07.27.16 Fox News right now (#foxalternaterelality)

Posted July 27, 2016 by Keith Berner
Categories: Presidential Campaign 2016

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Trump’s encouragement of Russian espionage and interference in the US presidential race is the top (or 2nd) story on: NYT, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR right now. It does not exist AT ALL on Fox News. (The top story there is about Bernie supporters defecting to Jill Stein [the Green Party candidate].) #foxalternaternatereality

While a number of GOP security hawks have abandoned Trump, the rest of the party will now suddenly forget its decades-long hostility to Russia and Putin. Apparently, nothing will interfere with their lust for power. (Trumps explicit racism certainly didn’t break their stride.) #GOPhypocrisy

07.10.16 Rage

Posted July 10, 2016 by Keith Berner
Categories: Bigotry, Gun Control, Politics, Presidential Campaign 2016, Relgion & Secularism, Society

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Rage about all the black men killed by racist cops (not to mention all the injustice meted out that stops short of outright murder).

Rage at the sniper who killed innocent officers who were protecting protesters, setting back the cause of justice.

Rage at the NRA and the venal politicians who take their money and do their bidding.

Rage at the gun nuts who claim that an armed crowd at that gay bar in Orlando would have saved lives: tell that to the armed and dead cops in Dallas.

Rage at almost all Republicans for almost everything they support, oppose, and lie about.

Rage at the Clintons whose arrogance and paranoia have handed rope to our enemies over and over again for 25 years.

Rage at the right-wing freaks who think that misuse of an email server merits prison but starting a war founded on lies with hundreds of thousands of dead doesn’t.

Rage at the driver who ran over the kitten in the road today and was in too much of a hurry to stop, seconds before I arrived on my bike and held the kitten in my hands as it died.

Rage at the white people who chose on Friday to tell us how much better things are than we think, because violent crime rates are going down and GDP is going up.

Rage at the white people who will never get why Black Lives Matter.

Rage at a judge for putting a rapist in jail for only six months in order not to inconvenience him too much.

Rage at North Carolina for making me carry my birth certificate the next time I need to pee there.

Rage at the Nader and Sanders supporters who value their purity over the need to prevent evil.

Rage at Trump for everything.

Rage at Trump’s Virginia campaign manager, Corey Stewart, who blamed Hillary Clinton for the dead cops in Dallas.

Rage at Kansas for renaming public schools “government schools.”

Rage at Romney, Ryan, and Wall Street for not giving a shit about anyone who isn’t as lucky as they are.

Rage at journalists who enable climate change deniers and supply siders in the name of “balance.”

Rage at ideologues who decry science.

Rage at theocrats who declare Jesus white and bigotry right.

Rage at anyone who stays home on November 8. Rage at the right wing machine that steals voting rights while it proclaims freedom and tries to enforce it elsewhere at the barrel of a gun.

Rage at myself for looking forward to my page-view counts for this post.

Rage at the universe for not fixing any of this.

©2016 Keith Berner

07.06.16 Apology to Bernie Sanders + Don’t trust NYT

Posted July 6, 2016 by Keith Berner
Categories: Media/Journalism, Presidential Campaign 2016

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On May 29, I wrote about the hypocrisy of the Sanders campaign’s having opposed the superdelegate system in principle, while turning to superdelegates as the the last hope for overturning the will of the voters. While I stand by the my post, as a whole, it included these unfortunate words: “his supporters. . .throw things.” This was an oblique reference to an incident that was widely reported as taking place at the Nevada state convention in May. I should never have made that reference and hereby apologize for it.

As it turns out, there was no chair throwing in Nevada. According to the myth-busting website, Snopes.com, the incident was completely made up by a Nevada journalist by the name of Jon Ralston and then further propagated by such liberal bastions as Rachel Maddow and the New York Times.

