09.14.18 “The threat to democracy” from the cowardly center

Posted September 14, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Democracy, Politics, Uncategorized

Tags:

This is in response to Fareed Zakaria’s column in today’s Washington Post , titled “The threat to democracy — from the left.”

I share concern about threats to free speech from the left.  But anyone, in the current climate of authoritarian, bigoted assaults on democracy — from Hungary to Sweden to the GOP — anyone who chooses this historical moment to claim equivalence between the dangers posed by the left and the right is not a (small-d) democrat. Zakaria should be ashamed of himself. At a time when we all have to be at the ramparts defending democracy, he chooses to worship at the false altar of equivalence. This is not a time for moral equivocation or reputation-protection through centrism. (We all know the type: the militant centrists who think proving they aren’t aligned with the left is the key to their legacies.) Zakaria has chosen sides in this epic struggle and his choice is the morally repugnant one. 

 

© 2018 Keith Berner

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08.19.18 Call it what it is: an international criminal conspiracy

Posted August 19, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Relgion & Secularism

Tags: ,

I suppose that Washington Post columnist David Von Drehle isn’t wrong to write: “No agency, I suspect, has built more schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, orphanages and clinics. No patron has inspired and endowed more masterpieces of music, art, architecture and literature.” His balanced piece, published two days ago under the title “The Church is tempted by power and obsessed with sex,” also declares that “its scandals and sins are monumental.”

But that latter line is too gentle, in my view. In fact, the Catholic church has been self-dealing and corrupt at least since Martin Luther objected to its sale of indulgences in the Middle Ages. It is the same institution that created the infamous and abusive Magdalene Laundries that endured in Ireland until 1996. And let’s not forget the Church’s silence and complicity before and during the Holocaust.

Only in the 1980s did we begin to learn about the extent of sexual abuse perpetrated at all levels of the Catholic hierarchy, in myriad countries around the world, and the massive, persistent conspiracy to cover up this widespread criminality and to enable continued abuse at the hands or priests (and, as in the Magdalene Laundries, nuns). Oh yes, it is the same organization that has ruined countless lives with what Von Drehle calls its “negative obsession with sex.”

The world abounds with conspiracies at various levels of criminality. There is currently an obsession on the right in this country about Latin American gangs. The Mafia lives and breathes in our imaginations and in local government around the world. And, of course, we cannot forget the GOP conspiracy to deny climate change and undermine voting rights.

I don’t know of an objective comparison of these various outrages in terms of the quantity of perpetrators and fellow-travelers, number of victims, financial and social damage caused, or in their pervasiveness over time and geographic impact.  But surely, the Catholic Church, with its worldwide reach, 2000-year history, and outright control of so many societies must be considered nothing less than the most damaging criminal conspiracy in human history.

Though I do not share their faith, I do not begrudge anyone their heartfelt belief. I can imagine (if only intellectually) the draw of tradition, the sense of community a religion can foster, and the deep comfort that belief in something greater than ourselves might offer.

It is now time, though, for every Catholic believer, not to reject their belief, but to examine with open eyes the behavior of an institution they enable with their weekly attendance and collection-plate donations. It is time for these Catholics to condemn their church loudly, clearly, and persistently. They must leave the old church and build a new one. Keep the liturgy and the doctrine, if you wish. But denounce Rome and it’s dispersed hierarchy. Start over with local faith leaders who represent and embody the compassion, mercy, and charity of Jesus.

Von Drehle uses the word “corrupted” to describe the Catholic Church. This word choice isn’t wrong, but it is weak, failing to capture the essential rottenness, hypocrisy, and criminality of the institution.

Only when individual Catholics take their responsibility to their true faith seriously can the their historical church be brought to its knees and a new venue and venture for love — of god, humanity, and our beautiful planet — be erected in its place. It is not sufficient for atheists like me to condemn the Catholic Church. Only Catholics themselves can end the outrage.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

 

 

07.29.18 Speaking of traitors: Comptroller Peter Franchot breaks pledge to support Democratic gubernatorial nominee

Posted July 29, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Maryland

Tags: , , ,

Thanks to Maryland Matters for this juicy tidbit:

. . .more than two months before the primary, Franchot was asked by a Maryland Matters reporter if he planned to support his party’s gubernatorial nominee.

“Yes,” he said. “I’m a Democrat.”

That was then.

Franchot told WYPR-FM earlier this month that he has decided to stay neutral in the gubernatorial race.

“I think I’m probably going to remain neutral in that race — simply because it’s important for me to get along with whoever is elected,” Franchot told the station.

While he didn’t mention Democratic nominee Benjamin T. Jealous by name, Franchot explained his stance by saying that Maryland voters “don’t want higher taxes, they don’t want higher fees, they don’t want pie-in-the-sky programs that sound great” but are too expensive.

