to understanding politics. Not the history of names, dates and short little paragraphs taught in our schools today but history as the story; richer, deeper and alive. The connections between what is and what was are direct and real. It is the things we know little about that make it easy for us to be frightened and manipulated. It is real knowledge that gives us the courage to choose our own opinions rather than accept the opinions of others. Only babies should be spoon fed.

Poking around my mental closet of ‘common knowledge’ learned from childhood, another gem that changed over the years relates to governments in general. America was the gold standard Democracy and Russia and China the failing evil dictatorships because that is what a Communist government is. The Democracy I was taught was childish in its simplicity, and it remained that way for quite a number of years. Vietnam, Watergate and time opened the door to new research. What had my teachers failed to tell me?

Today Democracy means any government structure made up of elected representatives. Ooooh, impressive sounding, isn’t it. Then it got a little complicated. The Russian (Soviet and today) and Chinese governments have elected officials. Do we amend Democracy and say it must have more than one political party?

From there I began to read books on Soviet and Chinese modern history and moved on to ‘The Communist Manifesto.’ Much to my surprise both communism and socialism were not models of government but economic systems. The thrust behind these systems was to remove the wealth inequality that exists in a capitalistic economy. The philosopher Karl Marx proposed that the evolution of economic systems from slavery to feudalism to capitalism would continue on to communism. Communism as the next evolutionary step would remove private ownership of factories, mines, farms, etc. and all the people would own everything in common. The adjustment here was mind-bending. I have chased my tail around and around trying to comprehend how that economic system would work to produce the complex items we have today which requires resources from around the globe. I guess I am not evolved enough yet.

Looking for a government structure in this system I kept running into either ‘direct Democracy’ or ‘representative Democracy.’ You read that right; the ideal new economy still requires people to work together to reach decisions which still needs votes which is still Democracy. Imagine that.

‘Direct Democracy’ would be citizens voting directly for a law rather than having elected representatives such as our Congress to do it. That would be cumbersome. ‘Representative Democracy’ is what we already have! There is no dictatorship in communism or socialism if it is implemented exactly as the founders laid it out. Russia and China aren’t really communist because both have a capitalist economic system. Now folks, from here it is time to circle back to where we are today. The system laid down by Marx, Engels, and Lenin, while ideally eliminating income inequality requires that we all become selfless and totally trusting and sharing with each other for this to work. A level of social evolution that is clearly absent in our current leadership and largely lacking in our current society.

This may sound bleak, and I don’t mean for it to be. The range of forms of Democracy are amazingly broad. Our flavor of Democracy has changed since first established by the Constitution. Originally the States decided who could vote, and they generally allowed only white adult property-owning males to do so. Only members of the House of Representatives were elected directly. Senators were selected by the State House of Representatives for each state. The President was selected by an Electoral College. It was a pretty narrow Democracy compared to what we have today.

The thing about a Democracy is you can have a wide variety of voting rights and freedom, or very limited voting rights and few freedoms while still meeting the definition. It is not enough to say a country is a Democracy; rather one should say WHAT KIND of Democracy a country has.

Iran has all the organizations of a Democracy with elections. There is a Supreme Leader (Executive), Legislative (Parliament), Judiciary and an Assembly of Experts (legal and religious). The last organization has to approve anyone wanting to run for office. This version of Democracy is a Theocracy, and the State religion exerts tremendous power over the people and government. Our religious fundamentalists seek to move us down this path with rule by their religion rather than a political party. Hearing repeatedly statements that America is a Christian nation sends shivers down my spine as the Founders clearly had no such criteria in mind.

China has the Executive branch (President and State Council), Legislative (National People’s Congress), Judicial (Supreme People’s Court) but only one political Party is allowed. Once again control by a single entity with a restricted set of voters while still having the trappings of Democracy. It is ironic that the Party claims to be a communist Party despite the fact that capitalism is rampant there. There are no real communist or socialist economies as there are no countries without capitalism. Don’t believe me? Find a country without a corporation or a businessman. Good luck.

Today we have a democracy in America that follows the desires of wealthy families and corporations more than the will of the people. I am amused and repulsed listening to Republican politicians trying to sound humane while touting a medical industry solution to healthcare. Insisting that all Americans can afford decent healthcare from a corporation is an epic smoke and mirror act. Universal corporate healthcare is only universal for those who can afford it. This stance, profit over a healthy life, supports the idea that American Democracy is moving toward being an Oligarchy: a Democracy driven by a wealthy few placing the well-being of corporate wallets over the well-being of the general population.

There is no danger of communism or socialism overtaking America with anything other than a large scale revolution. Casting a national effort to secure a healthy life for all citizens as socialism is a baseless effort to paint a humane policy as something to be afraid of. Universal healthcare ends capitalism in the hospital where it should never have been allowed in the first place. It does not end capitalism overall. If caring for human life and quality of life is socialism then what does that say about capitalism’s goals in the hospital? Hint, the only thing a capitalist wants is money.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family-owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way, he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served three years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.