04.26.15 Heather Mizeur: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out

Posted April 26, 2015 by Keith Berner
Categories: Maryland, Takoma Park

Tags: , , , ,

Almost all politicians are ambitious. At least in the back of their minds, they ponder their route to the White House or – at least – the next higher available seat. There is nothing wrong with this per se, except when a line is crossed and the politician’s priority is serving oneself, rather than a greater cause or “the people.”

Heather Mizeur is just such a politician. As a staffer in Sen. John Kerry’s office, she moved to Takoma Park, MD in the early aughts, at least in part because it was an easy place for a progressive to launch a political career. In many city wards, one needs only a couple hundred votes to win and you don’t even have to quit your day job to make one-evening-per week city council meetings.

Having won her seat, Mizeur promptly lost interest in it half-way through her two-year term. Her attendance rate at council meetings tanked and part-way through that second year, she resigned. Her ostensible reason was that she and her wife had found their “dream house” in another Takoma Park ward. In fact, Mizeur was done with city council: she considered her political bona fides sufficiently established for her to turn her attention to the national Democratic Party (running Kerry’s 2004 Maryland campaign and winning a seat on the Democratic National Committee). She also began plotting her run for the Maryland House of Delegates from District 20 and won that seat in 2006.

I heard no complaints about Mizeur during her first four-year term as D20 delegate. But, after that, Mizeur again lost interest in her current job. By 2012, neighbors to that “dream house” started reporting that weeks or months would pass without any sign of activity there. (She was already spending all her time at her new dream house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.) Legislative insiders said that it also became increasingly difficult to get Mizeur to show up for D20 events and activities, whether in Annapolis or closer to her dark and lonely Takoma Park house.

Mizeur’s eyes were on the next prize: the governorship! Notwithstanding having served only a term-and-a-half as a backbencher and having no record of having run any enterprise larger than her one-staff delegate’s office (and the MD part of Kerry’s awful 2004 campaign), Mizeur considered herself fit to run the state. Shortly after declaring for governor, the candidate announced to a Washington Post reporter that if she didn’t win the race, she would be “done with politics.” Yeah, right. Mizeur came in a distant third in the June 2014 Democratic primary against two lousy alternatives.

Fast forward to last week, when Mizeur had someone post a good-bye letter to Takoma Park community listservs. (It seems that Mizeur had been absent from Takoma Park for so long that she no longer belonged to any of the listservs herself.) Here is the text of her letter:

Dear Neighbors,

It is with mixed emotions that Deborah and I share with you the news that we are putting our house in Takoma Park up for sale this week. We have made the difficult decision to move to the Eastern Shore full-time where our work to create an organic herbal medicine farm to support Deborah’s clinical practice is in full swing in Kent County.

This was not an easy decision for us. We love this community deeply. We have always described Takoma Park as a utopia for progressive activists and change agents and one of the best places on Earth to live. We have never felt more loved and embraced by any other community.

Following the Governor’s race and years of sacrifice by Deborah to fully support my political work as a City Councilmember and State Delegate, it is my turn to give back to her. The work on the farm is as incredibly rich and satisfying as it is demanding. We simply need to be there all the time, especially during this start-up phase.

And so while we are bursting with excitement and enthusiasm about this next adventure in our lives, we have a heavy heart to leave a home and a community that we love so dearly. We take comfort knowing that we will be visiting often and that friendships know no distance.

Thank you, Takoma Park, for the lovely memories, the charismatic passion you display, and the opportunity you have given me to serve. I look forward to our pathways crossing again real soon. This is not goodbye.

All the best,

Heather (and Deborah) Mizeur

Here is my response to the listservs:

No surprise here. Mizeur never cared about TkPk – she moved here to jump-start her political career by running for a city council seat and then serving only until it became inconvenient (not even a full term). Then as our District 20 delegate, she stopped showing up in our district as soon as she became interested in running for governor.

