Our DisAsta by Sandy Cannon-Brown

I can’t help myself.  When someone posts a cute dog video on Facebook, I have to play it. I smile or laugh.  I relax, and relaxing is not something that comes naturally to a person who needs a plus sign on Type A. Yesterday my mood changer was a video of a golden retriever lying on its back in an exercise class doing the same bicycle leg movements as the Spandex-clad humans.

Dogs make me happy. I can’t pass one on the street without asking the owner if I may say, “Hi,” which is spoken with a stupid grin as I stroke a furry chin and coo.

My own dog, Asta (named after the dog star of the Thin Man series in the 1930s and 40s), is a 5-year-old standard poodle. She is uniquely colored with a cream-colored body and ears that are striped black and silver.  Her eyelashes are long, absurdly long – her signature feature. She is boisterous and energetic, adjectives that should be preceded by adverbs such as very or extremely. When she was a puppy, we had her on Prozac after a conversation with our vet that went like this: “Are all poodles this hyper?” “No, I’d say Asta is in the top one percent.”  Congratulations.

My husband and I were (okay, we are) workaholics.  We never found time for kids or pets. But when we semi-retired at 65, we decided we could raise a dog.  Omer does not like cats, so the pet had to be a dog, and one who did not shed. That requirement greatly limited breeds.  My family had a poodle, and although I was away at college and later far from home for most of her life, my filtered memory told me Brigitte was the perfect dog.  But life was different then. I lived in a suburban neighborhood in a small Indiana town where kids and dogs were let out to play and called in only to eat and sleep. Now, in a gated community, dogs must be well-behaved, and on a leash beyond their yards bounded by electrified, invisible fences.  (The architectural committee does not allow actual fences.)

Asta must be reminded about the invisible fence every once in a while.  She gets zapped; we cringe at what we’re doing to our baby. But it works.  For months, she remembers what happens when she leaves our yard.

Boundaries, however, do not keep her from barking.  She barks at squirrels and bunnies and other animals she wants out of her yard. She barks at dogs on our walks with whom she wants to play. She barks at the neighbors to announce her presence and to demand they come see her. She barks at anyone who comes to the house.  She barks to let us know she wants to go out, eat, or play. She barks to tell us we have ignored her for more than 10 minutes.

Many dog owners would say, “Oh for God’s sake, stupid people, dogs do not have to bark!”  True. We do have a bark collar, another Taser in her world. But we sometimes enjoy the conversations we have with a very smart dog. She knows many words in our language and we know several words in Poodle Bark, which – unfortunately – is a blaring language.

Regrettably, she ignores most of the words she understands if there is a distraction of any kind.  Because people are a distraction, they only see – and hear – an obnoxious dog. When no one else is around, and we’re paying attention to her, we marvel at her understanding.  Yesterday, I was working in my upstairs office while my husband was downstairs napping. I said, “Asta, go downstairs and take a nap with Daddy.” She cocked her head in the position that indicates she’s trying to understand, then went downstairs to our bedroom and jumped on the bed.  She knows the words “downstairs,” “nap,” and “Daddy.” I don’t know if she actually put all three together or just heard “nap,” a word that always prompts her to go to the bed.

If she comes in muddy, I’ll say, “shower,” and she goes directly to the shower in our master bath.  If you inadvertently say “people” or “coming” in a sentence, she starts barking and goes to the front door or jumps on the sofa where she can look out the front window.  We have a new gazebo that I have dubbed the “little house.” I tell her we’re going to the “little house” and she goes straight there from our back door (unless there is the slightest distraction).

She never jumps up on counters or the table to get food, and even refrains from getting into her dog-treat basket that she could easily reach.  Instead, she fetches a toy that holds a treat and brings it to us to fill. Conversely, if we hold up a treat and tell her to “go fetch,” she will bring us the toy that holds that particular treat.

Right now, she is lying at my feet as I type at the computer.  She will be an angel until I dare stand up, which signals I might want to play with her.   Or, she will stay put until I say I have to print something. She is terrified of the printer, and somehow just the word “print” alerts her that the monster machine is about to roar, and she runs downstairs.

She’s learned words in our language, so we’ve tried to learn words in hers. Our goal for the future is for both parents and dog to master sign language.  “Stay,” “sit,” “down,” and “come” are about all we’ve accomplished in sign. We’re working on, “Shhh.”

For now, we have a dog with a bark only a mother could love.  Apologies to everyone else.

Sandy Cannon-Brown is an environmental filmmaker. She has made two films, Beautiful Swimmers Revisited and High Tide in Dorchester, with writer Tom Horton and photographer Dave Harp.  A third, An Island Out of Time, about Smith Island will premiere October 13 at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum during the Chesapeake Film Festival. Sandy and her husband, Omer Brown, live in Asta’s house in St. Michaels. 


