Trump’s Wall Hits a Wall by Steve Parks


When asked what I miss most following my retirement two years ago, I’m reminded that in my two decades as a New York theater critic and arts writer my tickets to shows I reviewed displayed the cost to me: $0.00. That usually gets a laugh from whomever poses the question. But there’s nothing funny about furloughed federal government workers who, starting last week, received pay stubs bearing their value: $0.00.

To what end? The president insists there’s a security crisis at our southern border and that the only remedy is to build Wall from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific. The $5.7 billion for said Wall over which he has shut down much of the government would cover only 200 miles, if that. There are already 700 miles of barriers in strategic places along the border with Mexico, which would leave another 1,000 Wall miles to build. To figure the total cost you might suppose that quintupling would cover it–$25 billion and change. You would be incalculably wrong. The Wall will never be completed in Trump’s lifetime or anyone else’s. Just as we all should have known that Mexico was never going to pay for it. Forget that the president now insists he never said that. Who does he think he’s fooling? There are hundreds, at least, of videos proving what he promised time after time, often leading call-and-responses: “What are we going to build?” “The Wall!” “And who’s going to pay for it?” “Mexico!”

Don’t tell me the president doesn’t lie. “I never said Mexico was going to write a check for the Wall,” he said along the Texas border recently. He wants us to believe he was speaking metaphorically. But read any of his endless streams of mostly mindless Tweets and you’ll see that the president wouldn’t know a metaphor from a meatball.

But what matters right now is all the suffering he’s causing for a stupidly impossible vanity project. A week before Christmas, Trump was ready to sign off on a compromise that would leave the government open. All departments would be funded except the Department of Homeland Security, which would stay open with a continuing resolution until a compromise could be reached on border security, with $1.3 billion already on the table for Trump’s Wall. The compromise now sits on Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk. All he has to do is put it up for a vote. It would pass, perhaps by a veto-proof margin.

But Trump spends much of his “executive time” watching cable news. (If you doubt it, just look at the timing of his Tweets.) Right-wing commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter derided him as a fake president should he back down from his central campaign pledge. Forget Mexico paying for it. Just build Wall anyway and let middle-class American chumps pick up the tab. The word “fake” must have riled Trump, who’s always throwing it around regarding news dispensed outside of Sean Hannity’s Fox orbit.

Trump shut down the government over comments delivered by a blowhard former prescription drug addict and a wicked-tongued woman who once said of 9/11 widows who questioned George W. Bush’s Iraq invasion that they “reveled” in their husbands’ deaths. These are Trump’s “advisers” now that he’s chased away most of those who have some clue of which they speak.

All of this to build a Wall that can never be realized and would be ineffectual anyway. When Trump visited the border, he was shown pictures of tunnels dug beneath portions of walls, fences or other barriers. And he was asked about photos showing a steel-slat barrier, which he’s favored lately, that had been sliced through using a hacksaw you could buy at Lowe’s or Home Depot. His response? “That wall was built by previous administrations” (translate Obama), ignoring the lineup of other prototypes ordered by Trump clearly visible in the background. He further lies that 4,000 terrorists crossed the southern border in the last year and dispatched his vice president, secretary of homeland security and hapless press secretary to repeat his lie. The figure from the latest year available, 2017-18, from the president’s own Department of Homeland Security, is 6. And these were only suspects, such as people who bore similar names to known terrorists. Other numbers show that illegal immigration at our southern border are lowest they’ve been in this century.

There is a crisis at the border, a humanitarian one as Trump mentioned in his Oval Office address. But the crisis is of his making, starting with separating children, even preverbal babies, from their parents. Many parents who’ve not already been deported are held in internment camps while their children are detained separately in other obscenely for-profit facilities. And we’re all paying for it. Not Mexico.

Trump’s Wall will never be built no matter how loudly he huffs and puffs. Most of the land along the Rio Grande as well as parts of the desert west of Texas is privately owned. The president has threatened to divert FEMA funds meant to help American citizens devastated by wildfires and hurricanes and also the Defense Department budget to pay for Wall. But that’s only part of the bill. To build his Wall, the president has proposed declaring “military eminent domain.” That sounds like martial law—using force to take private land from ranch owners and others. Still, they would have to be compensated at whatever is deemed “fair market value.” One ranch owner said he wouldn’t sell “if they offered me a trillion dollars.” Eminent domain, even with a military threat—does the president propose arresting anyone who doesn’t take his offer?—means litigation. A massive government takeover of thousands of square miles of private land would occupy courts along the southern border for decades at an astronomical cost unimaginable even to Trump.