We need political leaders who share Mizeur’s progressive agenda, but we also need them to be genuine and truly committed to the constituents they serve. Mizeur’s pursuit of grandeur rendered our little corner of the world insignificant to her. As for her open letter, it is artificial and self-serving, as so many of Mizeur’s public announcements  have been.

Perhaps Mizeur will indeed miss Takoma Park. Takoma Park won’t miss her.

Keith Berner

Mizeur closed her letter by saying “this is not goodbye.” Vis-à-vis Takoma Park, her remark is completely disingenuous. She is done with Takoma Park for good, since we no longer serve any purpose for her.

But is this limelight-craving politician done with politics? Is she really fulfilling her promise to that Post reporter to pick up her marbles and ride off into the sunset if she didn’t land in the governor’s mansion?

C’mon! It’s sweet that Heather is giving Deborah a chance to do her thing. But Mizeur has proven how easily she gets bored. It wont be long before she gives up herb farming for her next political run. Sadly for Mizeur, though, her new district on the Eastern Shore sends Republicans to Congress. And, since Maryland will have two young(ish), energetic Democratic senators (assuming Chris Van Hollen wins Barbara Mikulski’s seat and Ben Cardin doesn’t get abducted by aliens), that door will be closed, too.

So, look for Mizeur to abandon her “dream farm” for greener pastures: a state with a winnable House or Senate seat. At that point, she will indeed pay Takoma Park another visit, hat in hand.

 ©2015 Keith Berner

04.15.15 You’ll have to vote for Hillary (sorry!)

Posted April 15, 2015 by Keith Berner
Categories: Politics, Presidential Campaign 2016

Tags: , , , , ,

If you are are in  red or purple state, you don’t get to vote your conscience (or sit on the sidelines) in November 2016. Sure, there is lots to abhor about the Clintons, but the contrast between Democrats (disappointing as they are) and the GOP has become a deep chasm. Since I live in Maryland, I am comfortable declaring that HRC won’t get my vote in the spring or the fall. But if I were in Ohio or Maine or Virginia, I would not have that luxury.

Progressive hero (and Nobel-prize winner) Paul Krugman makes an eloquent case in the New York Times for stopping the GOP, regardless of what one thinks of the Democratic nominee:

As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.

For example, any Democrat would, if elected, seek to maintain the basic U.S. social insurance programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — in essentially their current form, while also preserving and extending the Affordable Care Act. Any Republican would seek to destroy Obamacare, make deep cuts in Medicaid, and probably try to convert Medicare into a voucher system . . . And any Democrat would try to move forward on climate policy, through executive action if necessary, while any Republican — whether or not he is an outright climate-science denialist — would block efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions . . .The differences between the parties are so clear and dramatic that it’s hard to see how anyone who has been paying attention could be undecided even now, or be induced to change his or her mind between now and the election.

One thing is for sure: American voters will be getting a real choice. May the best party win. [emphasis mine]

Among the things Krugman neglects in his otherwise outstanding piece is the courts. Can you imagine Scott Walker’s, Ted Cruz’s, or even the (supposedly moderate) Jeb Bush’s court appointments? Even without all the other policy differences between the parties, preventing further right-wing radicalization of the courts across the country (not just the Supreme Court) should make every Naderite and Green vote Democratic in November.

©2015 Keith Berner

04.10.15 GOP Hates the Poor and Minorities

Posted April 10, 2015 by Keith Berner
Categories: Bigotry, Politics

Tags: ,

This is from Harold Meyerson in yesterday’s Washington Post:

Fueled by the mega-donations of the mega-rich, today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.

04.09.15 Theology, Theocracy & Ideology

Posted April 9, 2015 by Keith Berner
Categories: Relgion & Secularism, Society

Tags: , ,

Theology

I’m an atheist. I’m quite certain there are myriad phenomena in the universe we can’t explain – and don’t even know about. I just don’t see how that proves the existence of god(s), though. That is, I believe there is a “science” – a logical explanation – for all but one of these mysterious phenomena, even if the explanation is beyond our current ability to fathom.

So which mystery can never be explained scientifically? The fact that anything exists at all. Either it has existed forever, which is impossible. Or nothing became something, which is equally impossible.

