Where the Journey Ended: Frederick Douglass in Anacostia

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There are many good reasons why historians and educators spend most of their time talking about Frederick Douglass before the Civil War. Almost from his birth in February of 1818 on the Mid-Shore to the Confederacy’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, Douglass caught the imagination of the entire western world with his powerful story of rising from slavery to become an internationally acclaimed writer, journalist, and abolitionist.

And yet, Douglass lived almost three decades longer after the war was over; just as active, just as relevant, just as impactful but from the riverfront community of Anacostia and the simple elegance of Cedar Hill, his twelve acre estate some six miles from downtown Washington. It was from this unique community that he pursued his advocacy work, writing and the publication of the New National Era, a weekly newspaper covering Reconstruction and other issues on justice.

But Anacostia was also where Douglass actively engaged in community affairs. He was principally responsible for bringing mass transit, via train service, to the mostly African-American community, while also cultivating local DC leaders at his home for improved city services for his adopted home. It was also a place where he felt the most at peace, frequently socializing with his neighbors, some of whom were reported to be old friends from his days in Talbot County during his slave years.

While the Mid-Shore is reminded frequently about Douglass’ life on the Eastern Shore, it is only when one visits Cedar Hill that the visitor can fully understand his life and times.  That is why the Spy took a side trip to Anacostia a few weeks ago to explore his remarkable family compound with the help of one of the site’s stewards, National Park Service’s Delphine Gross, and local historian and journalist John Muller, to fully appreciate this American hero’s remarkable journey.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For those interested in visiting Cedar Hill, and you should, please go here for hours of operation and other events at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site please go here. To obtain a copy of John Muller’s “Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.:: The Lion of Anacostia” please go here

How I’m Thinking About the Upcoming Election…and Decided to Support Colvin for Congress by Craig Fuller

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I long ago lost count of how many friends ask, “what are we going to do?” when discussing the current political situation. It certainly is unlike anything we have ever witnessed. We live with a President who, whether you support him or not, increasingly separates himself from the truth, and with Congressional leaders of the same party who, unless they’ve announced their retirement, seldom check initiatives from the White House even when they run counter to the policy orientation embraced throughout their careers.

So, to my friends and others who ask what we can do, I say, go vote!

First, before you vote, ask yourself what kind of individual you want representing you. Then go on a search to determine with whom you are most aligned. It’s actually pretty easy today with the tools available on the internet to penetrate through the campaign rhetoric and examine the record.

For me, this year’s election is not only about sending strong people to Washington, but it is also about sending a strong and clear message regarding the kind of leadership we expect from Washington. To be sure, there are loud voices in the land. And, maybe those voices represent your thinking, but statistically, those loud voices are usually in the minority. So, the key for those who believe differently is to do one simple thing: vote on Tuesday, November 6th for candidates who understand your concerns; who can relate to the families in your community; who want to protect the nation against the threats that loom all around from opioids, to guns, to environmental issues and more.

Here in the 1st Congressional District of Maryland that includes my community of Easton, two factors launched me on a soul-searching voyage. Initially, as I sought views from Republican friends about incumbent Congressman Andy Harris, I discovered little enthusiasm and rather broad disappointment. When I looked more closely, I saw a Member of Congress that seemed to take his cues from the talking points of rather extreme groups.

Before long, people I respect who are Republicans, Democrats and Independents told me I should get to know a candidate running for Congress for the first time, Jesse Colvin. I found a former Army Ranger, intelligence officer, a bright and engaged leader who leaves a very strong and favorable impression. Jesse won the Democratic primary and is marching aggressively on a very uphill climb to the general election in November. He is being helped by a broad base of supporters; so, I decided to take a much closer look at the situation in my Congressional district.

First, is the question of alignment around values and leadership. I want to support an individual who would bring to the position of Congressman a life experience that teaches what the realities in the world really are not just what they hope they might be. Honestly, I want a leader who will stand up and question arguments that are not fact-based or put people at risk through faulty healthcare programs or a failure to lead when it comes to protecting the environment, especially when the district relies so extensively on the Chesapeake Bay. And, it is essential to have a leader who understands the importance of job growth and the destructive nature of trade wars.

In short order, I found the values, the leadership experience and the judgement Jesse Colvin would bring to public office something well deserving of support.