Your blogger was gullible enough to take Maddow’s and NYT’s reports at face value. Dear Reader, as an one-person opinion blogger, I cannot promise you that I will engage in the kind of fact checking that I would expect of professional journalists and the institutions they work for. I find it outrageous that Maddow and NYT (not to mention hundreds of other media outlets) didn’t do their due diligence on this. I have learned a new lesson about relying on them and will try harder to verify controversial items I see in the mainstream media.

Ultimately, I don’t think this particular piece of misreporting changed in any significant way the outcome of the race: Bernie Sanders pretty much had no hope of victory by then. But it certainly contributed to greater hostility between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, which has not been good for anyone (except Trump and the GOP).

So, what of the Bernie claim that the media was horribly unfair to him from the moment he got in the race. I certainly saw clear evidence of this from the Washington Post, which is a consistent pro-corporate rag with no line between editorial and reporting. But I again failed to notice New York Times’ irresponsibility. This outstanding piece by Bill Moyers sheds good light:

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone wrote a scathing takedown of The Times’ most egregious offense: a March article by Jennifer Steinhauer on how Sanders functioned as a legislator. Headlined “Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years Via Legislative Side Doors,” as originally published, the article recounted how effective Sanders was at attaching amendments to pieces of legislation, both Republican and Democratic, and forging coalitions to achieve his ends. The piece was bandwagon stuff.

But then something happened. The original article, already published, underwent a transformation in which Sanders suddenly wasn’t so effective a legislator. Even the headline was changed to “Via Legislative Side Doors, Bernie Sanders Won Modest Victories.” And this paragraph was added: “But in his presidential campaign Mr. Sanders is trying to scale up those kinds of proposals as a national agenda, and there is little to draw from his small-ball legislative approach to suggest that he could succeed.”

Responding to angry Sanders supporters, The Times’ own public editor, Margaret Sullivan, asked why the changes were made and wrote, “Matt Purdy, a deputy executive editor, said that when senior editors read the piece after it was published online, they thought it needed more perspective about whether Mr. Sanders would be able to carry out his campaign agenda if he was elected president.” Yeah, right.

Moyers also reports the numbers:

On CNN, Clinton got more than 70,000 of the Democratic-candidate mentions, while Sanders got just under 42,000. On MSNBC, Clinton got more than 93,000 mentions to Sanders’ roughly 51,000. On Fox News, she got more than 71,000 mentions to his more than 28,000. The numbers are similar on the Lexis-Nexis database of newspapers.

Moyers’s conclusion about why all this happened, though, contradicts one part of the conspiracy theory held by many Bernie supporters. According to Moyers, media bias against Sanders was not the result of a corporate, right-wing cabal to defeat the left, but rather resulted from a self-reinforcing echo chamber. That is, the media assumed from the start that Sanders couldn’t possibly win against Clinton. Therefore, they under-covered him and denigrated him to justify their firm conclusion that he was and would be a loser. Writes Moyers:

. . .this isn’t just what the MSM think of Bernie Sanders. It is what the media think of losers. They don’t like them very much, and they seem determined to make sure that you don’t like them either — unless they beat the press’s own odds and become winners.

Do I suspect anti-left bias in the media? To some extent. But in some ways it’s even more alarming to learn that the news sources we rely on are just so completely irresponsible that truth and balance simply don’t matter. If you can’t rely on the New York Times, whom can you rely on?

©2016 Keith Berner

07.02.16 County Council repeals employee benefits for domestic partners

Posted July 2, 2016 by Keith Berner
Categories: Montgomery County

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An open letter to regressive Montgomery County Council members. . .

To: George Leventhal, Nancy Floreen & Hans Riemer:

I am extremely disappointed that you voted (and George led the effort) to strip county employees’ domestic partner benefits. In order to save about $1.98, you have placed MoCo firmly on the side of regressive social policy. Sure, domestic-partner benefits were often created to get around discrimination against same-sex couples. But these benefits also took government out of any role in judging the shapes of love and families. As for some of the where-do-you-draw-the-line/where-does-does-it-ever-stop complains I’ve seen on Facebook, this is not rocket science. My nonprofit employers allows staff to designate one domestic partner, without any demand to see a marriage certificate. The fact that Marty Ittner and I live at the same address is good enough for them — why shouldn’t it be good enough for the county?