Fading Fear Factor? By Craig Fuller

There is plenty being written and discussed about what happened during and following the meeting between President Trump and President Putin. Truthfully, humiliating as the statements, misstatements and corrections are, little has changed.

No fewer missiles exist. No troops have been moved. No reduction of suffering in Syria has been experienced.

What has shifted are the political winds in Washington, D.C.

Some leaders persuade by the strength of their arguments and rhetoric. Like it or not, President Trump uses fear.

He attacks foes with abandon. He denounces elected officials who defy him. And, he endorses candidates who support him opposing those who dare to disagree with him even in his own party.

This approach left the nation with Republican leaders of the House and Senate, where the party currently holds narrow majorities, with a dilemma. Often unsure about what the President’s policy preferences are and pretty certain they will change on a whim, the leaders hesitated opposition or even criticism out of fear. Lack of clarity, challenging as it might make the governing process, was far better than encountering the wrath of the complainer in chief.

That changed this week.

Consider these factors:

Are concerned Republicans and Independents more supportive of the President at the end of the week than they were at the beginning of the week?

Are incumbent Republican officeholders feeling more obliged or less obliged to voice unqualified support for the President at the end of the week?

Are conservative Republican incumbents who have been in lock-step with President Trump feeling more vulnerable or less vulnerable from challengers in the upcoming elections?

Finally, are potential Republican challengers to President Trump in 2020 feeling more embolden or less embolden to take on the sitting President?

My view: none of these questions can objectively be answered in a way helpful to the President.

Now, one bad (let’s make that very bad) week in July is a long way from November 2018 when voters will be asked to vote on all 435 House members and a third of the members of the United State Senate. However, it is very hard for me to see how the missteps of this week don’t play into the Fall elections. And, this is not good news for the Administration.

Look for more Congressional races to get close, or even tilt to the party out of power – the Democrats.

Look for more Republicans to feel disconnected from their party….yes, there will be strong and vocal supporters for the President, but 25% of the Republican vote will not be enough to keep safe Republicans safe.

Most of all, look for Republican leaders who have spent years trying to work through serious issues like immigration, health care, trade and our national defense and intelligence structures to find themselves caring far less about the utterances coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Putin may not have been moved one iota this week, but the political winds in Washington shifted big time. As for how long, to quote the President’s favorite expression, “we’ll see.”

Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore with his wife Karen.

Grievance by Al Sikes

Grievance, overtime, becomes debilitating. It was the translation key to yesterday’s performance of President Trump.

Trump, whose sense of grievance has captured his presidency, was disgraceful in the conduct we know about during his Helsinki talks with Vladimir Putin. He has descended along a dangerous emotional spectrum as his sense of grievance has festered. He doesn’t even trust his appointees. The intelligence agencies are led by his appointees yet he dismisses their findings or pits them against Russian claims as if he is an arbitrator, not the leader of what has been the most consequential country in the world.

Vladimir Putin leads a nation that often feeds on grievance. His responses in an interview with Chris Wallace demonstrated that he can convert grievance into clever propaganda. It is hard to know how most Americans might treat his assertions, as most of us devote little time to actually thinking about Russia. Of course, policy driven by grievance is not helping Russia.

Trump in the aftermath of the talks did an interview with his toady Sean Hannity; illuminating. Putin sat down with Chris Wallace; Wallace’s Dad Mike would have been proud. Within the limitations (sequential translation), Wallace was excellent.

As I type, all of the Trump appointees who have much to do with intelligence collecting and analyzing are still in office. There have been no resignations, even though Trump gave their intelligence work no higher standing than Putin’s allegations.

One of my lessons from working in Washington is that many people who occupy the ranks of the political bureaucracy are just happy to be there. They busy themselves day in and day out with self-important motion and often in the evening are honored guests at dinner parties. They get to read about themselves in the paper and count on the office they hold to burnish their resume. As one friend noted, “what’s not to like.”

America is now headed by a person who perceives himself as a strong man, even as his weaknesses sap his strength on a daily basis. He is largely served by appointees who are so weak that apparently no insult will dislodge them. Jeff Sessions has been publically berated by Trump for over a year yet remains Attorney General. Fortunately, the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, is strong and does not cower.

As I have noted before, the Congress makes laws and appropriates money. Trump can do neither. Executive orders can easily be rescinded and agreements with other countries that are not ratified by the US Senate by a two-thirds vote, terminated.

Finally, there are many leadership lessons from the actions of the last several weeks. Trump acted as a responsible President in the selection of a Supreme Court nominee; I encouraged Trump to study Trump’s orderly process. Now I would encourage Trump to study Putin. While I am no fan of Putin or grievance-driven policy, I find his ability to voice grievance and make the best of it a lesson for those who cannot let go.