Theists will say that “God*” (or gods) provides the explanation. This does me no good. You posit a deity? Well, what predated and created that being? All your god construct does for me is to add an unnecessary layer on a still-unsolvable mystery. So why bother?

I respect of spirituality – things like mindfulness and meditation have unquestioned value. And even paranormal phenomena can fall under the rubric of that which cannot presently be explained, but which certainly has an explanation. Telepathy? Telekinesis? Foretelling the future? I don’t pooh-pooh this stuff out-of-hand, even though I may be skeptical of the particular claim or claimant.

I’m tolerant of faith. If you believe in Jesus or Mohamed or the Hindu gods, what is it to me? I get why humans seek explanation for the unknown, rebel against randomness and entropy, and take comfort in ritual. I see how church provides community.

Theocracy

Even though I don’t have a problem with faith per se, once any religion claims certainty and exclusivity, I begin to take umbrage. Seriously, out of all possible explanations of reality, across an infinite universe, what are the odds that some white guy who lived 2000+ years ago provided a correct explanation, nonetheless the only correct one? Given the lengthy odds against any human theology’s being remotely accurate, I don’t get religious adherence.

I suspect that many original prophets and a huge majority of current practitioners are sincere in their faith. But the corruption of a theology is inevitable as men (and it is nearly always men) exploit it and twist it to gain and maintain power (see Jimmy Carter quote, below). Just as the wealthy in modern-day USA use their economic power to control our politics, the media, and education, so have the charismatic and clever used their made-up doctrines to keep slaves in chains, women as chattel, and homosexuals in hell. It is this political religion that is beyond the pale. From Indiana to ISIS, the world is awash in cynical, brutal, hurtful religion.

And the hypocrisy is mind numbing. US Christian fundamentalists condemn Iran’s theocracy as they legislate their bible across this country. It’s not just the “religious freedom” laws, but also the disappearance from our textbooks of evolution or honest American history. (Since god ordained the US as “his” own nation, everything the US does – from its genocide to torture – must ipso factor be beyond reproach.)

Notwithstanding the secularism of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution (church-state separation, anyone?) religion is the law of the land, with explicit theocracy dominant in one of our political parties. Big US cities are islands of rationality and enlightenment. But the suburbs, small towns, and countryside – the vast land area of the country – lives in 13th century make-believe. Or, rather, it should be make believe, but isn’t, for the reason that the Constitution gives undue power to land over population (i.e., rural areas and small towns get huge bonus in our system).

Ideology

Political ideology is just like religion, except it’s directly about power, rather than pretending not to be. Consider:

  • the Iraq War
  • climate change
  • austerity policies
  • the certainty of a Romney victory in 2012.

In each instance, ideologues knew the answers before questions were asked – no facts or insight required, no feedback accepted. I hardly mean to categorize every person of faith (or politics) as an ideologue. I do mean to accuse religious and political institutions of exploiting doctrine to maintain power at huge costs to humans and the planet.

As Catholicism’s ban on birth control condemns millions to die of sexually transmitted disease or starvation; as al Shabab massacres 147 students in Kenya; as Buddhists, Hindus, and Moslems slaughter each other in Southeast Asia; and as the icecaps melt, it is apparent that blind faith won’t bring peace or progress.

Yet, we are crippled in our body politic; our fear of offending the religious makes the nonobersvant deferential and meek. Even our most progressive officeholders won’t proclaim secular values as such or risk appearing publicly unpious. At least one bow to  religion is practically required in every stump speech and God Bless America has taken over baseball stadiums.

We need articulate and forceful leaders who will address directly religion’s impact on human dignity – people of stature who can reshape the discourse around religion, rights, and progress.

Last Word

After a few days of working on this post, I had left it there, looking for leadership and not sure what else to say about it.

Then today – by sheer coincidence** – I came across the perfect closure to these musings: a 2009 article (“Losing my religion for equality”) by Jimmy Carter. He writes:

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.