The best outcome I can foresee is that the president goes through with his threat to declare a national emergency and the courts give him even a partial go-ahead. Before an ounce of concrete is poured after all the court challenges, Trump will be out of office. We’d be left with a precedent for the next president to use for a global emergency—climate change. Maybe we’ll still have time to save the lowlands and islands of our Chesapeake region from being swallowed up by rising sea levels.

May that be your ironic legacy, Mr. President.

Steve Parks is a retired journalist now living in Easton.



Shining Star by Nancy Mugele


I need a vacation from my winter break. The twelve days of Christmas were a joyful and exhausting whirlwind, and I think we celebrated Christmas three times. Jenna and I spent the weekend before Christmas in NYC doing our traditional store window visits, seeing the tree in Rockefeller Center and attending a Pentatonix concert, which she gave me as a birthday gift. We spent December 24 and 25 in Nashville with Kelsy, Steven, and Otis. Jenna came with us and we met Steven’s family for the first time. Our Baltimore family Christmas Eve was on December 28 due to the work and life schedules of out-of-town adult cousins, Matt and Brittany in Minnesota, and Amanda in Massachusetts. James came from Montana and Kelsy from Tennessee for the festivities, so Jim and I had all three of our children, together under the red roof in Chestertown for several days.

In Christian theology, The 12 Days of Christmas begins with the birth of Christ on December 25 and ends with the coming of the Magi, the three wise men who followed the Nativity Star, on The Epiphany on January 6. As a young child, I always wondered why the three wise men visited with no women. What the heck? Surely, the women in their lives bought and wrapped the gifts they traveled to deliver. And, surely, there were some wise women who could have made the trek to help care for Mary, but that is another story.

Yes, The Epiphany is the culmination of The 12 Days of Christmas, but I have recently had an epiphany of my own –  a moment of sudden revelation or insight ( – or as I like to think of it, a shining star moment.

It happened on January 3, the same day Kent School students returned to class after winter break, when 127 women took the oath of the 116th Congress – 102 in the House of Representatives and 25 in the Senate. Up from 110 in the previous Congress, this represents a subtle shift and I hope a new trend with 15 percent more women in this Congress than in the last session. I am excited for the “firsts.” Congress now has its first Native American women, Muslim women and youngest female member ever. With more female voices at the table, I believe the country can truly become a “kinder, gentler nation.” (GHW Bush)

My shining star moment is this – the Federal Government needs to operate more like an independent school, and its leaders need to lead with competence, trustworthiness and accountability. Like Divisions in a school (Lower, Middle, Upper) the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches must be more closely connected by communication and collaboration – even as their purposes are distinctly different. The silos of our current system are ineffective.

Congressional representatives should help educate their constituents on the issues facing our nation. While our Founders intended that the House members would advocate for their local community, and the Senate would be responsible for national issues, members of the House and Senate must be on the same page at least for some important issues. They should act for the greater good, like teachers, and not seek individual fame. Congressional leaders should select overall priorities, and create bipartisan and inclusive ad-hoc committees to study tough issues. While this is supposedly happening, it is not transparent enough and is obviously not working. Participants from all three branches should be on these ad-hoc committees to examine issues from multiple points of view and expertise.

At Kent School, each student is assigned to be a member of the Red or White team – just like Democrats and Republicans. There are many Red and White contests throughout the academic year and the competition is fierce. Team members are very loyal to their team, even well after graduation! Yet, at the end of each competition, our students go home as friends. Our country’s leaders could learn a lot from this, and just imagine how much we could accomplish.

With all due respect for the longtime service of many members of Congress, I, for one, hope more and more educated young women, and men, decide to serve our country for a short time in Congress bringing fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. Most importantly though, I hope that people of character and integrity will continue to persevere and that other less deserving candidates will not be elected.

Oh, and one more final thought, if the Executive and Legislative branches are going to order a federal government shutdown, they, too, should not be paid.

For those of you who know I never discuss religion or politics, oops.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

A New Year by Nancy Mugele


Although tonight my family and I are in Baltimore celebrating Christmas Eve (that is another story), the annual ritual of welcoming in a new year is fast approaching. I don’t really understand what all the hype is about. The sun always sets on December 31 and rises on January 1, whether or not we stay up past midnight to usher in the new year, champagne flute raised, searching for someone to kiss, while stating our resolution. For me, and for all educators, the new year really begins in September.