Of course, an election is about a choice. In this case, the incumbent is of the party I have been a member of for my entire adult life. I came to Washington, D.C. with President Reagan and served in public office for eight years. However, I would be among the first to suggest that past Republican party philosophy and policy preferences mean little in the debates being engaged in today. Whether one focuses on trade, immigration (and separating children from parents), Russia (and trusting an adversary above our own intelligence community) or even health care reform, I just don’t find much comfort in my chosen Party based upon utterances from its leadership, or from our incumbent Congressman.

When Congressman Harris suggested publicly that the outcry over President Trump’s statements standing next to Russian President Putin was the fault of the news media, I decided one must, to be fair, dig deeper for any redemption that might be found in the public record.

This did not help.

After nearly eight years, the voters in our Congressional District should ask why….

Why has no piece of legislation authored by the incumbent been signed into law by either a Democrat or Republican President?

Why has no piece of legislation authored by the incumbent ever even been voted out of the House of Representatives?

With so many issues concerning us today, why has the incumbent done so little to introduce meaningful legislation?

Why is current legislation to “serve” the district by renaming a post office in Salisbury sitting idle in a Committee with what experts say has about a 2% chance of passage?

Why, after these years in Congress, does the incumbent hold no Committee or Sub-Committee leadership position in the Congress?
And, why late last year, would the incumbent vote against legislation to aid our citizens impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria along with those who experienced the devastation of wildfires in 2017…legislation that passed with strong bipartisan support?

Finally, although it was a few years back, why, as an elected official that should be a leader in protecting our citizens from gun violence (and, I say this as a gun owner), would you seek to raise $1,000 a person at a bring-your-own-gun political fundraiser?

The contrast to Jesse Colvin who has served our country as an Army Ranger, who has values shared by the citizens of this district and judgment forged in dealing with the world the way it really exists is as profound as it is compelling.

Beyond character and experience, Jesse Colvin has described his values and priorities clearly and directly….and if you are interested, I invite you to take a closer look.

I know that I probably will not agree with every vote Jesse Colvin makes as a Congressman, but I am as certain as I can be that I will be proud he is my representative every day he holds the office.

So, be clear about what you are seeking from your representative and then do your own research. 2018 is a time for Congress to become better aligned with those of us who vote regardless of party! If you, like me, believe we can do better then it’s up to you, like me, to go vote for a candidate that really reflects your hopes and desires for the future.

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.

Another Victory for Regulatory Reform: Fuel Economy Standards by David Montgomery

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On August 2, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) announced revised fuel economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks to be applied in model years 2021 – 2026. The revised standards would replace standards set by the same two agencies in 2012, well before the revolution in oil drilling technology that has moved the U.S. to the top of the list of oil producing countries and caused gasoline prices to fall dramatically.  

The law that authorized setting the 2012 standards also provided for a mid-term review, so that changes that might occur in the eight years between the publication and effective dates of the original rules could be taken into account.  The result of the review, announced on August 2, is that standards will be frozen at 2020 levels through 2025.

To clear up a potential misunderstanding, DOT sets fuel economy standards and EPA sets greenhouse gas emission standards.  But since the two are in practice two ways of measuring exactly the same thing, the two agencies have agreed to harmonize and publish their regulations in a single rule-making.

The proposed standards are good news for car buyers, U.S. industry and the economy.  They are good news for new car buyers because they will slow the rate of increase in new car prices and allow buyers greater freedom to choose among gasoline consumption, performance and amenities.  

They will also make new cars safer.

The proposed standards are good for U.S. industry because they will avoid the shrinkage of new car sales that these adverse consumer impacts would cause.  

They are good for the economy because on balance the reduction in traffic fatalities, moderation of regulatory distortions to consumer and manufacturer decisions, and lower new car costs more than offset higher gasoline expenditures and modest increases in emissions.

All these points are made and supported logically and quantitatively by an exceptional Preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis (PRIA) that was released at the same time as the new standards.   It incorporates sound reasoning, transparent assumptions and sophisticated economic analysis. It addresses issues such as unintentional consequences and hidden costs that were glossed over in prior rule-makings, and it corrects arbitrary and indefensible decisions such as those affecting the value assigned to greenhouse gas reductions.