As our country has survived in the aftermath of assassinations and scandals, it will ride out Trump’s tenure with an assist from those who crafted our nation’s Constitution.

Postscript: Robert Mueller, the Independent Counsel, has taken a number of concrete actions, most recently announcing indictments of Russian agents, who it is alleged hacked into the Democrat National Committee server, among other things.

In my view he has had time to determine whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. This charge is the most important and its lack of resolution is toxic.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

The Establishment, Russia, and Trump by David Montgomery

President Trump’s critics were beside themselves in the days before his meeting with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin. A campaign to smear the President for his relations with Russia was in full swing, with writers calling him a traitor and “bought and sold” by Putin. The campaign rolled out speculations, accusations, rhetorical inventions and outright prevarications, but was remarkably short on specifics.

What most clearly disproves these deranged claims is the fact that the sanctions imposed and continued by Trump are doing serious damage to the Russian economy. That, to me, is far more important than the verbal denunciations or personal cold-shoulders that his critics seem to believe that Trump should be directing at Putin. As if Putin would care.

After the news conference, the President’s detractors really hit their stride, without any idea of what was actually said in the one-on-one meeting. They ignored all the potentially real progress that was made on other important issues in order to focus their bile on the President’s refusal to harangue his counterpart in public over election meddling.

The prejudgment of Trump’s performance at the meeting is exemplified by the thoroughly wacky claim by the avatar of the foreign policy establishment David Rothkopf that “the way Trump and the GOP deal with Russian attacks is ‘textbook treason.’’ To get there Rothkopf redefines acts of war to include snooping into electoral campaign emails, then calls the President a traitor for failing to denounce the perpetrators as stridently as Rothkopf would like. His evidence of this is the “ill-considered and unnecessary private meeting with Vladimir Putin” coming up this month.

Normally writing for a house organ of the deranged left like the Daily Beast, where this appeared, would be beneath an establishment type like Rothkopf. His willingness to do so just demonstrates how deeply that establishment is opposed to Donald Trump, and how far it is willing to debase itself in order to get him out of office.

Rothkopf’s indictment is summed up in his underlined statement that: “A hostile foreign power intervened in our election to help elect a man president who has since actively served their interests and has defended them at every turn.” With the last clause, Rothkopf switched from wackiness to out and out falsehood.

Then there is the Never-Trump Republican Michael Gerson who claims that Trump “acts precisely as though he has been bought and sold by a strategic rival.” Ignoring the reality of President Trump’s actions, Gerson sails off into fantasy with speculations about President Trump’s motivations:

Does it come from Trump’s bad case of authoritarianism envy? A fundamental sympathy with European right-wing, anti-democratic populism? An exposure to pressure from his checkered financial history? There are no benign explanations, and the worst ones seem the most plausible.

With this warmup, it was clear that anything Trump said or did after the meeting would be leapt upon by those whose prejudice had already been made clear. But the facts about actions taken by the President give the lie to any claim that he has been “bought and sold” or has “defended [Russia] at every turn.”

These are some of President Trump’s actions toward Russia:

Since 2017, he has applied additional and more onerous sanctions to the Russian energy sector and to key members of the criminal gang that Putin depends on for survival. These sanctions have been serious and effective. The Russian ruble and stock market dropped by 10% after the last round of sanctions were announced on April 6, and have since recovered only because of rising oil prices that would otherwise have driven them far higher.

Independent sources estimate that isolating and weakening Russia’s energy sector – its only globally viable industry – and restricting Russia’s access to the global financial sector will reduce Russian GDP by over 10%. Those are not slaps on the wrist and not what a President in the pocket of foreign interests would do.

He expelled an unprecedented number of Russian “diplomats” and orchestrated parallel actions by U.S. allies in response to Russian poisoning of a former KGB agent and his daughter.

He authorized calculated and effective air strikes to punish Assad’s poison gas attacks in Syria, and in an even more “in your face” move authorized attacks that succeeded in killing 200 Russian military personnel posing as “military contractors.”

At the European summit, he put pressure on those countries to abandon their planned investments in a natural gas pipeline that would benefit the Russian natural gas industry and harm European energy security. For this he was criticized by the same pundits who claim he is soft on Russia.

Going back to 2017, President Trump reversed Obama’s military abandonment of Poland, ignoring Russian saber-rattling. He approved the sale of lethal weapons to Ukraine — Javelin missiles effective against Russian tanks — something else Obama could not bring himself to do.

Just as increased military spending under President Trump shifts the power balance in US favor vis a vis Russia, his insistence that other NATO members pay their promised share will ultimately strengthen the alliance. Every President since George H.W. Bush has tried to accomplish the same, so that the idea that Trump is “destroying NATO” by demanding an end to free-riding by countries well able to pay is ludicrous.