So why doesn’t the academic year begin in January? Historically, farming and feeding the family (and community) took precedence over everything. The school schedule followed the seasons of fall harvest, winter hibernation and spring planting so that during the summer growing season, all hands would be “on deck,” or in field.

The winter is an excellent time for school, because no outdoor farming can be accomplished – although amazing cooking and feeding certainly happens. When Kent School students return to class next week we will enter a long stretch of deep learning uninterrupted by holiday breaks. I am always amazed at the growth that happens in students during the winter months. What seems to us to be a dark and dormant time of year is actually a time of great awakening in students. Connections are made and maturity is gained. The blooms appear in the spring – but I am getting ahead of myself.

With a nod to my roots and my Boston family, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to pass a compulsory education law in 1647, when it was still a British colony. A similar law was again passed in 1852, which required every city and town to offer primary school, focusing on grammar and basic arithmetic. The first secondary school opened in Boston in 1861. With a nod to my Maryland family and friends, Washington College was “the first college chartered in the sovereign United States of America” ( by the Maryland legislature in 1782.

These milestones are significant because they clearly illustrate that education at all levels has been highly valued in our country since its inception. Thankfully, for each of us. Whether the academic year begins after Labor Day or after New Year’s Day is irrelevant. We have a school year, and for that we should be eternally grateful. It would, however, be a lot easier if it did not straddle two fiscal years!

That said, imagine our country with no formal education. It is impossible. Although I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, I do have one this year, and it remains unchanged from the prior two years – to continue to enhance the Kent School educational program in our unparalleled environment for learning. Grateful to begin 2019 in the Chestertown and the Kent School communities.

Happy New Year!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Op-Ed: Oyster Sanctuary Advocates Looking for “Black Cat” that Doesn’t Exist by Marc Castelli


The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) often boast about their sanctuary projects. They commend themselves for locking up thousands of acres and planting over one billion oysters in Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sanctuaries. Such a large account should earn ample interest, but in the case of the sanctuary projects, these banked oysters see no return or interest from the investment.

As indicated in their charter and declared at public meetings, the prior Administration at DNR and the various oyster partners such as CBF, USACE, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made it clear that sanctuaries were created to be engines of oyster reproduction. Promises and guarantees were made that the industry would benefit from these spat sets and see an increased harvest from the sanctuary program. Instead, these plantings have marooned hundreds of thousands of bushels of oyster shells which will never be retrieved for future plantings or cultivated for better results. The spat progeny are not even located in nearby areas. One needs to question the benefit for oystermen or for the value chain into the communities from which they work. There is no interest from the investment, yet CBF wants to further reduce harvest by tightening the management of the fishery and adding additional restrictions. CBF needs to leave the oysters that are in legal harvest areas available for legal harvest and both they and Riverkeepers need to conduct themselves in a fair equanimous fashion that guarantees access to all programs.

Charles Darwin once described a mathematician as a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn’t there. The disappointment voiced by the collective opposition to the recent findings of the oyster stock assessment reminded me of that quote.

This search in the ‘dark room’ was a result of a reaction to an enhanced sanctuary management experiment that was agreed upon by the Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) which would turn four designated peripheral portions of a tributary sanctuary into a plant and rotational harvest program. The plan called for a constant planting of seed on shell in perpetuity at the industry’s expense. Planting would also have been carried out on the heart of the sanctuary that would remain a pure sanctuary, devoid of any harvesting. This more active investment by watermen working portions of the projected sanctuary would have increased the numbers of oysters in the designated tributary at no expense to CBF, Riverkeepers, or the state. It was seen as a win-win for all stakeholders represented in the OAC.

Unfortunately, the CBF did an end run on the very commission of which it is a member and betrayed the hours of work that went into the plan. The CBF led opposition went to the state legislature with a bill forcing a stock assessment that would stop the experiment from being implemented. Elementary school teachers, sports fishermen, recreational fishermen, and Riverkeepers voiced variations of the CBF opposition and, with no fact-based information, testified against such an active management plan. Although there was a consensus that any additional oysters in the Bay would be favorable, the emotional testimony included lip service about respecting the thousands of people dependent upon an actively managed oyster industry. The legislature chose to ignore the opposing arguments about the benefits of the proposed rotational harvest experiment and, despite the fiscal costs, gave in to the demands of CBF for a peer review study by a University of Maryland-led team.

Their ‘black cat’ was to have been a confirmation of their reputation for constant doom and gloom about oysters in the Bay. The stock assessment was going to be their final solution to their issues with the oyster industry and replenishment strategies. In its original vision, the stock assessment obviously and unfairly targeted just the industry. Much to the opposition’s chagrin, the state concluded that to be more scientifically accurate, the oyster sanctuaries needed to be included. The CBF led coalition thought it had found their ‘black cat,’ and rammed it through the ‘black room’ of a legislative session. The law passed and prevented changes to any sanctuary.