I congratulate Marc Elrich, Tom Hucker, and Craig Rice for being on the correct side of this issue. But I’m also disappointed that they didn’t warn their constituents in advance of this misguided action so that public pressure could have been brought to bear. (And I congratulate MD Delegate David Moon for alerting me and many others to the issue on Facebook.)


©2016 Keith Berner


06.13.16 Mr. Trump isn’t wise on foreign policy — he’s just winging it (WaPo letter)

Posted June 13, 2016 by Keith Berner
Categories: Presidential Campaign 2016

Tags: , , ,

My letter will appear in the print edition of the Washington Post on Tuesday, June 17



Just because Joseph A. Mussomeli correctly eviscerated the neoconservatives for a lack of humility and inability to learn from their mistakes does not mean that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s approach to foreign policy is “level-headed” [“Trump’s foreign policy wisdom,” Washington Forum, June 10].

Mr. Trump has come to his foreign policy positions as he has the rest of his so-called policies: by winging it. He has neither substantive knowledge of nor experience in foreign affairs. His statements represent his instinct du jour, rather than any coherent whole. Mr. Trump cites himself as his main foreign policy adviser. He is volatile, thin-skinned and so taken with violent rhetoric that there is no telling what he would do as president.

I share the writer’s concern about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s affinity with the neocons; however, there is little doubt that she would conduct U.S. foreign policy with far more grounding in reality than Mr. Trump possibly could.

Keith Berner, Takoma Park

05.30.16 The selfishness of Chevy Chase

Posted May 30, 2016 by Keith Berner
Categories: Environment, Montgomery County, Prince George's County

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The Washington Post today had a front-page story about the 37th (or 98th or millionth?) attempt by Chevy Chase to block the Purple Line, which would provide an east-west link between Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties, including service to communities of the poor, the non-white, and immigrants. The identity of those behind this latest lawsuit didn’t appear on p. 1, where the headline was  “Purple Line’s foes add Metro safety, maintenance problems to legal argument.” But anyone who has followed this issue knew without turning to the continuation page that Purple Line Foe = Chevy Chase Resident.

Sure enough, below the fold, we learn that the main culprit this time is a so-called “environmental lawyer,” John M. Fitzgerald, who is now making safety arguments in order to (hypocritically) put more cars on the road.

Chevy Chase decided, en masse, years ago that they didn’t want the riffraff destroying their bucolic sense of entitlement. They have made up protected species, They have argued about costs. They have litigated about land residents stole from the right of way. Now they are exploiting Metro’s woes (the Purple Line won’t even be run by Metro!) to justify their foregone conclusion. Once they made up their minds to keep the world out, they used any handy excuse for litigation they could find to stop this worthy, necessary public transportation project.

Chevy Chase is overwhelmingly Democratic, just like the rest of Montgomery County. But these are false liberals – they believe in the public good only as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them.This is the partisan equivalent of the Republicans who  support progressive policies only when they or their families will directly benefit (e.g., support to increase disease research when a family member has the disease or switching sides on gay marriage after your daughter or son has come out.)

Chevy Chase is just as selfish as Wall Street. As we watch this latest attempt to block progressive policy go down in expensive flames, true progressives shouldn’t let them forget it.

©2016 Keith Berner


05.29.16 Rigged

Posted May 29, 2016 by Keith Berner
Categories: Presidential Campaign 2016

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The system is rigged. It always has been.

It was rigged in favor of landowners. And men. And white people. The number of ways our so-called “democracy” is anti-democratic is mind-numbing. And our fellow citizens’ minds have been purposely numbed by a corporate media and dumbed-down education system to believe our deeply flawed system is the envy of the world.