Finally, he appointed Michael Bolton, the strongest hawk on Russia to be found, to be his national security advisor, and Mike Pompeo, his current Secretary of State, has consistently spoken out against Russian aggression. They were present in Helsinki.

The anti-Trump bandwagon never mentioned these facts in its attacks.

After the press conference, it just got worse. Anderson Cooper became the hero of the anti-Trump bandwagon by calling it “the most disgraceful performance by an American President” – though as usual what he had in mind was far from clear.

What no one mentioned is that both Trump and Putin made clear in the press conference that all issues of concern were discussed. They mentioned Syria and cooperation on terrorism explicitly, and that they had a long discussion of Russian interference in the last election.

No other result should have been expected. Abject apologies were not going to be offered by Putin, and no President would be foolish enough to attempt to extract them. Nor was there any reason for Trump to imitate the buffoons who ran the Soviet Union before its collapse by pounding his shoe on the table and haranguing his counterpart in public.

How this adds up the most disgraceful performance by a President is unfathomable. Diplomacy done well is not done for an audience of reporters. For all we know, Trump’s conversation with Putin could have been a strong – and even vulgar – explanation of the consequences if there were any future Russian meddling in our elections.

Thus all there was for the press to latch on to was the President’s unfortunate mention of the Mueller investigation and his statement that there was “no collusion.” The President’s use of the word “collusion” seems to have strained the vocabulary of his critics. They twisted his words to make it appear that he exonerated Russia from the charge of meddling in our elections: based on President Trump’s past usage of the word, it is clear that he was only reiterating that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russian hackers. Indeed, by putting it that way he implicitly acknowledged that some parties in Russia did interfere with the election.

The concentration of the press on this topic seems planned. From Schumer to Rothkopf, his critics attacked the President for failing to cancel the meeting in light of the indictment of 26 Russian spies.

This elevation of the importance of those indictments is particularly disingenuous.

The public announcement of the indictments makes it certain that the culprits will never be caught and punished.

Friends who have done this themselves tell me that the normal tactic of a serious prosecutor would be to obtain sealed indictments and then lure the suspects to a country where they could be detained and extradited. The failure of the Mueller team to do this suggests that the indictments were a political stunt from the very beginning. If so, Trump wisely did not take the bait.

The smoke screen laid down by Trump’s critics over this issue – no doubt aided by some of his more unfortunate ways of communicating – obscures the potential good outcomes of his meeting with Putin. No meeting addressing so many topics could possibly reach final agreement on any. The outcome to hope for is that it will identify and start a process on some. It did. The topic that stands out to me is Syria. Any reports of these promising results were drowned out by the howls over the President’s failure to castigate Putin in public.

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu also visited Putin recently, and Haaretz, the Israeli equivalent of the Washington Post, speculated that his goal was a deal with Putin to get Iran out of Syria and to guarantee a return to the pre-civil war status quo with Assad. That would not be a bad thing. Getting rid of Assad is likely to make circumstances worse in Syria, if primary goals are toleration for minorities, ending fighting and repatriating refugees. Even if there is no way for the good guys to finally win, sometimes we can keep them from losing.

President Trump’s intervention may be encouraging Putin to work toward Netanyahu’s proposal, according to their statements in the press conference. That outcome would simultaneously end fighting and protect Israel’s security. If it happens, Trump would have accomplished far more by pretending to be friendly than he could have by adopting the grandstanding tactics his hypocritical opponents wanted.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy. He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America, David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

Out and About (Sort of): Alice in Wonderland by Howard Freedlander

Suppose, just suppose, that a political strategy focused solely on civility. If you’re not mean to me, I won’t be mean to me. If you don’t throw darts, I won’t throw them. We’ll simply stress policy differences grounded in fact and record, not distortion and innuendo.

No sooner did the gubernatorial primary elections conclude on June 26, 2018, than Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic challenger Ben Jealous went for the jugular. Of course, they did. They needed to appeal immediately to their base supporters and raise money and interest.

They needed to set their marks: I will attack and set the agenda; I will define you.  That’s how the game is played. No time for niceties.

So, back to fantasyland.

Through some unexpected and unworldly stroke of reconciliation, Hogan and Jealous would tell us their top priorities, and how they would accomplish them. No mud-slinging. Just wonkish details and rationale.

Sounds boring, doesn’t it? Are you (this optimistic writer) crazy, living in a world inhabited by goody two-shoes people who don’t understand that politics is a contact sport fought by people who understand that magnanimity belongs in church or a book group, not in electoral combat?

More and more I hear people say they no longer read the paper or watch the TV news regularly. They say they are tired of strife and dissidence. They want a break from unsettling, upsetting news. They prefer reading a book.

Or doing anything to ignore the onslaught of infuriating information.