The fuel economy standards set by the Obama Administration have been particularly contentious, though the flaws in the entire regulatory system have been pointed out (by me among others) from its very inception.

There is strong evidence that federal standards did little or nothing to increase overall fuel economy once oil prices increased rapidly from the late 1970s onward.  These oil price increases made it in the interest of consumers to choose at least as much fuel economy improvement as the standards dictated.

That is not to say that prior fuel economy standards did not distort the market or impose costs.  The original law mandating the standards created several arbitrary classes of vehicles with different standards: imported versus domestic, passenger car vs light truck, and light vs medium truck being the most important.  This led to a seismic change in the automobile market when sport utility vehicles and mini-vans classified as trucks but functioning as passenger cars were introduced to take advantage of the less-stringent standard for trucks.  In addition, the original rules did not allow manufacturers to trade allowances, so that competitive impacts were exaggerated and total costs to buyers increased.

Passage of the dreadful Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and President Bush’s even more unfortunate opening of the door to EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions set up the opportunity for the Obama Administration to impose standards for fuel economy substantially different from market demand.  Binding standards also create a number of distortions in consumer behavior: switching to smaller and lighter weight vehicles that increase accident severity, increasing smog-producing emissions by driving more because fuel cost per mile is lower, and keeping older gas guzzlers on the road because of increases in new car prices.

It is very gratifying to see that EPA and DOT have recognized all these issues, and have attempted to work within the imperfect regulatory framework dictated by Congress to minimize regulatory distortions and maximize safety.

The original standards would have progressively required greater and greater improvements in fuel economy from 2020 to 2025.  There are three very good reasons why these standards needed to be changed.

Since 2012, the world oil market has been turned upside down by the fracking revolution in the United States, which turned the charts for future gasoline prices from sharp upward trends to flat forecasts.   In January U.S. oil production exceeded 10 million barrels per day for the first time since 1970, and put the U.S. third in the world in total production. This dramatic change completely undercuts the belief that fuel economy standards are necessary to protect consumers from rising prices that they did not foresee when they purchased new cars.  It also substantially reduces concerns about oil price shocks, as confirmed in an independent, scholarly study done by Resources for the Future last year.

Second, more careful analysis laid out in the PRIA reveals that technological opportunities for further improvements in fuel economy are limited, so that manufacturers are likely to have to resort to reducing the weight of even the smallest and most efficient vehicles to achieve sufficient gains.  This then increases the risk of fatalities in traffic accidents, so that continuing to tighten standards would be likely to lead to more traffic deaths.

Finally, the PRIA finds that the expectations of technology improvements that were relied on to set the original standards have turned out to be overly-optimistic.  The study discusses exhaustively how the technology assumptions justifying the old standards turned out to be incorrect. In some cases, it was because the writers of the Obama rule did not realize how extensively some technologies were already in use, and so double-counted the benefits. In others, they anticipated adoption of new technologies which did not appear or which encountered such strong consumer resistance that they were pulled back.  More generally, many technologies can be used to improve fuel economy, or performance, or allow more amenities to be added. Manufacturers have followed consumer preferences by supplying a mix of all three. As the RIA perceptively states, sacrificing such amenities or performance to achieve tighter standards is a hidden consumer cost.

How the RIA values damages from greenhouse gas emissions is also important. The Obama Administration justified tightening fuel economy standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by estimating the total global damages that would be avoided.  Despite telling criticisms of the analysis done to estimate the social cost of carbon dioxide emissions, the PRIA made only the abundantly sensible change to include only damages estimated for the United States. That, it turns out, makes a significant difference in the comparison of costs incurred in the U.S. to the benefits included in the analysis.  

Putting all this together, the PRIA rolls out 1500 pages of documentation of its calculations of costs and benefits and concludes that the alternative chosen – freezing the standards at 2020 levels – provides greater social benefits, greater consumer satisfaction, and lower fatalities than any of the more stringent alternatives.

Despite the quality of the analysis and sensibility of the new standards, the debate will not be settled soon.  Some economists have become convinced through behavioral studies that consumers consistently make mistakes in buying new cars, and later regret not buying cars with better fuel economy.  Whether this particular form of buyers’ remorse constitutes a market failure that justifies the nanny state telling consumers what to do is another question.

