“Talk Sense to a Fool and He Calls you Foolish” by Joseph Prud’homme

When the moral perversity of the Hollywood culture-crats is bemoaned by modern liberals, I can’t help but exclaim, in the same way, Dionysus replied to Pentheus in the classic play The Bacchae: wisdom is foolish—most especially to a fool.

How foolish it was to think the very same men who gave us Magic Mike and Bad Moms—obscene filth with degraded trash on nearly every scene—could be paragons of moral virtue. Sleaze is what sleaze does. Only the fool fails to see.

Yet, mugged by recalcitrant reality (to paraphrase Irving Kristol), liberalism’s leading lights now denounce the predations of Harvey Weinstein and similarly sleazy scoundrels. But, I hasten to ask, how can liberals denounce with moral or intellectual consistency the depraved actions of Weinstein and his Hollywood hoodlums yet still praise the vile porn these men push in the malls and cineplexes, from Seattle to Sarasota? They can do so only by becoming even greater fools.

The greatest of fools, in fact.

Indeed, it was Chelsea Clinton’s favorite hack-site, Common Sense Media—a Hollywood-celebrating “review” rag purporting to “improve[e] the media landscape for kids and families”—that suborned moms to see the disgusting skin flick Bad Christmas Moms 2 with their teenage daughters. Yet Chelsea Clinton lionizes the (often quite necessary) #Metoo advocacy ascendant in the cultural zeitgeist.

It’s high time liberals not only decry the sexual perversities of the men who run the Hollywood movie houses, but also decry the very filth these men spew in theatres across the country. To condemn one without the other is to be blind to the toxic culture Hollywood pedals—and the negative consequences the smut they merchandize has on our nation’s moral conscience.

The pop-Media moguls and all the politicos dependent on their ill-gotten cash will no doubt cast me a prude for asserting a tight nexus between the smut these men pander and the vice these ogres live. However, the social science data on mainstream smut is staggering. Social psychologist Ross O’Hara, for example, has documented that highly sexualized content—especially when created or viewed in a mainstream setting and in the normalized context of a close circle of friends—has a powerful impact on one’s sense of propriety and forges sexual scripts in the minds of makers and viewers that heighten risks for aggressive and offensive behavior.

These men on the tops of the Hollywood Hills scarcely do much more than rehash smut upon smut upon smut. That that they should be smutty scumbags themselves only heightens a truism we all used to know, before these Titans of Titillation convinced us otherwise: “monkey see”—your mother, your minister, your teacher knew too well—“monkey do.” Indeed, it was no unctuous preachiness that led St. Paul to instruct all individuals of moral seriousness to “set one’s eyes on higher things.”

Proverbs, moreover, tells us that “doing wrong is like a joke to a fool.” “Oh, it’s all escapist fun; it’s simply raunchy humor”:

The last refuge of a Hollywood porn pusher—and a sexual harasser—or worse. Proverbs, however, also reminds us that “the wise will inherit honor, but fools only get disgrace.”

Better words scarcely have been spoken.

Joseph Prud’homme is a professor at Washington College, and founder of the school’s Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture. He lives with his wife and family in Easton, Maryland. 

From South of Left Field: Trajectory – Be the Message by Jimmie Galbreath

Life, governments, societies, and organizations are all moving constantly along a trajectory. People have trajectories too. Since the only constant is change, we have no choice but to follow some kind of evolving path. Like the shark, we must remain in motion to live.

Much has been made of voting to ‘send a message.’ I have a question for the reader. Given a choice would you rather cast a single vote as a message or actually be the message yourself every day?

Not marching all over the place carrying signs, not writing innumerable emails and letters, not making phone calls or canvassing. Make yourself the message around the clock by making occasional single acts which combined with many others can become an irresistible force in politics. No worries about tear gas, police violence or arrest. It doesn’t take much time out of your life and calls for only a slight effort on voting day and a little attention in between. Write only when you wish and march only if inspired.

This path has not been followed in over one hundred years. It is a new experience, and it would scare the bejesus out of Washington and all the lap dogs that populate it. It isn’t illegal, in fact, it is what the Founding Fathers envisioned so long ago.

I am tired of living on the political treadmill that has been created by the politicians to wear us out and divert us. The very fact that so many of us want to be heard and yet feel that we aren’t important is telling us something. Stop thinking about it and just listen to your gut reactions. If you share my feelings of despair, anger, and disgust and find yourselves seized by a sense of helplessness, then we are together.

Our government is made of two parties that, like the laws they vote on, have so woven the turds with the tulips that it seems nothing generally desirable ever makes it into law. The issues thrown out by these parties are an artful balance that keeps us focused on just one thing because we have been conditioned to believe that only one thing can ever be done at a time. Since when are we so mentally deficient that we can’t see a larger picture? Why would any of us choose to believe that? Are we really completely satisfied with a sound bite or a meme? Have we been trained that well? I don’t believe it!