The assessment, however, did not produce the anticipated findings. It seems as if the parameters for the survey were biased from their inception. For example, the actual modeling mathematics was based on the Atlantic scallop which had little or no relevance to the Chesapeake Bay. Sanctuary numbers were not as good expected, industrial areas were not as bad as expected and generally speaking the mixed results did not indicate a dire crash that would necessitate further limits on any active management of sanctuaries, or furthering any new restrictions on the industry.

The writer(s) of the recent op-ed in the Annapolis Gazette revealed just such a bias. The headline, Our say: Oysters will be the big environmental fight when the General Assembly returns to Annapolis, was unnecessarily brash. The solution to the current state of oysters is evident to anyone who has spent years in the politics and biology of oysters.  Plainly put, oysters are being stressed at critical junctures in their lives by factors beyond the opposition’s control. There is a real need for all parties, and especially the industry, to seriously invest more time and money in the very same oyster programs that the opposition and the past O’Malley/Griffin/O’Connell administrations did away with 12 years ago. In addition to pursuing the environmental issues that threaten the actual Bay, these scientifically and economically proven programs need to include: more seed and shell plantings (using mutually agreed upon artificial substrates), researching more suitable artificial substrates that would take the pressure off of the dwindling stocks of oyster shell (for both sanctuaries and public oyster bars), more harvest reserves, and a return to rotational openings and closings of industry bars.

Several of these programs worked for many years.  However, the past administration decided to place all of their ‘eggs’ in the mega-sanctuary basket. There was no reasonable justification for this move, except a series of sincerely hoped for results from computer projections and theories. This political legacy, however, is still influencing oyster management. The Gazette op-ed does not mention these facts.

NOAA recently released the findings of their Atlantic coastal survey of shellfish. According to Chris Oliver, Director of National Marine Fisheries Service, “Our Northeast Fisheries Science Center recently published findings from a study focused on identifying the causes of the sharp decline in landings of the four most commercially important bivalve mollusks from Maine to North Carolina between 1980 and 2010. The four species are eastern oysters, northern quahogs, soft shell clams, and northern bay scallops.” In the past, overfishing was blamed for declines. However, this study showed that “habitat degradation from a variety of environmental factors, not overfishing, is the primary reason.”

CBF and its associates need to refocus on the water quality, sewage from Baltimore, better urban run-off solutions, air quality, and the environmental issues it can affect through better management of their dwindling funds. Attacking the industry is nothing more than grabbing the low hanging fruit as they have done for far too long. Great for attention-grabbing headlines, but not productive for Maryland.

Everyone needs to work on the oyster situation acknowledging that there is not just one solution. Let’s try to save the Bay for oysters instead of on the backs of oysters and oystermen.

Marc Castelli is a artist and photographer living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. His work is focused on watermen, lobstermen, their workboats, America’s Cup racers and their yachts, and the extended families that race their log canoes of the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore. Marc hold a commercial fishing license with an oyster permit.


Cold Outside by Steve Parks


I have a new Top 40 outrage about which to vent. And it’s so refreshing that this one—which involves a once and now again Top 40 song—has nothing to do with my previous 39 Trump-inspired outrages. What has me so steamed in this holiday season—and I mean “steamy” in a purposely scandalous way—is the #metoo defamation of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a classic winter ode to romance by one of the great American songwriters of all time, Frank Loesser.

Some of the same people, no doubt, who castigated Matt Damon for suggesting that rape and a pat on the butt are not in the same category of sexual offense—I’m thinking of you, Minnie Driver, who fell for Damon’s title character in “Good Will Hunting”—would have us believe that it’s out of bounds for a male to suggest to a guest of the female persuasion that inclement weather might be an excuse for her to stay awhile longer, if not for the night. Does he not have another bedroom or a couch? Hey, this is a love song, not a novel. As for the rape and pat-on-the-rear analogy, one is a felony and the other deserves a slap in the face.

Loesser, of course, is best known for the musical masterpiece “Guys and Dolls.” Yeah, I know, “dolls” is sexist. But then, the “guys” are all gamblers and hoods. Whadya expect? In “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” circa 1944, Loesser has the girl singing, “My mother will start to worry. . . . So really I’d better scurry.”
“The neighbors might think . . . . Say, what’s in this drink?” To which the guy counters, “Baby, it’s bad out there. . . . No cabs to be had out there.”