A more challenging problem is that California now sets its own fuel economy standards that are adopted by 17 other states, and the standards set in the Obama Administration were chosen to match those increasingly ambitious state standards.  The new proposal would, if nothing were done about the state standards, create one standard for 32 states and another for 18. Some manufacturers, led by GM, are adamant that there must be a single 50-state standard, and the 18 states have already announced their intention to look for a judge to overturn the new standards.  

There is a simple solution to GM’s problem, because California must receive a waiver from EPA to set its own standards.  The criterion is that California’s standards must protect public health and welfare at least as strictly as federal law, and their standards must be necessary “to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions.”  Waivers to allow California to solve its unique smog problem made sense.

But greenhouse gas emission standards – which are the same as fuel economy standards – are not the same.  Greenhouse gas emissions originating from cars sold in California are dispersed globally and have only a negligible effect, if any, on California. Since GHG emissions are global in their effect, none of the geographic and demographic conditions that give California an extraordinary problem with smog apply to greenhouse gases.  That makes the waiver that allows California to set its own fuel economy standards a mistake in the first place, and the logical next step for the Administration should be to rescind the waiver.

That, in addition to the perennial disagreements about the need for any fuel economy standards, would make things very interesting.  Stay tuned.

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.

 

Nothing Personal by George Merrill

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The tragic history of the Ford Pinto is an old story. However, it illustrates how people in groups often behave in ways they never would in their private lives.

In 1968, the idea of the Ford Pinto was conceived. It was designed to compete with the small cars with which the Japanese had successfully flooded the American market. Lee Iacocca pushed aggressively to get the car on the market. The program was given a delivery deadline of just 25 months, a record time in the industry.

Design flaws soon appeared. One was significant. The gas tank was easily punctured and could catch fire. Management was determined to get the car into production. They did a cost-benefit analysis. To rectify the flaw would cost eleven dollars a vehicle. The cost was weighed against the projected injury claims for severe burns, repair costs, and other claims including liability for death. The total repair costs would have been approximately one hundred million including production delays and parts for thousands of cars. According to Ford’s calculations, damage payouts would cost only forty million. The Pinto went into production in 1970 without addressing the design flaw. The Pinto was hot, in more than one way.

The decision to go ahead and manufacture the Pinto was decided in the atmosphere of a cooperate boardroom. The decisions to weigh the human factors against company profit goals were intentionally calculated. To me, the deliberations seemed reminiscent of the moral vacuity and emotional detachment Nazis exhibited when discussing their policies. They sought the most economic means to execute their corporate policy that history knows as the final solution. An overstatement, maybe, but the moral detachment in both deliberations can’t be ignored.Admittedly this is an old incident but illustrative of corporate malignancy. Similar incidents of corporations signing off on fraudulent dealings like Volkswagen’s fudging on diesel emissions and Enron cooking the books with devastating effects on employees.

I am guessing that many of the executives supporting the decision to produce the car and go for profit were average family men who lived in nice homes and loved their wives and children. They were not by nature monstrous and without feeling. I’m sure many had religious connections, and presumably gave generously to community causes. As many corporate leaders frequently are, they were pillars of the community. Can their decisions be dismissed as nothing personal, just business?

My question is how is it an average person leaves basic human values at the boardroom door?

The biblical tale of the unclean spirit has one suggestion.

“When an evil spirit goes out of a person, it travels over dry country looking for a place to rest. If it can’t find one, it says to itself, ‘I will go back to my house.’ So, it goes back and finds the house empty, clean, and all fixed up. Then it goes out and brings along seven other spirits even worse than itself, and they come and live there. So, when it is all over, that person is in worse shape than at the beginning. This is what will happen to the evil people of this day.”

The evil spirit, as the parable goes, having been exorcized from the demoniac, eventually returns. Why? Because the empty spaces its original exit created were never filled. There was no one home. Spiritual emptiness invites all kinds of mischief.

Values make a difference.

A look at the recent immigration crisis illustrates the point. The decision to separate the children from parents was made ostensibly to follow the law. Where the decision was made, compassion never entered the decision.