The growing anger and activism by both ends of the imaginary line the politicians play on reflect the gut sense that we are being betrayed. Let me say again, the IMAGINARY line. Right wing and left wing. Who decided this? The desire to have a path for going up the ladder isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘left’ anything. The desire to have a way to support our children going to college or training a marketable skill isn’t a right or left thing. Improving our safety by replacing desperation with hope isn’t a right or left thing. Who else feels manipulated? Who actually trusts a politician? I stepped outside my world for a moment and realized that I didn’t trust them, yet I listened to them and voted for them. I felt foolish.

How many of you have ever picked a candidate before they appeared in front of you in a primary? Who picked them? Why were they picked?

Our political system like our stock market is rigged to favor the elite class and restrain us. We can play at them but the game is rigged to favor the upper class. Occasionally someone breaks the ceiling, but it happens less and less. Does this image ring true to you? If these words paint a picture that feels true then what do we do with it? How can it be changed?

The laws and actions that fill the news can be changed. Every tax, every law, every regulation can be changed or reserved by those who have votes in Congress. Even the way the weaving of turds and tulips is done can be prevented by new laws. Our problem as common citizens is that we don’t have an organization free of control by the upper class to listen to us. The biggest problem is that we have been taught to wait on ‘the party’ to put up a candidate. We have been taught to wait on a leader to step forward. Don’t look to any other organizations outside the Republican or Democratic parties to respond to us no matter how they actually don’t respond to us. Do you feel they respond to you?

A new trajectory requires a new organization. Both parties today are dealing with ‘progressive’ movements that garnered the support of people screaming for something new. Both groups of ‘new’ voters rose like a newly formed and young army, and both are bleeding out their energy and focus by assaulting the existing organizations head-on. I don’t believe reforming these parties will yield results. They belong to the upper class, they are supported by the upper class, and they have a long, long history of going against the common voter on behalf of the upper class. It is sad to say we can’t outvote them with dollars. Income inequality is making sure of that. We can however out vote them. It is our only real power.

We need to deny these parties the only thing we have that they cannot do without. Votes. Find another party and join it. Join it in large numbers and use your votes within the party to select the new leaders that will step forward. Organize where the elite class has not established itself, then deny them entry. Don’t be put off by the quality of the old candidates because they can be replaced by new leaders who will follow the votes or arise from the new organization.

Find a party and be the message by not belonging to the old parties. Be dedicated to the new and don’t support the old. Remain firm in the new party and vote for it wherever you can. A large shift in registration and voting will drive change. Courage and focus by us all can shake Washington to the very ground. Don’t allow yourselves to be limited by just one issue. Hold a wider vision and reject anyone who says you can’t get more than one thing at a time. Be the message. Be the change.

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: The Dumbing Down of Smart Growth will Fail to Preserve MD Landscape by Tom Horton

If you’re not yet worried about Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s abandonment of Smart Growth, you might want to read a new study on how Dumb Growth could cost Frederick County taxpayers some half a billion bucks.

First, a brief Smart Growth primer (which was once available on the Maryland Department of Planning’s website — until the website and department became a joke under Hogan): Smart Growth is the antithesis of sprawl, which is development outside areas planned and built for growth. Sprawl gobbles open space, increases air and water pollution, and costs more in new services than it ever offsets with taxes from new residents.

Sprawl, or Dumb Growth, can work politically, though, at least for a while. You just call it Economic Growth, or just Growth, which sounds fine to many people, especially bankers and developers and pavers and homebuilders — all of whom are good at electing candidates who’ll butter their bread.

That’s the way it worked in Frederick County for several years, until a more progressive slate of county officials took over in 2015 and began toting up the cost of “progress” under the former regime.

An August 2017 report done for Jan Gardner, the county executive, examined developments in the pipeline that will create 21,000 new housing units in the county, adding 50,000 new residents, 10,000 of them school age.

The fiscal bottom line: Taxpayers will fork out $340 million for roads and another $167 million for schools beyond anything that was planned or budgeted for, the county spokesman said.

A number of these developments also lock the county into agreements for up to 25 years, so that even if zoning gets stricter or developer fees are raised, the presently approved growth remains exempt.

The Frederick experience illustrates the perils of poorly planned residential growth, as well as the fallacy of believing it generates enough new revenue in property taxes to outweigh the demands it makes on government services.

This was one of the reasons that Maryland, under Gov. Parris Glendening in the 1990s, became a pioneer in pushing Smart Growth. Martin O’Malley, who preceded Hogan as governor, added teeth to Smart Growth in 2012 with a landmark law sharply limiting new development in areas that are predominantly farm and forest.
That law did not literally usurp traditional county power over land use; rather it dramatically curtailed, across rural landscapes, the use of septic tanks, on which sprawl development depends.

The law in recent years has begun to make a difference, and a major reason was the vigilance and “jawboning” of the Department of Planning, combined with the assistance it provided to counties in complying.