Allow me to admit a tinge of hypocrisy. I sometimes have found myself subconsciously urging a politician to take off the gloves and verbally pummel his or her opponent. That usually unspoken advice has nothing to do with civility, a concept I constantly espouse. It has no connection to the better angels I applauded in a past column. It’s just a guttural feeling. I don’t feel proud of this periodic outbreak of antagonistic thoughts.

My tack this time is different. I’m suggesting that a candidate “out-nice” an opponent. I suggest engaging in no personal attack. I suggest occupying the proverbial high ground and avoid sinking into the depths of dishing dirt and damnation.

It’s possible the heat has affected my thinking. It’s possible the murder of five journalists at the Annapolis Capital Gazette has softened my soul; another mass shooting and pervasive community grief have caused me to think about the emptiness of political combat. It’s possible that a visit to the Talbot County Fair, briefly watching the goat judging, prompted me to value simplicity.

Reality sets in quickly. Discord and condemnation underscore the political process. It’s always been true. Competition breeds contempt.

The public, while fatigued by non-stop partisanship and bickering, subliminally enjoy the rancor and recrimination. Gladiators thrill the masses.

Civility is tough to achieve. Tougher to sustain. It’s easier to choose our camp, our corner in the ring, and then continue to swing away. Our side will be victorious. Concession and conciliation are for the weak. The fight goes on.

I’ll keep hoping for compromise and civil discourse. I’ll try to control my contradictory impulse to win at any cost. It’s not worth it.

I welcome your comments. I suspect a pervasive response will be: “You must be deranged, driven by fantasy and foolishness.”

That reaction would be understandable.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.


Mid-Shore Arts: Getting Them When They’re Young with Mike Elzey

The way Mike Elzey, owner of Mike Elzey’s Guitar Studio, sees it, learning to play an instrument, such as guitar, can only make you a good guitar player. Which is why he hopes to inspire his students with something he can’t really teach them; the talent to become musicians. In the process, Elzey feels they will also pick up valuable life lessons.

“Some kids have never played music with others and when they do they learn social skills and how to compromise. “During class, I’ll hear: ‘I don’t like Johnny’s song,’ and I tell them, ‘Well, Johnny doesn’t like your song selection either, get over it so you can just play.’ Kids today are used to doing their own thing. We’ve become too fragmented. I’d like to change that.”

The change, he wants to be involved in is to offer instructions in a multitude of instruments (including voice), motivate his students to form a band, and find them a showcase where they could perform. That is the reason, Elzey says, he started the band camps with help from other talented musicians, including Jordon Stanley and Quinn Parsley.

“The problem,” Stanley says, “is that the musicians in our community are all over 25 years of age. There is no place where those who are younger can go to be motivated.” Stanley was inspired to pick up drums after watching the movie Drumline when he was 9, an age he considers ‘pretty late to start.’ He’s never stopped playing and now, besides being a studio musician, performs in church and with several bands including the Front Porch Orchestra, and Blackwater.

Parsley, also plays with the Front Porch Orchestra, for theater productions, at Christ Church of Easton, and for “anyone who is paying.” He knows the importance of working with young musicians. “It’s a great outlet through which children can express themselves.” A multi-instrumentalist, Paisley began playing at 15 after his parents bought him an acoustic guitar for $5 at a yard sale. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Salisbury University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in classical guitar.

Elzey’s love of music began at an early age, as well. He remembers attending a battle of the bands in high school when he was 14 and watching the reaction of the crowds. He ended up joining the group. “Suddenly, I went from nothing to a Rock Star.” He knew, even then, that this something he wanted others to experience.

Despite Elzey’s talent and interest, once school ended he married and accepted a position in a start-up manufacturing company. He filled the musical void by teaching guitar to a few students and playing with a band on the weekend. After many successful years that included a corporate merger, he decided to make a change. “I knew I wanted to give something back to the community. My wife and I didn’t have kids, but it was clear to me that anything I did would have to involve children and music. I used the business skills I acquired in my previous job, gave myself 6 months to succeed at the end of which I had 25 students. We hired another teacher, and a year later we had more students than we could handle.” That was 30 years ago.

Currently, Elzey owns two studios in Cambridge and two in Easton, while also teaching at Seaford Music in Seaford, Delaware and performing in local area bands. But, it is the future that excites him the most, a future that will allow him to introduce the love of music to his students.

This is no easy task. At a time when nationwide there is a decline in the number of children learning to play guitar, bass, drums, or keyboards. When songs are being recorded using computerized instruments and autotuned voices, and children are busy with other activities. “We can’t compete with video games, and we can’t compete with sports. If the child does not have the drive or the passion, parents don’t make their kids practice the homework we give them,” says Stanley.