So, we reach Political Year 2016 (which began last year, of course). We still have Tuesday voting (rigged against workers). We have a notoriously irresponsible news media, rigged in favor of its greedy corporate owners. We have small, unrepresentative states that get to choose first for everyone else. We have closed primaries that prevent free democratic choice. We have caucuses that assure only the most highly motivated couple of percent take part.

We have Republicans – empowered by the courts – working assiduously to make voting more difficult and removing all remaining obstacles to racist disenfranchisement.

We have superdelegates, put in place by Democrats to after the McGovern debacle of 1972 to thwart the popular will if that popular will could threaten party victory and party elites’ power.  And we have Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as head of the DNC, who has done everything in her power to kill off threats to Hillary Clinton in service to party elites.

So, our broken system results in two front runners who are hated by most of the country. On the “bad” side is a fascist bigot, who – alas – will be backed by the majority of his party: the angry on the ground and the power-hungry running the show. On the “good” side is a family that has created scandal out of everything they’ve touched for a generation, because of their hubris and obsession with secrecy.

And there’s Bernie Sanders, a supposed saint. His policy stands seem saintly, indeed. But he forgot about the South and African Americans in planning his campaign. And his supporters scream and yell and throw things and threaten to make everyone suffer if they don’t magically get their way.  Sanders himself seems increasingly distracted from the substance of his revolution that did not happen, as he refuses to condemn bad behavior on his side and whips up the frenzy of his mobs who think something has just been stolen from them.

A revolution would change the rules. There would be Saturday elections, with plenty of early voting opportunities, in multi-member districts, with ranked voting. Districts would be determined by natural and jurisdictional borders. The system would encourage and enable participation. The media would cover facts, expose fallacies, and discuss various points of view (even those I disagree with). Schools would make social studies and government studies about more than how great America is. No one would give a shit about Iowa and New Hampshire.

Sanders and his supporters knew what the rules were before they embarked on their noble cause. At best, they would launch the revolution to change them, but those rules were still in place and hardly secret. It is not like Lucy yanked away the football when Charlie Brown was already running towards it. No, that football was clearly not in place to be kicked this year, last year, four years ago. The rules were not suddenly changed to hurt Bernie Sanders.

A substantially greater number of participants in the Democratic primaries and caucuses this year have chosen Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. That includes an overwhelming majority of minority voters. Sanders is right that closed primaries hurt him. But his supporters seem to have no problem at all with the even less democratic caucuses where he did well.

And, it’s fine with me to hate the superdelegate system. But to pin your hopes on it at the last minute when that is your only possible route to the nomination? This is what Sanders & Supporters are doing now.

It doesn’t matter that Clinton is imploding or polling worse than Sanders against Trump. What matters is that Clinton won the most votes this year. Sanders didn’t. Even if Sanders wins in California, that result will not change.  So the supposedly pure-democracy-loving Sanders campaign is now willing to disenfranchise everyone who chose Clinton, because they know better. How is this different than the behavior of party elites?

It isn’t and this is hypocrisy 101: claim to be be for the people. Except when you don’t like their decisions.

I’m not saying I like their decision. I voted for Sanders in Maryland. I have come to the point where I guess he’d do better in November than Clinton. But I am not willing to just toss aside others’ votes for what amounts to a guess.  I’m also not against trying for a political revolution. I believe it would be our only long-term hope. But when you turn on your own principles to bring it about, you’ve gone too far for me.

I want Bernie Sanders to continue campaigning in California. I want his supporters to be at the table pushing hard in the convention rule-writing. And I want Sanders to give a prime-time speech at the convention at which he reminds us again how rigged this whole country is for the ultra-wealthy. I want him to keep demanding progressive change. I want his dignity to be intact for the many fights to come.

But the time has already come to stop clawing for one or two delegates here and there or seeking to have superdelegates overrule the voters’ will. And on June 8 (the day after the California primary), it will be time finally, completely, and with unity to do whatever is necessary to stop a fascist from becoming president of the United States.

©2016 Keith Berner


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