In a recent interview with Maryland Matters, Franchot dsicussed [sic] his about-face in more detail.

“What changed is: A) I realized what a good relationship I had with Hogan, B) that the Board of Public Works is a very small body, [just] me, the treasurer and the governor. And C) that it was important for me, to be a good Comptroller, to be on good terms with either Jealous or Hogan.”

To think that Franchot was originally elected to the Maryland General Assembly from District 20 (Silver Spring and Takoma Park), the state’s most progressive jurisdiction! But that was before Jamie Raskin woke the district up in 2006. Since then, Franchot has been running to the right as fast as his patrician legs can carry him. It’s a shame he wasn’t primaried this year. All good Democrats should make a pledge not to let that happen in 2022: Franchot should move to a red state if he wants to be in elective office.

©2018 Keith Berner

07.29.18 The Montgomery County executive race: buckle your seat belts

Posted July 29, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Montgomery County

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

After a harrowing month, a partial recount requested by candidate David Blair determined this past Monday that Marc Elrich is indeed the Democratic Party nominee, by a margin of less than 80 votes. Elrich will face perennial Republican candidate and gadfly Robin Ficker in November. Normally, one would predict a landslide victory by any Democrat over the widely disliked Ficker (there are plenty of Republicans who can’t stand him).

2018-07-29 14_54_38-Marc Elrich for County Executive - Updates - Opera

But, there is no “normal” this year. The biggest departure from past elections is at-large incumbent Nancy Floreen’s abandonment of the Democratic Party to run against Elrich in November. For another, the Washington Post – always a strongly regressive force in local politics – is becoming more and more doctrinaire under gazillionaire Jeff Bezos’s leadership. The Post is a leading voice in the new red scare sweeping the country, as a backlash against Bernie Sanders and in the wake of Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset against a machine politician in New York state (the same day as Maryland’s recent primary).

Our (supposed) newspaper of record has been calling Elrich names all spring, editorializing against him (and in favor of Blair) at least three times and declaring the End-Times near if Elrich (and, I assume, anyone with a social conscience) were to be elected to local office.

We can be 100% certain that WaPo will endorse Floreen early and often in the coming months. (One disappointment with Floreen’s candidacy is that we will miss the spectacle the Post’s agonizing over whether to endorse Ficker over Dangerous Socialist Marc Elrich.) We can also be certain that the development industry – terrified by the prospect of a county leadership that asks them to pay for the infrastructure all their concrete requires – will spend millions of dollars to keep Elrich out of office. (See the nasty mailers sent out by Empower Montgomery – a developers’ cabal – in the run-up to the primary: they rated Elrich -5 and nearly everyone else +5 or higher.)

So, does Floreen pose a real threat to Elrich’s election? The simple answer is “yes” and the Elrich campaign would be foolish not to taking her extremely seriously.

But. . .

  • Nancy Floreen is an unlikable candidate who has repeatedly won her at-large seat on County Council more on the basis of name recognition and developer money than on inspiration. (As Elrich says, Floreen was never much of a Democrat, anyway. My strong belief is that if she were anywhere in Red America, she would have been a perfectly comfortable Republican all along. She pretended to be blue here, because she is unprincipled and that was the only route to getting elected.)
  • Marc Elrich has a long history of out-performing his relative fundraising by large margins (Blair outspent him this race by more than 2 to 1). This means that Elrich – who might have the best name recognition of any politician in the county (would Jamie Raskin rank higher?) won’t need a large war chest to run a strong campaign.
  • More people will start listening to what Elrich actually says, rather than falling prey to the red-baiting. He is a principled lefty, to be sure, but he also has been able to work with and reach compromises with people of all stripes across the county. Check out what he said on the Kojo Nnamdi show on July 20: that he doesn’t waste anyone’s time on ideological legislation and policy that he knows won’t pass. This is a mature, pragmatic person and politician, not a bomb-thrower or revolutionary.
  • And here’s the amazing thing: nearly all Democrats in the county have lined up to support our nominee. Hans Riemer and Ike Leggett, two very centrist politicians, got behind Elrich before the recount was over. Primary opponent Roger Berliner did so as well. And, in the biggest (pleasant) surprise at all, David Blair announced his support for Elrich as soon as the recount determined the winner, once and for all.

(A side note to all this wonderfulness is that it took current Council member, and primary opponent George Leventhal longer than David Blair to come out for our nominee. As I previously have written on Facebook, this shameful delay was due to Leventhal’s personal antipathy towards Elrich and a ridiculous case of sour grapes for a for a fifth-place finisher.

Leventhal is mostly a solid progressive. But he has sided too often with the development industry and has an angry temperament that is nearly 180-degrees opposite from Elrich’s soothing demeanor. I’d love to see Leventhal continue to make public contributions in areas such has homelessness and immigrants rights. But his recent shenanigans play to the worst perceptions of him, including his inability to control his emotions and a basic untrustworthiness. If he keeps up the personal grandstanding, he might render himself irrelevant and that would be a shame.)