Instilling that drive and passion is what it is all about for Elzey, one child at a time. This is how it usually happens, he says: “Gina sings and likes Nirvana, Ryan plays guitar loves Nirvana and is learning their songs and Eli drums to Green Day who everyone likes. And I think, let’s get you guys together.” That’s how his school was invited to play at Talbot First Night and how a band called Jinxed was formed and how they all played at the Avalon Theater to an appreciative audience. And that’s why the school has been invited to the Caroline Summerfest in Denton in August. “I want other kids to see our musicians and get inspired, as I did. I want to hear: ‘mommy, I want to play drums, too. ‘ ”

Says Parsley. “I enjoy working with younger musicians because it allows me to help build an even stronger musician community for the future. It also allows me to show music to kids that they may have never heard. They may run into such classic bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, but there are many great lesser-known bands out today that also deserve appreciation like Vulfpeck, Whitney, and Moon Child. Through learning how to play music, kids can also gain a greater appreciation for the artistry that goes into making the music they like.”

Elzey agrees. “Quinn and Jordon are younger and have a different perspective. I’ve got great help, I’ve got great space and we’re all ready. What we all agree on is that if we can get kids involved in a band and with other musicians, they grow to love their instrument. It’s my mission to do all we can to encourage and promote children playing instruments Maybe we can make a difference in the community. I want to look back and know we’ve made a difference; I want to see people in our community say: ‘look at all the musicians we have here.’ “

Summer Music camps are being offered throughout the summer.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Breaking Takes on the News by Al Sikes

Breaking Takes on the News

Supreme Court Nominee

A fair number of my Republican friends voted for Donald Trump because of a Supreme Court vacancy and the likelihood of retirements. Their rationale has been affirmed by the President in the orderly and temperate manner in which he has nominated two very ab|e judges.

The Constitution is both enabling and limiting. At the risk of over simplification, the Left stresses the former and the Right the latter. The Left, often frustrated by the messy and difficult job of passing laws through State Legislatures and the Federal one, prefer a Court that finds new rights and thus national laws. The finding of a right to an abortion in the Constitution, in the case of Roe v Wade, is instructive.

We live in intemperate times. President Trump approached the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice in a temperate manner. Trump should study the Trump of recent weeks and seek to emulate him.

Democrats have regularly, and often rightly, criticized Trump’s various intemperate actions. It appears that they intend to become intemperate as they attempt to destroy Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Con Job

It is hard to know what the President knows and thinks.

At one point when his intellect was challenged, he bragged about having a degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School — certainly an impressive business school. Trump has an undergraduate degree.

I am going to take a leap. If you are a Wharton graduate, you must understand Martin Feldstein’s (a Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors in the Reagan Administration) comment in a Wall Street Journal op-ed: “the trade deficit reflects the reality that Americans
consume more than we produce”. Mr. President, if you understand that truth, then you must realize that much of your trade agenda is a con — an inflammatory one.

There is a strong case to be made against China for stealing technology and protecting strategic industries. If that were the focus, Wharton might be inclined to celebrate its most famous alumnus.

Game On

It is now widely said that the Republican Party is President Trump’s. Perhaps; he has certainly influenced it — straight jacket orthodoxy has been cashiered.

Yet, the next election for President is 29 months off. A victory in 2020, after contested primaries, would be at least a medium term recognition of his primacy.

It should be noted that Mitt Romney won his U.S. Senate primary election race in Utah over State Representative Mike Kennedy with 73% of the vote. Most won’t recall, but Romney had been forced into a primary election because he lost the delegate count at the State Republican convention.

Romney’s opponent fought him on two fronts. Romney was, he said, insufficiently supportive of Trump’s agenda. Earlier criticisms, some harsh, by Romney of Trump were used to prove the point.

It was also said that Romney was a carpetbagger. You will recall that Romney had been Governor of Massachusetts. Romney’s overwhelming victory in his adopted state was impressive.

A clash between Romney and Trump is inevitable and at some point it will be measured electorally; then the “Trump capture” or not will be clearer.


I will spare you the dismal status of U.S. accumulated debt, projected annual deficits and underfunded entitlement obligations. Look them up, but not when you are trying to come back from one drink too many.

We are now being told the contest within the Democrat Party for supremacy will be contested over expanded health benefits and free college tuition.

My suggestion: ask all candidates which taxes will be needed to pay down some level of debt, more fully fund the entitlement promises and pay for any new programs. Require the candidates to do the math.

High risk debt eventually bites. In 2008, it brought down major financial institutions; they either failed or were bailed out. Likewise, millions of homeowners lost their homes because of ill- considered collateralized debt.

America’s economic scale and the international primacy of the dollar have allowed politicians to accumulate debt and over—promise benefits. Fiscal recklessness has become a narcotic; withdrawal a need. If we don’t begin withdrawal, our economic strength will be the victim.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Grants in Action: St. Martin’s Ministries and Women & Girls Fund Getting Women in the Saddle

Over the last several decades, there have been countless studies done on the positive impact of teaching horseback riding skills to a full range of emotionally or intellectually challenged children. From those who have Down’s Syndrome, autism, or physical disabilities, these young people have shown extraordinary improvements in confidence, patience, and personal self-esteem after working with horses for even a short period.

