Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Much is being made of the recent arrest of Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his own home in Cambridge. And indeed, Professor Gates being African American and the arresting officer being white, the case is fraught with racial symbolism. Even President Barack Obama has become embroiled in the controversy, making remarks critical of the actions of Cambridge police.

A brief rehash of events: responding to a call of a burglary in progress at Mr. Gates’s address (a false alarm as it happened), Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley encountered Gates at the house in question. Then, according to both men’s accounts, without leaving the premises, they engaged in some sort of testy communication which resulted in Mr. Gates’s arrest for disorderly conduct. Charges that were soon dropped.

It’s been suggested that class divisions may have exacerbated the situation, as well: a collision of monied elite and blue-collar. Perhaps. But clearly, one, or both, of these men messed up, royally. Right?

Not necessarily. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States (freedom of speech) would appear to more than adequately cover any discourse that’s been attributed to Mr. Gates. Furthermore, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts limits enforcement of the Massachusetts “disorderly conduct” statute to public property.

But if Gates didn’t break any laws, then the onus would appear to be on Sergeant Crowley. Again, not necessarily.

Cambridge police commissioner Robert Haas has gone on the record stating that Sergeant Crowley’s performance at the scene was consistent with both his training and the department’s policies and procedures. In other words, Sergeant Crowley did what he’s supposed to do.

Mr. Gates is an esteemed public intellectual who has received numerous academic and social action awards. Mr. Crowley is a widely lauded, highly decorated officer of the law. Two good men, one bad set of policies and procedures that needs to be brought in line with the U.S. Constitution and Massachusetts law.

Let’s dial down all the heated rhetoric concerning this incident, shall we? What with two wars, the economy, climate change, and health care to contend with, America has enough on her plate already. As another great U.S. President once famously observed, “A house divided . . . cannot stand.”

Thomas Sullivan

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I applaud Cambridge police Sgt. J.P. Crowley for doing his job properly and not being bullied into an unnecessary apology. Since when was it written into his job description that he needs to be verbally abused? Mr. Gates wants respect, well he needs to start with giving some to his town’s police officers.

Shame on Obama for stooping so low as to getting in his incendiary, uninformed two cents!

Jeff Wooden



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Today’s hot button issue, which revolves around four men at the White House, Suds Summit, or whatever it’s called, is race relations (or perhaps more specifically . . . race relationships). I for one would have loved to have seen a split screen with one side showing the male heads of household at their conference table and another showing the respective wives and children touring the White House or playing a game or enjoying some backyard fun activity.

Isn’t that, in fact, the true message we must consider? Whatever we choose to do, must it not be done for the good of our children? The matter of who is right or wrong is not an irrelevant issue but there is one crucial, undeniable element that must be done by parties on both sides of the aisle to insure progress, culturally. That element, quite simply, is more.

Standing rigid in one’s belief won’t get the job done. When neither side yields, all families will undoubtedly suffer needlessly.

Ken Lay



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Thank you for Mike Seccombe’s story on Vineyard hospital fees. I was recently advised by a nurse practitioner to have a CT scan to confirm kidney stones which, having had them previously, I already knew were there. The procedure, two scans, took about three minutes. I received a bill for $5,000. Of that amount, my insurer, Harvard-Pilgrim, billed me $1,220. The following week, another bill arrived for $500 for the reading of the CT scan for which I am liable to the amount of $211.

This experience prompts me to argue for a government run, single-payer system of health care in which the service fees of our hospital would not be so unjustly subject to the peculiar, arbitrary and totally inequitable vagaries of the so-called “market.” Quality of care should not be subject to seasonal fluctuations in the number of consumers (i.e. patients). Why should we pay five or eight times more for procedures than people who live an hour away? Geography shouldn’t, I think, determine who is fortunate and who is unfortunate.

Some people believe a health system similar to those in other industrialized nations would interfere with their freedom to choose the sort of care they want. Yet I did not choose or agree to “cross-subsidize loss-making areas” at the hospital. Is some of the $5,000 bill going to pay for housing for a new doctor or to buy a TV in room 301 of the new hospital? We are told the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital cannot function without over-charging patients. Yet CEO Tim Walsh admits Medicare, a program run by the government and adjusted by the government so that it is viable in our situation, works rather well. Let’s think some more about this.

Susan Strane



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

This is my 40th year building piers, setting moorings and doing assorted marine work on the Vineyard. One of the first jobs I worked on was on a new pier for Grant McCargo — actually, for his father.