To assume that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is so offensive that radio DJs and digital programmers should boycott its play is to further assume that the man imploring his lady guest to hang out a bit longer is Bill Cosby, spiking her drink with knockout potions of Quaaludes, or Harvey Weinstein or Les Moonves chasing starlet wannabes around a bedspring acting couch while exposing themselves. Sure, if you’re dirty-minded enough to read into these lyrics that the man in question is a 60- or 70-something creep with inordinate power over a high-school girl’s fame-and-fortune ambitions, then go ahead and organize a campaign against every flirty lyric you’ve ever heard.

“What’s Wrong with Silly Loves Songs?” some guy named Paul once wrote.

How about banning “Let It Snow, Let It Snow,” which indicates that a chaste hug or, God forbid, kiss might keep a guy warm all the way home? Or think of the adultery suggested in “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”? I mean, how are we to know he’s really Daddy in disguise? It could be some old, bearded interloper forcing himself on Mama in a weak and vulnerable moment. Perhaps under the influence of wicked mistletoe or bourbon-infused eggnog. Are we to be left with no sense of humor when it comes to completely natural interaction between humans of opposite genders or of the same if that’s their inclination? Yes, flirting is risky behavior. There are boundaries to be respected, or crossed respectfully, as the case may be. But failing to take such risks, failing to flirt—failing to be alive—is an existential risk to the human race.

Dean Martin’s version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” currently ranks as a Top 10 recording, owing largely to this ridiculous controversy. Choose your targets better, #metoo. Picking on this one is brain-dead misguided, not to mention hormone-dead.

Steve Parks is a retired journalist now living in Easton.

An Essay I Wish I Wrote by David Montgomery


This week I am replacing my column with a post written by my good friend Ernest Christian. Ernie is a Texan, a patriot, and one of the most astute observers of American politics I have known. His post appeared in American Greatness on December 12 with the title “Will the Thin Red Line Save America from the Blue Wave?” and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. Ernest is a  lawyer who served as a tax policy official in the Treasury Department in the Ford Administration.

It expresses so well concerns that I share about the next 2 years that I wanted to give readers of the Spy an opportunity to read it, too: 

“If they do their duty in the next Congress beginning at noon on the third day of January, the 53 Republican members of the 116th Senate will steadfastly repel all the attacks that the radical 116th House of Representatives is expected to make on the principles of free-market economics and our defining constitutional protections for speech, religion, and property.

At times the House has been controlled by leftists of various types, ranging from “extreme” to “not so much.” Indeed, liberal Democrats (as leftists once labeled themselves) dominated the House for most of the last half of the 20th century. Nancy Pelosi and many of the veteran members of the House who numerically comprise part of the Democrats’ incoming majority are representative of that group of old-line liberal-leftists.

They gained and retained power by a lethal combination of high taxes and spending to forcibly redistribute other people’s income and property to Democrat voters. They also excelled at economy-warping regulations and special-interest tax rules, exceptions and extenders that favored their friends on K Street to the detriment of those businesses’ competitors and the economy as a whole. Although they deliberately killed millions of jobs, created several generations of welfare recipients, and were highly culpable in a broad range of other depredations, they generally managed to stay—albeit barely—within the boundaries of the law and constitutional legitimacy as an American political party.

Now, however, deny it though they will, the old-line liberal-leftists will inevitably be forced to follow the most extreme dictates of the neotenous, chip on the shoulder, minority-heavy,female-dominated “progressives” who flipped the House. They will insist that all Democrats goway out of bounds in taking control of the Americans’ minds and souls as well as their money andand property. In the hyper-hypocritical name of “bipartisanship,” they may be able to seduce the California side of K Street into helping them create a digital-age mind-control regime in exchange for new forms of subsidy that replace the “special rules/exceptions/extenders” used in the past by the liberals to milk and bilk.

Progressive operatives have already proven their skills in exploiting women, young people, and minorities. The Soviet-style show trial of Judge Kavanaugh also revealed how unscrupulous they can be when acting in concert with no-holds-barred affiliates in the media. Hillary Clinton’s progressive mentor, Saul Alinsky, had his bombs and a master plan. Earlier, Stokely Carmichael and Patty Hearst had their guns and violent hatreds.

But 2018 digital-age progressives need no such crude weapons. They use clean technology to bend the minds of women, children, minorities and the increasingly large population of preconditioned white males—thereby turning them into weapons for their own destruction.

Neat trick and highly profitable to boot. The two most recent progressive cabals to occupy the White House (the Clintons and the Obamas) have become filthy rich.