St. Martin’s Ministries in Ridgely, who provides families, and particularly women and children, with the basic needs of food, clothing, and housing for the Mid-Shore region, wanted to use this technique to accomplish similar results for their residents and have been able to recently team up with Talbot Special Riders with a grant from the Women & Girls Fund this summer to make that happen.

The Spy sat down with Beth Spurry, who has served on the Women & Girls Fund Board of Directors for more than a decade, and who currently co-chairs the Fund’s grant committee, to talk about how such a small investment can yield such positive results.

We also talk to the St. Martin’s new executive director, Deborah Vornbrock, about the organization’s mission, and its partnership with Women & Girls Fund, to provide this unique opportunity for women at risk.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about St. Martin’s Ministries please go here

This is the eighth in a series of stories focused on the work of the Women & Girls Fund of the Mid-Shore. Since 2002, the Fund has channeled its pooled resources to organizations that serve the needs and quality of life for women and girls in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties. The Spy, in partnership with the Women & Girls Fund, are working collaboratively to put the spotlight on twelve of these remarkable agencies to promote their success and inspire other women and men to support the Fund’s critical role in the future.

Awaiting an Apology from Andy Harris by Michael H.C. McDowell

I am seeking a full and contrite apology from Congressman Andy Harris, over a verbal attack at a League of Women Voters Republican primary election forum on Sunday, June 10, 2018, at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills.

After a no-show by the other Republican primary candidates, the League cancelled the forum. Mr. Harris, however, agreed to take questions from the audience out in the lobby around 1:45 p.m. I joined a group of about eight voters gathered around Mr. Harris, half of whom I knew from Chestertown, where I live.

Mr. Harris first answered a question on health care and pre-existing conditions. After listening to the end of this particular exchange, I asked Mr. Harris a question on his environmental record. I got about 20 seconds into my question when, suddenly, Mr. Harris interrupted me in an aggressive, accusing tone: “I know who you are. I met you in Chestertown. You threatened violence and to kill one of my campaign workers. If you don’t step away, I will call a state trooper.”

I was absolutely stunned. I responded that this was complete nonsense and demanded he explain and retract his wrongful accusations. He persisted in ignoring my response and once again warned me he would call a state trooper if I further engaged with him.

I was shaken and angered by this utter lie. I took a few moments away from the lobby, to try and understand what had just happened. At no time have I ever threatened violence against anyone, and certainly no one connected with Mr. Harris’s campaign, and I never suggested I might “kill” one of his staffers. Where could this truly shocking accusation of Mr. Harris have come from?

The next morning, I spoke to Mr. Harris’s press secretary, Jacque Clark, and on her specific advice, emailed his campaign manager, Nicole Beus, and followed up two further times. Mr. Harris or his staff never responded.

Minutes after the June 10 attack, I recalled a posting on May 8, from a man who occasionally posts on Mr. Harris’s campaign Facebook site and supports Mr. Harris. I made a comment about this posting and received a threatening message to me and other critics of Mr. Harris from this individual. This person said he had a weapon and could shoot us!

I saw from this man’s personal Facebook page that he seemed to have been in the military, or was possibly still in the military, and his photo on the page shows him wearing military fatigues and brandishing military grade weapons. I responded to his post, saying that his comments were way out of line and possibly illegal and perhaps in breach of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He replied back suggesting I didn’t know what I was talking about. I let him know that I am on the advisory board of an historic military college, and know a number of flag officers, judge advocates-general, and other senior officers. This individual mocked my knowing “big shots,” and I didn’t bother responding further.

Later that day (May 8), I had a text and voicemail message from Mr. Harris’s press staff, which were friendly in tone, saying they were deleting this man’s threatening posts and, because I had responded to those posts, my posts would therefore also disappear and they wanted to explain why. I had no problem with that. I responded to the press staff within minutes, suggesting that this man be unfriended and/or blocked from Mr. Harris’s page and that this person should be reported to law officials. That is the last I heard on that issue.

Jacque Clark told me on the phone on June 11 that she indeed remembered that message to me from Mr. Harris’s staff.

Did Mr. Harris somehow mistakenly connect this man’s threat to the Harris staff with me? Did he completely wrongly attribute the threat to me, on account of this Facebook exchange? I want to know on what basis Mr. Harris justified his outrageous and false allegations about me at a public event.