The McCargo’s summer house was next door to Gus and Elsie Weurth’s Green Hollow houses where my mom used to play violin in a little group with Gus and Billy Dinsmore and a couple of others.

I got to cut the Weurth grass once in awhile, which was about the extent of landscaping in the 1950s: kids mowing with the owners’ mowers. I guess some guys tended flower beds and hedges in town though, too.

Walter Cronkite starting renting one of the Weurth houses later on (about 30 years ago). He used the Weurth pier for his sailboats over the years. We would repair the pier for Walter from time to time, and he would pay for the work through some deal he made with the family. The Weurth pier was almost completely rebuilt when Mr. Cronkite bought one of their houses and got the permit for his own pier which we built between the Weurth and McCargo piers.

When I heard Grant McCargo died last month, I was surprised, even though I had known he had health issues. When Walter died a couple of weeks later I thought, how ironic — two summer neighbors, avid older water men, almost left together. I’ll miss them both, not that we didn’t have our little go-rounds over the years.

Walter called me one Tuesday, years ago, after I had said we’d be on some job mid-week and I told him mid-week (to me) was from Tuesday to Thursday. He replied: “Sounds like Island style.” My chance came later when he was slow in paying for something or other; I called him on it — I can’t remember exactly what his excuse was — and managed to get in a, “Sounds like New York style” to that grunted chuckle of his over the phone.

Mr. McCargo’s style was relentless persistence. If we agreed to do a job in the spring, he’d start calling in the fall to ask how we were coming. When cell phones came along, it got worse — I’d see his name pop up on the screen in the middle of a February blizzard and mumble through feigned bad reception: “We’re getting there . . .when are you coming down again?”

I had a customer, a friend, a real character, who has been gone for years now — Colonel Metcalf. He would fly his plane low over the harbor to be sure his mooring buoy was installed before he brought his large sailing yacht, Veritas, in — usually under full sail — coming about at the yacht club, of course.

Classic old timers, drifting off, one by one, or close together, like Grant and Walter. As time goes on, they join the parade of year-rounders. We miss them all. Goodbye.

Steve Ewing



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Since the days of Moshup, Martha’s Vineyard has been welcoming visitors both famous and infamous. Missionaries who taught the Wampanoags to pray, British troops who commandeered livestock and tea smugglers who refused to pay a tax on their daily cuppa, all found their way to the Island’s ports. Including, if you believe the papers, three presidents and the first red-footed falcon to set talon in North America. Many of these visitors returned again and again (not the falcon — alas there were no lady falcons), to savor the wondrous delights the Island offers; and many stayed to call the Island home.

From Methodists looking for a pleasant retreat to Portuguese and Cape Verdean fishermen following the sea’s bounty, the people who now call themselves Vineyarders some from varied backgrounds and so have a tendency to be welcoming to whomever comes to visit.

Having grown used to the hubbub that visiting nabobs create, most of us don’t get too excited when we see a famous television or movie celebrity at the Farmer’s Market or dining at our favorite restaurant. This is okey dokey with most of them, although I know of at least one who is sorely disappointed when her privacy is respected.

A president is not usually a “personality,” though one must admit that a couple of recent ones have had an overabundance of charm. Reading our newspapers would lead you to believe that the locals are focusing all their attention on our current president’s planned visit. What they are really focusing on is something, anything in fact, that will salvage a summer season that has been cursed with the dreaded two Rs: recession and rain, both of which are notoriously bad for the resort business.

So even though it may cause worse traffic jams than usual, we will welcome the presidential entourage with open arms and pride that we, as an island, are up to the task. Just don’t ask us to dress up.

Carolyn O’Daly



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Anyone who thinks that Heaven is some faraway place

hasn’t tasted the peach pie at Morning Glory Farm!

It made me smile

it made me swoon

I felt transported

to a higher realm

and with each delirious mouthful

I could distinctly hear

the singing of angels.

Thank you, Morning Glory, for your love that helps to heal the world.

Martha Magee



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The following letter was sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.

What a great afternoon we had last Saturday with Capt. Chris Murphy at the helm of the Vanity. My family truly appreciated the opportunity to sail in the beautiful Edgartown harbor. But best of all was the opportunity to sail in the Vanity, with its historic connection to the harbor. Being on such a lovely boat and learning the catboat’s role as a working boat in the Island fisheries, and the Vanity’s particular history, created a tangible connection to the past. Chris’s knowledge of and passion for this history was a real treat.