Nothing personal; just politics

In the evolution of humanity’s moral development certain values emerged as timeless. They don’t make headlines today, as you might well imagine. We’re far more familiar with the seven deadly sins. But here are the seven heavenly virtues: chastity (fidelity); temperance (moderation); charity (aiding the disadvantaged); diligence (being focused and responsible); patience (not acting impulsively); kindness (benignly disposed to others); and last, but not least, humility (don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought.)

I’ve wondered whether if a conscious awareness of half these virtues had been inculcated in the interior lives of those Ford executives signing off on the Pinto’s production, would the results have been different? Would the appetite for financial gain and economic power still dominate? Internalized values serve as a moderating influence in human interactions, whether in politics, business or in domestic affairs.

Ironically, a mother’s relationship to her child is probably one of the most intimate, self-giving and sacrificial in the human equation. The peculiarities of this maternal bond incarnate some of the timeless human values: kindness, patience, and humility. I include humility here because as every mom soon learns, her needs are not going to be the priority for a long time. That’s humbling.

What, then?

The question remains: How will we, average Americans, fundamentally decent people, behave collectively when we, symbolically speaking, meet at the boardroom to vote on our future? Will we leave our conscience at the door, and simply run the numbers, or will our deliberations include guidance by the values of our common humanity?

This is about as personal as it can get.

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

Spy Gardens: On the Road with Jan Kirsh

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My former firm in Tennessee included a landscape architect and whether our next project was a new house or a renovation/addition, he and I would walk each new site and discuss design strategy. We both believed that the landscape was an outdoor room. How we created each unique design solution was endlessly fascinating to me since landscape design is different than architecture or interiors.

Unlike a house that may not change through successive owners or interior rooms where the original furniture, window treatments, etc., may not change significantly over time, outdoor rooms and the landscape may change due to many factors. Storms may take down a beloved mature tree, like the great Wye Oak. Even with careful planning, a certain plant may die and need to be replaced. Time is another factor since flowers, plants, shrubbery, and trees grow to maturity and their original spatial volume may change dramatically from their initial planting. Knowing how to design a layout for landscape elements while being cognizant of their mature height and breadth, the role of color and fragrance in the landscape, etc., is an on-going challenge to maintain balance and order when Mother Nature is your design partner.

Recently I had the pleasure of joining landscape and garden designer Jan Kirsh as she hosted a tour of several of her projects in Talbot County to members of garden clubs from Annapolis. All of the gardens on the tour had been collaborations of many years between Jan and her clients and these clients were passionate about what they had created together.

The first stop was a site where a barn had been expanded and converted to a residence. A separate new two-story guest house with two-story barn doors that acted as shutters paid homage to the original barn. The site was surrounded by dense mature trees that created privacy. Jan and her clients added an allee of lilac bushes and peonies in between the two buildings that added color and fragrance as one meandered down the wood-chip path to a portal between two small buildings. These buildings were painted white and framed the water view beyond the pool. The sides of each building facing the pool were embellished with lattice and climbing red roses. Jan has a special affinity for hardscapes, and the path from the pool to the house was a delightful mix of textures: wood decking became large pavers with a small square cut out of the top corner for plants to soften the hardscape, then brick and finally river rock. To change direction, pavers were notched at one corner and interlocked with the next paver to create a diagonal path.

The second stop was my favorite since it was a remarkable solution to a narrow long linear site tucked between the water and the road. Luckily there was a row of tall pines to screen the house from the road. Photinia had been added to further provide privacy. The wife is a photographer, and the husband was born in New Zealand. He pointed out a “Pukeko” artwork (Australasian swampen) that adorned the rear wall at their deck behind their craftsman styled home. A one and a half story office was located at the opposite end of the property from the main house and a short stroll across a lawn surrounding a towering red cedar tree, native grasses and a living shoreline. Jan suggested new plantings in the owners’ preferred colors of yellow, orange and red with splashed of light blue in the ground cover along the walkway from the driveway to the front door and the lilacs in the plantings that meandered along the shoreline.

The third stop was a waterfront property on Edge Creek whose owners had “adopted” three Wye Oak saplings that have thrived in their new environment. Part of the garden design was the addition of a true outdoor room, a screened porch with an outdoor kitchen, dining and sitting areas for watching sunsets over Edge Creek. Once again I was enchanted by the mix of materials, color, and texture that edged a small triangular planting bed containing native grasses. One walkway was salmon colored brick laid in a diagonal pattern and the other was warm gray large pavers edged in their respective materials.