I felt humiliated, angered, and shaken by Mr. Harris’s behavior towards me on June 10. About 10 minutes after this hostile attack, I showed a male member of Mr. Harris’s campaign staff (a burly bearded man with a Hogan campaign sticker on his shirt) the May 8 text I had received from Mr. Harris’s Capitol Hill staff, about the removal of the threatening post on the Harris Facebook page. The staff person suggested I take up the matter the next day. Did this fellow inform Mr. Harris about the clear evidence which I offered?

Mr. Harris verbally attacked me without any factual basis for his claims, refused to allow me to respond to his false accusations, and threatened several times to call a state trooper.

There are at least four witnesses to this appalling and totally unsubstantiated attack. I have spoken to four of them, three of them in person, one on the phone, and have their names, email addresses, and phone numbers. They completely confirm my account of what Mr. Harris said about me in front of them, to their shock and disapproval.

To repeat, I want a full and contrite apology and full explanation from Mr. Harris. Mr. Harris works for us, the voters, of whom I am one. The voters, and this voter, certainly don’t work for him.

As an elected public servant, Mr. Harris cannot be allowed to make such disparagements of a voter seeking information on his campaign platform.

Mr. Harris has had more than a month to act. He has done nothing. Shame on him. The voters of District 1 deserve better than the bullying, arrogant and offensive Andy Harris.

Michael H.C. McDowell writes from Chestertown.

Out and About (Sort of): Journalism Jolted by Howard Freedlander

I can’t stop thinking about the murder of five journalists nearly two weeks ago at The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis. I’ve read numerous articles about the shooting spree in the newsroom and the deranged and angry suspect. I’ve read each of the obituaries.

The mass shooting, almost commonplace in our violent country, touched me not merely because of its geographical proximity but because of its closeness to my life as a former journalist.

I was a community editor in Caroline and Queen Anne’s County. I never enjoyed a profession more. Unfortunately, the pay was terrible. The business model propagated the stepping-stone culture, implicitly accepting the premise that the product could only be so good. Content would be secondary to profit—when the latter might increase with consistently high-quality journalism.

I moved on for the sake of my family.

The journalists at The Capital, Gazette, along with other small-town and small-city newspapers, are underpaid and overworked. They accept that reality. They love their work and their communities. They believe they are performing a public service by aiding and abetting democracy.

Uh-oh. How does democracy insert itself in a discourse about journalism? Without pesky, incurably curious and sometimes cranky journalists, print or electronic, our government, for example, might function in a sloppy or corrupt manner without any oversight or accountability.

Our media keeps us honest. We can be our better selves. We can allow ethics, not greed, to guide us. We can avoid damaging headlines and investigative stories.

More than 35 years ago, I heard the famed CBS broadcaster Walter Cronkite speak at a conference in Nassau organized by the owners of then Chesapeake Publishing. An owner of a small New England newspaper, he opined that community papers provided the glue that kept counties like Talbot, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline and Dorchester and their towns and villages together and compassionate.

He told the story about a pharmacist in Manhattan who died. No one knew, because the New York Times certainly wouldn’t cover the death of a small merchant. A community paper didn’t exist. What was Cronkite’s point? If people know about the good and bad things that affect their neighbors, then they naturally can offer human support and empathy.

Community cohesion results.

Large media outlets cannot cover local stories—or the pharmacist’s death—while focusing on larger matters. Too bad—bigger stories lie in waiting.

The Capital Gazette tragedy has afflicted the Annapolis community with grief and unleashed a reservoir of support. The Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, working with a family and the Baltimore Sun Media Group, immediately responded by raising money for the Capital Gazette Memorial Scholarship Fund for select journalism students at the University of Maryland, College Park.

My youngest daughter knew and liked one of the five, the community correspondent, a woman, Wendi Winters, who loved covering and supporting local news, like her Teen of the Week column. An eyewitness to the rampage watched as Winters tried to distract the gunman by rushing him with a trash can and recycling bin. Before she was shot.

So, a lone assailant, bitterly outraged by an article written in 2011 about his conviction for harassment of a woman, attacked the newspaper, which simply performed its mission to inform. For me, he assaulted an invaluable instrument of democracy. He silenced the voices of five innocent victims.

However, he missed the mark; the newspaper published that day and every day since.

As it should. As it must.

When I read The Star Democrat, as I do daily, I might grumble about its thin content. But I appreciate its value as a community resource. Like everyone, I read the government news, reports of fires and accidents, births and deaths, academic and athletic achievements and, of course, I look at all the pictures of civic participants. I think about Walter Cronkite’s sage comments and feel thankful to be served by a community newspaper long devoted to local coverage.

Our local journalists deserve our gratitude. They serve all of us despite poor pay and long hours. Though they likely will move on to better-paying jobs, I believe they give as much as they get in experience.

Mass shootings have an impact that diminishes but doesn’t kill the spirit. Nor should our commitment to journalism as a critical tent of American democracy weaken or atrophy.

We’re protected by freedom of the press. Every day.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.