To succeed in re-engineering what millions of people think, say, and do, progressives turn logic upside down in countless ways, every day and in every place, until utter nonsense begins to seem normal and correct to people whose minds have been preconditioned since kindergarten.

Consider, for example, Travis County, Texas (home of the University of Texas) where a group studying “enterprises” counsels that hiring employees based on merit is unfair. Also, in this heart of Beto O’Rourke progressivism, college-age males not already emotionally neutered can take a course in how not to be masculine. Up until recently in Texas, manliness was second only to godliness—but in the brave new world of the progressives, both struggle even to make the team.

It used to be that young people learned about God and goodness at church and at home. In school, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance and were taught American history and the “American Creed,” which Samuel Huntington described as secular Christianity. Yes, no doubt about it, we were from childhood on thoroughly “indoctrinated” in the founding principles of Western civilization: God, family, country, truth, merit, integrity, courage, loyalty, decency, morals and manners. Men were expected to be gentlemen and women to be ladies.

All that indoctrination was good in principle, although many of us failed to learn our lessons fully. But even as an aspiration, it was an imperfect lesson until Martin Luther King, Jr. added the final rejoinder that we not judge people by their skin color, but, instead, on the basis of their character and conduct.

The current crop of progressives, however, has not only turned the old creed (decency, honor, and manners) upside down, they have perverted Dr. King’s rule of color-blind racial fairness into a new and evil form of racial and gender discrimination called “identity politics” and, worse, used it as a weapon to the detriment of women and African Americans.

What the Senate Can Do

James Madison’s constitutional design imposes on the Senate the duty of standing fast when necessary to preserve and protect the nation’s founding principles from the destructive and ill-considered excesses of a rogue House of Representatives which—let’s face it—the 116th House already shows signs of becoming. Socialism was once beyond the pale in American politics and policy, but it is now de rigueur among the progressives—and when combined with their founding principles of “PC” thought and speech control, the result fits perfectly the definition of a totalitarian state.

Whether the thin red line of Republicans, especially in the Senate, will recognize the degree and nature of the danger in time to avoid disaster remains to be seen. They must avoid the trap of “bipartisanship” and such canards as “reaching across the aisle” and must recognize that just because Republicans were many times in the past able to “do business” with the old line liberal-leftists does not mean that they can do so again. And they should recall that many times when they did so in the past, America suffered considerable damage in the process.

The 116th Senate may be the last chance for the Republicans to follow the example of Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and “man-up” for a last-ditch defense of the American Creed Progressives for decades have been peddling their nostrums from kindergarten to graduate school, and many members of the Senate and the House and even the general population may in mild degrees be afflicted by progressivism.

Many fateful signals about the future likely will be given during the current “lame duck” session of Congress, in which Republicans still have a majority in both houses—subject to a filibuster in the Senate by the minority.

Based on past performance, year-end lame-duck sessions do not enjoy a good reputation. Many times in the past the Congress—Republicans and Democrats alike—have used these occasions to deliver Christmas presents to K Street that get rushed through at the last minute under the cover of political darkness.

But let’s be optimistic—we really have no other choice—so we must hope and demand that this time Congress, and the Republicans in the Senate in particular, will rise to the historic occasion and stand firm on important principles.

Senate Republicans can confirm some judges in the lame duck and it is hoped that they can also confirm a batch of qualified Trump appointees to important positions in the Executive Branch whose service to the nation has been wrongfully delayed by Senate Democrats for nearly a year. Senate Republicans can also stand firm on the continuing resolution needed to fund the government until March 2019—and, having done so, can in March 2019 also stand firm on the debt limit votes and the spending caps under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (signed by President Obama), which pit outlays for national defense against increases in domestic spending.

Avoiding Lame Duck Lameness

Wish lists for passage in the lame duck abound. There may be some bipartisan hope for passage of a farm bill and some Democrats talk airily about trading some amount of funding for a border wall in exchange for legalizing “Dreamers.”

Although President Trump during the campaign talked about additional tax cuts and reforms that would boost the economy for years to come, Democrats will be able to block by a filibuster in the Senate both broad-based rate cuts and making permanent first-year expensing for job-creating capital investments, which would have been the perfect thing for passage in the lame duck had proper preparation been made in the form of a budget resolution in April.