The fourth stop was another Edge Creek waterfront property that had needed extensive clearing before the “ bones” of the landscape could be exposed and master planning could begin. The zig-zag fencing marking the driveway entrance was painted a lovely shade of dark gray-green that disappeared into the new landscape. If you have a splendid landscape as this property had, a dark-colored fence doesn’t compete with your eye for attention and you can focus on the plantings beyond.

The fifth stop was Jan’s home and studio. Many of the group had only seen Jan’s vegetable and fruit sculptures in an Annapolis gallery and seeing them in nature instead was so much more enjoyable. Like me, they were charmed by the diminutive scale of the models and mock-ups in her studio. One of the group had commissioned a large pineapple from Jan and the client was ecstatic to see the work in progress. Many of the women also admired Jan’s pendant of a halved fig executed in bronze which are made to order. We all left Jan’s studio with a renewed determination to transform our own landscapes.

For more information please contact Jan Kirsh at 410-745-5252(o), 410-310-1198 (c), jankirshstudio@gmail.com or www.jankirshstudio.com.  Photography courtesy of Kate Mann, 410-253-6816 (c) or katemann.me.com.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” by Al Sikes

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The St Louis Cardinal baseball team of 1968 was there. I watched as Bob Gibson, Tim McCarver, Ozzie Smith, Steve Carlton, Lou Brock and others walked up from the dugout to be recognized. This was a team of Hall of Famers—they won the World Series that year. This was a three generational experience as my wife Marty and I took both children and grandchildren to St. Louis’ Busch Stadium to watch the Cardinals play the Phillies.

I bought pretty good seats and as I recall they cost me something over $80 a piece including an online transaction fee. The game was okay, but nothing like that introduction. Parking fees and concession items brought the bill to over $600.

I was brought back to that day and a much earlier one after reading Joseph Epstein’s brief essay in the Wall Street Journal. Epstein was lamenting the cost of going to a Cubs game with a friend who bought the tickets. The ticket cost $172.48.

Epstein in summing up noted: “Being a sports fan, whether die-hard or fair-weather, is these days rather a dubious undertaking. For a long while now, a team’s fans have been more loyal than its players, who, under free agency, depart as soon as a better offer turns up. Nor is it easy for a fan to grasp paying a man who bats in the .220s, striking out nearly 200 times but hitting 27 home runs, a salary of $13 million. Not to speak of paying a pitcher, who works one day in five, and at that rarely for more than six innings, $25 million. All the more demoralizing is it to grasp that a good part of the cost for these wild extravagances are passed on to us, the fans.”

I would add that most of the immensely wealthy owners put economics and ego ahead of the fans.

In 1991, Fay Vincent, then Commissioner of Major League Baseball and I testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of a TV black out rule that was favorable to the baseball teams which were, in essence, a monopoly. I was then Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. I enjoyed talking baseball with the Commissioner, too bad Senators intruded.

Baseball and other sports leagues enjoy legal protections from what otherwise would be anti-trust violations as they organize in part to limit supply, which overtime, means fans must pay even more to go to games.

In my view, any anti-trust protection should be removed but more importantly fans should begin to push back. Sports teams negotiate exclusive contracts for the distribution of sports events. This exclusivity is what allows, in particular, football and basketball to delay games for the sake of more advertising. My research showed little fan pushback although the Toronto Football Club, a Major League Soccer club, gave its fans some ticket price relief after a “fan revolt” in 2010.

Many team owners, player agents and those who control concessions act with impunity. Yet, promotion of professional sports always cites the fans as the team’s highest priority. Baloney! Actions tell a different story, unless the cost of being a fan is of no consequence.

Fans now have the tools to push back. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email networks and more enable and facilitate revolts.
The 1968 Cardinals were very talented. So too the 2018 Red Sox, Astros, Cubs—winners all. There are also fans whose talent in using online tools to push back is world class. Use them.

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. 

Our Jazz Man: Dr. Mel Rapelyea on the Chestertown Jazz Festival

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It seems amazing that a jazz festival that was created in 1996 would still be humming along with the same volunteer director 22 years later. That certainly says a lot about how much Kent County and Chestertown loves the musical form, but it also says volumes about Dr. Mel Rapelyea’s devotion in keeping jazz alive for the countless aficionados in the community but has introduced the genre to hundreds of Kent County students over the years.