So, does Elrich have a strong chance against Floreen? You bet he does. With a great ground game, committed volunteers, and a substantial part of the Democratic establishment working for him, he should win in November. (Not all of those who have endorsed him will lift a finger on his behalf. Riemer, for example, was red-baiting Elrich only two weeks earlier and endorsed almost certainly just to preserve his viability for ego-pleasing future campaigns.)

Montgomery County voters can’t afford to rest in 2018, following a primary election that customarily is the election-of-record in our deep-blue county. Buckle your seat belts, write a check to Elrich, and if you have the stamina, sign up to door-knock or make phone calls on his behalf. Our county needs your engagement to assure that Marc Elrich soundly defeats two Republican opponents this fall.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

07.28.18 My statement at Takoma Park City Council regarding development at Takoma Junction

Posted July 28, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Takoma Park

Tags: ,

This past Wednesday, the Takoma Park City Council voted 5-2 to proceed with the site plan for a two-story building to replace an under-utilized, decades-old parking lot. An alternative resolution by Councilman Jarrett Smith to kick the can down the road indefinitely (most likely killing the project) failed 6-1.

The council votes that evening came after more three-and-a-half hours of public statements. Here is a link to just before I start speaking: https://takomapark.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=14&clip_id=2372&starttime=10569&stoptime=10878&autostart=0&embed=1“>2:56:25.

Here is the link to the full proceedings: https://takomapark.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=14&clip_id=2372&starttime=10569&stoptime=10878&autostart=0&embed=1“>full proceedings.

 

07.14.18 Takoma Junction development won’t . . .

Posted July 14, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Montgomery County, Takoma Park

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. . . end life as we know it,

  • threaten the existence of the universe,
  • hurt a single poor person,
  • make a whit of difference in the availability — or lack thereof — of affordable housing in Takoma Park,
  • gentrify the whole city or otherwise change the progressive ethos of Takoma Park,
  • damage other structures,
  • harm children who need to cross the street,
  • inconvenience more than a few people due to traffic (it won’t have much impact on traffic at all).

Takoma Junction development will

  • replace an ugly impervious surface with a nicely designed two-story building that will improve quality of life in our city, following at least 30 years of inaction,
  • force the Coop to adjust how it operates.

As for the Coop, not only has it refused to engage constructively over the past five years, it has whipped up an ideological frenzy, in which a small and positive change to our city becomes the moral equivalent of

  • separating families at the border
  • GOP theft of the Supreme Court
  • police violence against people of color
  • collapse of liberal democracy
  • hating the poor.

Opponents’ arguments have at times been amusing, more often been baffling, and now have become outright offensive. By turning their opposition into the Moral Issue of Our Time, they are distracting themselves and the rest of us from the more serious work needed in the face of resurgent racism, international collapse, and climate change. Heck, every breathless moment they spend on their struggle is a minute they are not spending countering the very-present threat to our county from the Washington Post, the development industry, and Nancy Floreen. If you hate over-development, that is the battle to be waged. (Go Marc Elrich!)

Reason will prevail at City Council on July 25, because the majority of councilmembers and residents know the difference between reality and frenzy.

PS. Jarrett Smith: now that you have no political future, how about regaining a shred of dignity by resuming your support for Junction development? You switched sides in an instant for no good reason, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to switch back.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

 

 

 

07.09.18 An open letter to my Democratic elected officials: Stop Floreen now!

Posted July 9, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Montgomery County, Politics, Uncategorized

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In addition to publishing this blog post, I will also email it to all the officials listed below. I encourage all readers to send something similar to their elected representatives.

To:
US Sen. Ben Cardin
US Sen. Chris Van Hollen
US Rep. Jamie Raskin
Sen. Will Smith
Del. David Moon
Del. Jheanelle Wilkins
Del.-Elect Lorig Charkoudian
County Executive Ike Leggett
County Councilman Tom Hucker
County Councilman George Leventhal
County Councilman Hans Riemer
County Councilman-Elect Gabe Albornoz
County Councilman-Elect Evan Glass
County Councilman-Elect Will Jawando

With today’s news that the Maryland Board of Elections will allow Nancy Floreen’s independent run for county executive to proceed this fall, I call on you to waste no time in standing up to this nefarious attempt to undermine our party’s nominee. The time to stop Floreen’s bid is now, before the Washington Post and its pals in the development industry start funding a smear campaign that will drown us in propaganda and weaken our nominee and our party.

I urge you not only to speak out, but also to ban Floreen from all party gatherings and activities henceforth.

While you might be forgiven for not endorsing our nominee, if you fail to denounce Floreen’s campaign, you will have taken sides against the Democratic Party, which I and others will not forget.

©2018 Keith Berner