That threatens to unravel under Hogan, who announced in August to the Maryland Association of Counties that “Plan Maryland,” as O’Malley’s version of Smart Growth was called, “is off the books.” He was putting land use “back into the hands of local authorities,” Hogan said to applause.

The governor has also made it easier to develop using septic tanks again and given Cecil County a pass on complying with the 2012 anti-sprawl law.

He has not overtly tried to repeal the law itself, but in addition to Cecil, at least three more of Maryland’s 23 counties — Wicomico, Allegany and Queen Anne’s — have adopted plans or are pushing developments counter to the law.

But nothing is stopping any county whose citizens want to grow smartly. Charles County in Southern Maryland is a shining example after a six-year campaign to overturn a ruinous development plan.

As of 2016, Charles finalized a plan that stopped an estimated 339 major subdivisions on septic across 88,000 acres of open space. It also stopped about 123 new subdivisions in watersheds designated high water quality.

The new plan finally protects Mattawoman Creek, one of the Chesapeake’s best fish habitats; saves an estimated $2 billion on new roads; and cuts projected population growth in the next 30 years from 75,000 to 37,000.

Several Maryland counties have excellent compliance with the anti-sprawl law, while several others remain a mixed bag. For information on your county, contact 1000 Friends of Maryland, a statewide environmental land use group.

Rating Gov. Hogan environmentally is complicated by the reality that he is a tree hugger compared with national Republicans and the Trump administration, which set the lowest of bars.

He’s been good by any measure in important areas like Program Open Space, the state’s premier land preservation effort, and in aspects of air quality, such as greenhouse gas reductions. His transportation programs, though, remain far too road-improvement oriented, as opposed to pushing mass transit and mobility.

His environmental secretary, Ben Grumbles, gets high marks from environmentalists. His natural resources secretary, Mark Belton, might be good if nastier Hogan appointees would butt out of managing Bay fisheries.

The governor got a “needs improvement” grade on his 2017 report card from the Maryland League of Conservation voters; that’s the next to lowest of five ratings the group gives.

Hogan remains popular and has a good shot at re-election in 2018. But if the housing economy picks up, I fear a return to major sprawl development. In his re-election bid, the governor will face tougher questions about Smart Growth than he’s gotten so far.

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.

Op-Ed: Shore Residents should Save the Historic Tax Credit by Nicholas Redding and Katie Parks

Caught up in the current effort to reform the federal tax code is a critical program that has completed nearly $25 million worth of rehabilitated historic buildings on Maryland’s Eastern Shore since 2002. The Federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) is a 20% credit on the cost of rehabilitating a historic building and is a powerful and efficient tool for revitalizing our nation’s small towns and cities.

For every $1 invested by the federal government, the program attracts nearly $4 in private investment. Better yet, for every $1 in credits, the program returns $1.20 to the federal treasury – actually yielding a profit for the government. The results have been stunning and have changed the outlook for many communities.

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore the program has a long history of revitalizing communities while also saving important historic buildings. Since 2002, in Easton alone the program has incentivized the rehabilitation of $10 million worth of buildings – from main street shops to former industrial buildings. A perfect example is the McCord Laundry facility, home to the Eastern Shore Conservation Center – a mixed-use campus of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and apartments. In Cambridge, the program is supporting the rebirth of Race Street, providing critical equity to make the rehabilitation of the Hearn Hardware Building a reality. The formerly vacant and crumbling building will now host market rate apartments and first floor retail space; yet another positive outcome thanks to the Historic Tax Credit.

Elsewhere in Cambridge, the Historic Tax Credit is incentivizing an ambitious and potentially catalytic project that will convert the vacant Phillips Packing Co.’s Factory F into a hub of commerce, industry, and education. Without the Historic Tax Credit and the New Market Tax Credit program, which is also seriously threatened, tackling difficult projects like this in rural communities would not be possible.
Repeal of the Historic Tax Credit should be of grave concern for anyone who cares about the future of the Eastern Shore’s charming small towns and cities. Reuse of historic buildings will plummet and investment in downtowns will become increasingly cost prohibitive. In turn, property values will sink and local coffers will suffer as property tax revenue plummets. New construction will move to the fringes of communities – resulting in more sprawl and the subsequent loss of farmland. Fortunately, this is a future we can avoid.

Organizations and municipalities all across the state and the Shore are calling on Congress to save the Historic Tax Credit. It’s also a rare opportunity for bipartisan agreement – it was a favorite program of President Ronald Reagan and has been championed by Republican and Democratic leaders alike in this latest tax reform debate. Eastern Shore residents should reach out to Congressman Harris and let him know they support preservation of our historic properties and investment in our towns.

Nicholas Redding & Katie Parks

Nicholas Redding is the Executive Director of Preservation Maryland, the nation’s second oldest statewide preservation organization.Twitter: @PreservationMD. Katie Parks is the Director of Conservation at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, a land conservation and community development non-profit organization. Twitter: @EShoreLandC

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.