Started in 1996 as a project of the Kent County Arts Council (now on their own), Mel and his team of volunteers have built a program that blends the musical  talent of renowned international artists like Cyrus Chestnut and Sean Jones, with the extraordinary local talent such as Karen Somerville and Phil Dutton and the Alligators.

The Spy sat down with Mel at the Spy HQ in Chestertown last week to talk about the festival coming up starting September 5 and his unique vision of how this unique hybrid has now grown to six days of concerts.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Chestertown Jazz Festival – 2018 please go here

 

Out and About (Sort of): Ridiculous Meddling by Howard Freedlander

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As I followed last week the effect of the president’s ill-advised tariff war, specifically its impact on the country’s farmers, I became concerned about the consequences on the Mid-Shore. Trump’s politically shrewd decision to offer $12 billion in aid to farmers hurt by China’s reciprocal tariffs on soybeans, pork, sugar, orange juice, cherries and other products did not ally my fears about economic injury to farmers.

Trump created a crisis, as he normally does. Then, in response to Republican congressmen representing red states and fearing backlash from agricultural voters in the upcoming mid-term elections, he rode to his own rescue, so he thought, by announcing the $12 billion package.

Republican legislators immediately labelled the program as welfare.

As I read in the Washington Post, “It is unusual for the government to extend financial bailouts to U.S. farmers on the basis of trade-related circumstances precipitated by the White House.”

I spoke to a longtime farm businessman on the Shore. He used words like “crazy,’ insane” and “frivolous” to describe the impact of China’s tit-for-tat tariffs in response to Trump’s initiation of a trade war with China, the European Union and other countries.

This businessman explained that local farmers, as well as those across the nation, have developed long-term relationships with countries in the Far East. For years, farmers have participated in “check-offs,” whereby funds are used to market Eastern Shore products throughout the world.

He characterized the tariffs as “insulting,” oblivious to the reality of deals made one or two years out for the sale of soybeans, for example. He further criticized Trump’s actions as “not sophisticated, condescending and unhelpful.”

Soybean prices have dropped 18 percent since the silly trade war began.

Like many in the farm community, this businessman decried the $12 billion bailout as something that would alienate farmers from fellow citizens who see the aid as a corporate handout, though unwanted.

During my immersion last week into the plight of the farmers, I listened on NPR to a Wisconsin dairy and soybean farmer react to questions on July 26 about the tariffs on farm products and Trump’s election-year gift to constituents who generally supported him in 2016.
Brad Kremer, of Pittsville, Wis., said, “And, you know, with the tariffs that have just hit, we’ve lost $2 a bushel in the last 30 days. So our farm, we generally produce about 30,000 bushels of beans a year, somewhere in that neighborhood. So that’s a legitimate hit on our bottom line of about $60,000 on our personal farm (roughly 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat).

“And that’s a significant blow to a mid-sized farm. And you know, these are real numbers that are affecting family farms.”

Asked his opinion of the $12 billion in aid to farmers, Kremer said, while acknowledging China’s abuse of the World Trade Organization, “We’d still like to see, in my personal opinion and I think most farmers I’ve talked to, at least here in Wisconsin, we want trade, not aid.”

Uncertainty is the bane of a businessperson’s existence. Trump’s governing by constant chaos, as epitomized by the tariffs, affects multiple sectors of the American economy.

A $12 billion gift, though politically adroit, is insulting, as the Mid-Shore agricultural businessman said.

Butt out, not bail out, Mr. President.

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.