Having failed to do that, the only tax legislation potentially being set up for passage in the lame duck is H.R. 88, a largely housekeeping provision of little intrinsic merit of its own and which, on the negative side, unfortunately from a tax reform standpoint would perpetuate a list of 20- odd extenders for K Street that have been condemned by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation as well as the reliably conservative Heritage Foundation, and which are, in my opinion, an insult to the principles of the historic tax reform legislation which was the crown jewel of Republican accomplishment in the 115th Congress.

It defies imagination why Republicans would want to go out of their way to extend a tax credit for electric vehicles that is on its face a classic case of exactly the kind of “progressive” policymaking that Republicans must guard against in much larger and more dangerous forms over the next two years. The electric vehicle credit probably does less actual harm to the economy than some of the other extenders, but it is the “progressive” nature of the thing that matters.

Not a good sign that Republicans will stand firm against progressives in the new Congress. They may do so on the big philosophical issues, but K Street is the vulnerable point where business as usual horse-trading is most likely to go on—and the progressives know it.”

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.



With Love by Nancy Mugele


Jim and I had to leave a Dickens of a fun, festive weekend in Chestertown last Saturday for two important commitments in Baltimore. Before we left we voted for the Kent School tree – Past, Present, and Future –  at the Festival of Trees and stopped at KidSpot to see our students’ artwork being exhibited on First Friday. On Saturday, I accompanied the Kent School Chorus as they caroled merrily through town. What a fantastic holiday event!

A quote from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol hung on the Kent School tree resonated with me all weekend. “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.”

In less than 24 hours, we witnessed the beautiful beginnings of a new life together and celebrated the loss of a beautiful life well lived. Although this might sound a bit odd, both were joyful. Persian poet Rumi wrote: “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” Yes, that is what I felt at a wedding reception and a memorial service.

Young love is inspiring and moves my soul. It is hopeful and happy and lives in the Present and the Future. Kelsy’s long-time friend Kasey, the daughter of one of my oldest friends in Maryland, was married in October in England. The Baltimore reception was on Saturday evening. The party was elegant and the home where we gathered was filled with light and love. I connected with some friends I had not seen since moving to Chestertown, and it was a wonderful addition to my holiday season. Guests were invited to decorate a Christmas ornament for the newly married couple as a treasured keepsake of their first holiday as husband and wife. We were asked to inscribe a wish for the couple on the ball and hang it on a tree. Imagine a tree with a hundred white balls all adorned with a heartfelt, personal wish. It was beautiful. I wished for them a lifetime of love.

Sunday, we returned to the campus of our children’s school to attend a service in the St. Paul’s School Chapel. A dear friend of ours lost his courageous battle with esophageal cancer right before Thanksgiving. He was only 55. In the year since his diagnosis, he remained hopeful as he searched for treatments, far and near, with his wife as his indomitable partner. Together, they were an inspiration, and their loving bond moved my soul. As his family and friends shared fond memories from the Past with poignant, and humorous, tributes, I found great strength in the following reading, delivered by his sister.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and sun shines brightly. We’ll see it all then, see it all clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us. But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

Corinthians Message 13:12-13

The best of the three is, most assuredly, love. From the Christmas ornament I had personalized the night before, to the outpouring of love from the many facets of a life lived to the fullest and without apology, to the love of friends we reconnected with over the weekend, to the love of my life holding my hand beside me, I felt a peaceful sense of joy. Our friend Brian was a generous, kind and fun-loving prankster whose grandfather told him “this life is meant for the living.” True, but I think this life is meant for the loving.

As we headed downtown to have dinner with Jenna in Baltimore before returning home Sunday night, we laughed about the things we remembered about Kasey as a young girl and Brian as a fierce competitor on the basketball court (that is another story). Life moves ever onward, and there are trials along the way, but if we keep love at the forefront, we can live our days on this earth with joy. We brought Jenna a small “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree, a strand of lights, and a few ornaments. When her slightly lopsided tree was decorated and lit, we honored Christmas in our hearts.

Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season filled with love.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Op-Ed: Achieving the American Dream on the Eastern Shore Might Depend on a Zip Code by Robbie Gill


It is truly a blessing to live and work here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The natural beauty of this place we call home and the warmth of friends and neighbors embody everything my family and I could ask for in a community. With the Holiday season upon us, acts of giving and kindness are commonplace. Those acts of selflessness can make a huge difference in the life of someone in need.

How fortunate are we to live here? In America, the zip code you’re born in can determine your future. Just one number different and you could have another life, go to a different school, work a different job, wrestle different challenges or have different dreams.

21601 is my zip code. Surrounded by water and beauty, Easton and Talbot County is a wonderful place to live. Yet, few would know that more than half of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Poverty is a real challenge for many in our community and many of our neighbors live with food insecurity (lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food).