I would like to thank Chris and the museum for their commitment to maintain this historic vessel and make it available for the public to enjoy. It is experiences such as this that educate people about Island life and foster a better appreciation and support of Island-wide efforts to sustain and protect our heritage.

Karin Stanley

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

We are teaching free classes in English to the fourth, fifth and sixth grades of the poor, rural elementary school in Pacayita, Masaya, Nicaragua. We teach every Saturday and have 48 children in our classroom, all hungry to learn, and all arrive to class, hair combed, ragged clothes, but so clean. There are also two professors, one of whom walks six miles to the class and six miles home afterward.

We gave each student a pen, donated to us by Robert Rippcondi of the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, and a notebook from donations from Lori Perry and her parents. Our classes will run in six-month increments.

We are in need of English grammar books and English-Spanish dictionaries. If anyone has grammar books from their school days, sitting unused, we would gratefully accept them. Dictionaries too. We will use the grammar books for our classes as resource material, and after each term, we will leave a dictionary at the school. Maybe the schools have English grammar books they would like to recycle. We will be in the area toward the end of September.

Times are tough for everyone, and Omar and I cannot continue to build schools and clinics like we did before, but we can use our time and knowledge and energy to give the gift of education.

If you have books that you are not using, we sure can put them to very good use. Children are so precious, and they are our future.

Keep the faith.

Muriel Laverty

Masaya, Nicaragua


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Recently my family took a drive up-Island to view the Gay Head Cliffs and lunch on the remarkably good fish tacos at Faith’s Seafood. After lunch we decided not to fight the heavy surf at the Aquinnah public beach, and instead turned down the Lobsterville Road for the quieter strip of sand there that faces Vineyard Sound. We arrived about 2:30 p.m.

We had intended an hour or so of wading and summer reading. However, in setting up our chairs we observed several people were shore-casting and none were swimming.

A young mother the down beach explained that her boys and husband had “come for the minnows” and she pointed out that the dark line of water that started within five feet of shore was actually “hundreds of little fish.”

We abandoned our chairs and reading. The activity in the water was absorbing.

There were hundreds of thousands of minnows, a moving, shifting shoal of herring so close to shore that the small boys could wade out to their knees and see the fish dart to avoid them. The mass of fish was about 45 feet wide, streaming along the cove coming from Menemsha way and moving out toward the lighthouse.

We’d hardly stood for five minutes when the herring began to shimmer and leap from the water, falling on the sand at our feet. With a shout we realized that the striped bass were herding them, mowing through the shoal with open mouths. These were large fish, first a few at a time, and then in a group of at least 20. Our daughter and the other children rushed to save the minnows, trying to throw them back into the water before the next group was plowed ashore. So much excitement!

The bass moved back and forth through the shoal, the minnows jumping and swimming ahead of them and excited gulls flying overhead.

We exclaimed at the size of the bass and how close in they were — within three feet of shore and less than two feet of water. The shore fishermen joined us, a little disgruntled at the competition their spoons were finding in the mass of herring.

A gentle suggestion that a few flopping minnows from the sand would provide them with better bait was accepted happily.

Charter boats carrying paying fishermen could not come in that close to shore, though they tried, and talked with us as they fished. It seemed a long time before the bass moved on. It was about 4 p.m. when we left to make our dinner, and the herring were still there in a large moving mass.

Laurie Morse

Glencoe, Ill.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Newspapers are the basic element of the information industry. That is where you find the real journalists, not the Barbie Doll “readers” of TV. Most TV anchors seem to be silly gossipers, feeding us “human interest” stories, photogenic fire footage, and superficial trivia while they give the truly important stuff short shrift. Interviewers allow patently false answers to go by unchallenged. Those tiresomely repeated commercials, played louder than the program’s content, seem to take up more time than the news.

The Internet sites that have the greatest credibility, like rely on newspapers for much of their content. Blogs sometimes uncover important information, but they are oftener megaphones for special interests. Public radio is good, but most of us only listen while in our cars.

So why are newspapers losing readership and facing financial disaster? Some adopt the wrong side on controversial issues such as the wind farm, and let their editorial viewpoint color their reportage of the news, which should be impartial. Some devote too much space to local history, some of it fascinating, but some deadly dull. Small-time local tyrannies are seldom investigated, perhaps because of the frequent clubby relationships between the politicians and the newspersons.

On freedom of choice, the newspapers win hands down. The reader selects which stories and which ads are of interest. TV pushes them at you, and except for the mute button, you must endure.

For the good of us all, and the nation, let’s hope the fourth estate does its job well enough to prosper.

Richard C. Bartlett