Roots (For Sandy) by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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We all come from somewhere. Some of us—and you know who you are—are “from heres,” the ones who were born and raised locally and have Kent County roots that run several generations deep. Others of us are “come heres,” most often from the nearby mega-metropolises over on the Western Shore—Washington, Baltimore, or the Philadelphia area. But I’m of a slightly different ilk: I come from Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh: city of rivers, city of bridges, city of hills and neighborhoods and ethnicities. It’s a blue collar/white collar midwestern city: polite, friendly, unpretentious. It’s a city that has reinvented itself, not once but twice. Steel is long gone, but health care and medicine provided an encore act, while entrepreneurship and high tech industries now take pride of place. It’s a pleasant place to live: affordable, green, innovative. It has great sports teams, a world-class symphony, a vibrant arts scene, efficient public transportation, three renowned universities, and numerous great restaurants. Andy Warhol came from Pittsburgh; dancers Marta Graham and Gene Kelly took their first steps in Pittsburgh. A Scottish immigrant named Andrew Carnegie began to produce steel in Pittsburgh in 1875 and left the city a wondrous legacy of free libraries and museums. Pittsburgh was the first American city to have its own movie theater and the world’s first commercial radio station (KDKA) began broadcasting from Pittsburgh in 1920. Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine in Pittsburgh. Mr. Heinz bottled his ketchup in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is the birthplace of the Clark Bar, the Klondike Bar, chipped ham, and Iron City Beer. You’re welcome!

Pittsburgh’s three rivers—the Allegheny and the Monongahela join forces to form the Ohio at Pittsburgh’s “Point”—gave the city its geopolitical start. A young George Washington once surveyed the site and during the French and Indian wars, the fort that commanded the way west changed hands several times: Fort Pitt when it was British, Fort Duquesne when it was French. The town was besieged during Pontiac’s Rebellion while just a few years later, the notorious Lord Jeffrey Amherst waged the world’s first biological warfare there when he ordered blankets contaminated with smallpox to be distributed to Indians surrounding the fort, killing hundreds of thousands as the disease spread.

In the fall of 1803, acting on orders from Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis sailed away from Pittsburgh on the Ohio River before joining forces downstream with William Clark to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. Lewis and Clark and their intrepid Corps of Discovery ultimately found a way (thanks, in large part, to Sacajawea) to the Pacific Ocean, marking the first overland path to America’s Manifest Destiny.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, Pittsburgh had a number of active stations on the Underground Railroad. By the 20th Century, Pittsburgh’s steel mills operated 24 hours a day, empowering a nation and helping win two world wars. But the city paid a steep price: once called “the arsenal of democracy,” Pittsburgh’s air quality became so polluted that it evoked an earlier characterization as “hell with the lid off.” Two ambitious campaigns to clean up the city’s air and water and to revitalize it’s working class neighborhoods—Renaissance I and Renaissance II—put Pittsburgh back on track to becoming the livable and (dare-I-say) fashionable place it is today.

Pittsburgh is a place of letters and art and music: Gertrude Stein came from Pittsburgh; Rachel Carson did, too. August Wilson, David McCullough, Willa Cather, Michael Chabon, and Annie Dillard all hail from Pittsburgh. The Andy Warhol Museum over on the North Side draws thousands of visitors a year. Mr. Rogers and his make-believe neighborhood were a familiar part of the Pittsburgh landscape of my childhood. More recently, Wiz Khalifa’s rap anthem “Black and Yellow” (the city’s colors) hit number one on the national Billboard Chart.

Despite its many charms and its history of creative post-industrial transition, Pittsburgh isn’t perfect; like all of us, it still struggles with difficult issues. The recent deadly shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer in a Pittsburgh suburb is yet another tragic brick in our shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later national wall.

Pittsburgh is often ranked at or near the top of the list of “Most Livable Cities in America.” It is a thriving urban example of what can happen when the public and private sectors work effectively together for a common good. It even has romance! Just a few years ago, Forbes magazine paid the city a somewhat back-handed compliment by placing Pittsburgh high on its list of “most unexpectedly romantic cities in America.” Hmmmm….

Sadly, my parents are gone and my family have all moved away; my own road has brought me here. Now I have nothing but memories to take me back to Pittsburgh. Sometimes when I fall asleep, I close my eyes and see the city’s hills and rivers or watch in awe as one of the blast furnaces at the old J&L Mill opens to light up the night sky. I remember Bill Mazeroski’s home run that beat the mighty Yankees in the 7th game of the 1960 World Series; I watch yet another grainy replay of Franco Harris’ “Immaculate reception;” I still cheer as Mario Lemieux or Sydney Crosby hoist yet another Stanley Cup. As much as I love Chestertown, those memories and many more make me the Yinzer I am—and proud of it!

So why is this Musing subtitled “For Sandy?” Because Sandy Hoon, God rest his soul, was a Yinzer, too.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.