Need isn’t an anomaly on the Eastern Shore or limited to food insecurity. Travel to the far reaches of Talbot County to 21671 (Tilghman Island) or head south to 21613 (Cambridge) or north to 21668 (Sudlersville), from Perryville to the state line of Virginia, you’ll see children, families and older adults in need.

What makes our community so great is how we respond to those in need. That is where my pride in this place shines brightest. Through the work of hundreds incredible of charities and the tireless support of volunteers and donors, our communities are filled with opportunities to grow, develop and thrive.

This year at the Y, we’ll provide over $2,000,000 in financial assistance and outreach support to over 17,000 individuals that need a helping hand. We’re working to ensure everyone has the opportunity to live their best life, right here on the Eastern Shore through kindergarten readiness programs, summer learning experiences, learn to swim classes, mentoring opportunities, cancer survivor programming, enrichment based after school programs and so much more. None of this would be possible without volunteers and donors stepping to the plate to make a positive difference. Thank you!

There are charities all across the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in every zip code, doing meaningful work and making a difference. Let’s lift up their work through volunteering and contributing. In doing so, we can support those in need and make every zip code on the Eastern Shore filled with promise and opportunity.

Happy Holidays to you and yours,

Robbie Gill is the Chief Executive Officer of YMCA of the Chesapeake

Grateful by Nancy Mugele


Thanksgiving weekend in Chestertown was filled with the warm embrace of family, laughter, and wonderful food, if I do say so myself. Jim and I had two-thirds of our nest at home, plus Kelsy’s boyfriend Steven and their new puppy Otis. Needless to say, the four-month-old boxer labrador rescue was the hit of the weekend.

As is our family tradition we awoke early on Thanksgiving morning to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while I stuffed the turkey. 92 years strong, this parade definitely heralds the beginning of the holiday season for me. We had a crowd of 15 for dinner and we ate around our new Eastern Shore wormy chestnut farm table, handcrafted by a dear friend. Eating outside on the porch was definitely out of the question this year. With a roaring fire, and 23 candles lovingly lit by my niece Amanda (her job every year), we spent a cozy Thanksgiving evening catching up, sharing memories, and avoiding politics.

While we missed James, who is not able to be home until Christmas, we thought about him on Black Friday when we chose to take REI’s lead and opt outside. (I have never been a fan of shopping on Black Friday, but that is another story.) He would have enjoyed our day as we spent time at Eastern Neck Island National Wildlife Preserve and enjoyed every bit of the crisp, clear, cold day. We walked Otis with beautiful vistas of the Chesapeake Bay as we observed many bird species, including three bald eagles. I was hoping to see Tundra Swan, but it was a little too early. Jim and I will definitely return to see their majesty.

How grateful I am to have a mind and a heart. I have been thinking about Mary Oliver’s poem Messenger for the past week. It started when I was opting outside instead of opting for a shopping mall on Black Friday and continued into the week. The poem’s first line is My work is loving the world. While she goes on to talk about the natural world, a muse for much of her work, I have been thinking about all of the facets of my world, and how they have shifted in the past few years.

I definitely have a newfound appreciation for the natural world and how the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem works since moving to the Chester River. I am astonished by the movement of the river and the richness of the sunset each and every day.  Becoming a part of the Kent School community also fuels my appreciation. The School’s nationally recognized Chesapeake Bay Studies curriculum is unique and relevant as we teach environmental science and sustainability to help our students become stewards and honorable citizens of their world. I especially love when students use my dock and beach for experimentation and analysis.

Chestertown, itself, is an important part of my world now, and I loved walking through town on Small Business Saturday and seeing so many people in the shops despite the rain. Jenna was with me and we bought a few favorites at the Chester River Wine and Cheese Co. for a late afternoon snack before she drove back to Baltimore. We also purchased our new favorite Lodestone Candle holiday scent in She She on High, and spotted Santa Claus drinking coffee inside Dunkin’ after the parade.

As our children have grown and flown, my daily world is anchored by Kent School. I am so honored and humbled by the gift to serve the school. Believing that we are making a difference in the lives of students, and creating tomorrow’s leaders, brings me great joy.

My birthday this week has caused me to feel a bit nostalgic and sentimental. Thankfully, my world will always revolve around Jim and our family, built on a thirty-plus-year foundation of love. Being with our adult children reminds me, again and again, that we do live forever, and will continue to live forever, in the hearts and minds of our loved ones.



by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
         equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
         keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
         and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
         to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
         that we live forever.