Jimmy Carter is a moral leader, a man of stature. Having left his church, he remains a godly man. In this piece, he holds religion explicitly accountable for hurting women. I might not have thought Carter a comrade in arms on these issues, because our theologies are different. But Carter provides a refreshing reminder that not only atheists make the case for secularism. That makes this atheist a bit more hopeful.

For today, anyway, Jimmy Carter is the leader I was looking for.


*I capitalize “God” when referring to the supernatural being Jews, Christians, and Muslims address by that name. I use the lower case when referring a generic deity.

**Or was it an act of God?

©2015 Keith Berner

04.05.15 Abstinence works

Posted April 5, 2015 by Keith Berner
Categories: Women's Rights

Tags: , , ,

Even as we have witnessed the extraordinary national declaration that it is no longer ok to discriminate against gays and lesbians, the GOP Theocrats continue their nonstop assault on women’s reproductive freedom. See NYT columnist Gail Collins’s piece highlighting the Texas house’s bill to take all funding away from HIV prevention and put it all into abstinence-only education:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/04/opinion/gail-collins-and-now-political-virgins.html?smid=nytcore-ipad-share&smprod=nytcore-ipad&_r=0

Keith Berner

 

04.02.15 Breaking News: Indiana declares war on Iran

Posted April 2, 2015 by Keith Berner
Categories: International Affairs

Tags: , , , ,

BREAKING NEWS: Indiana declares Iran nuke deal dead on arrival, declares war on Iran and Washington, DC.

In Arkansas, Gov. Hutchinson counseled caution as he awaits guidance from Walmart.

Meanwhile John McCain and Benjamin Netanyahu have been rushed to emergency rooms with apparent aneurysms.

©2015 Keith Berner

04.01.15 Thank you, Indiana. Thank you Arkansas.

Posted April 1, 2015 by Keith Berner
Categories: Politics

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I just love it when places where I would have no interest in going to under any circumstances manage to convince the rest of the world to stay away. Really, why would anyone ever want to go to Indiana or Arkansas? What is so gratifying is to observe the enormous backlash against those two centers of fundamentalism and bigotry. It’s a big deal when Apple’s Tim Cook opines in the in the Washington Post:

This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.”

Heck, even Walmart – a corporation every liberal loves to hate – has put out forceful statements against discrimination in recent days.

Of course the dozen or so GOP presidential hopefuls deliciously don’t get it. Even the supposedly moderate Jeb Bush showed his love to Indiana bigots. Why is this delicious? As Dana Milbank pointed out yesterday, the GOP is back to fighting the Culture War. But, this ain’t 2002 anymore. The more the party of know-nothings continues to focus on a return to the Dark Ages, the more they alienate needed voters (as if their utter inability to put forth a positive agenda or conduct the basic fundamentals of governing weren’t damaging enough).

But, wait: the schadenfreude isn’t done! In coming days or weeks, Indiana and Arkansas are going to walk this back. You see, the party of preachers loves the Almighty Dollar more than they love their hard-right God Almighty. Though I find the views of religious zealots offensive, there is something respectable about having the courage of one’s convictions. What we are now going to witness is a spectacle of people who truly loathe homosexuals pretending they don’t. Why? Because their wallets are threatened by the commitment of cities, businesses, and individuals across the country to just say no. For shame: if you’re going to hate, a few bucks shouldn’t be enough to buy your love.

Now, I won’t care when the hypocrites rescind or amend these hateful laws. I’m in it for life: Not only will I never set foot in either of those states (exception: I’d be willing to drive through Indiana if I were on my way to Chicago), but I will stay the fuck out of most of Red America. Not this week. Not this month. Forever.

The key for me in deciding what places to boycott is when the popular will in those places chooses fascism or bigotry. Examples of places I’ll never set foot include Austria (which elected the infamous Kurt Waldheim president after his association with the Nazis came to light), Hungary (where the hard-right, anti-Semitic regime of Viktor Orban controls about 2/3 of parliament), and Israel (which just gave the racist Benyamin Netanyahu yet another term of office).

©2015 Keith Berner

 


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