09.14.17 Quick endorsements for MD D20

Posted September 14, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Maryland

Tags: , , ,

I am proud to endorse for reelection (primary election June 26, 2018):

  • Senator Will Smith
  • Delegate David Moon
  • Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins

The perfect newcomer to join the most progressive delegation in Annapolis is Lorig Charkoudian.

(Voters may select one candidate for senator and three candidates for delegate.)

I will have more to say about this race moving forward, but wanted to do what I could to help, without waiting.

©2017 Keith Berner

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09.04.17 I’m 98% anti antifa

Posted September 4, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Bigotry, Civil Liberties, International Affairs, Politics

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I almost giggled the first few times I heard that right-wingers were using terms like “extremist left” and “alt-left.” Of course, it wasn’t just the people every progressive could identify as right wingers doing this. Rather it was the New York Times and The Washington Post showing how not in thrall to the left they were. In pursuit of mainstream credibility, they were shy about refusing a platform to the GOPs anti-science freaks and pushed a general narrative of (false) equivalence: if the right was increasingly extreme, then surely the left was equally so.

All the while, anyone who paid attention knew that the lest vestiges of a violent left disappeared from the US in early ’70s.

I have my own extremist conspiracy theories and violent fantasies. I believed in the aughts (and still suspect) that if the corporate elite suspected elections might actually reform the system, elections would be canceled and tanks would roll in the streets. Obama’s election certainly didn’t disprove this: after all, Obama proved himself to be the ultimate Wall Streeter at the same time that he was among the worst civil liberties presidents in history (particularly in his full backing for the NSA).

I do think that armed revolution is probably the only way our political and economic systems could be pried completely from the grips of the selfish wealthy and their amen corner in hard-right churches across the country. Further, I think the “low information” nature of the United States is at least partly due to purposeful conspiracy on the right: the use of consumer baubles, cultural icons, and religion to create a dumbed down education system with TV as the opiate (now add opioids to that mix).

Yeah, 2% of me wants that armed revolution and would like to see all the corporate elite begging for food, while (by-then-former) GOP officials swing from trees.

But here’s a fundamental reason why I don’t embrace violence and revolution: what comes next?

This is the same reason why I have turned against the philosophically justified “responsibility to protect,” the international doctrine under which great powers like the United States have a duty to intervene to stop moral atrocities around the world. A quick survey of US international interventions – even those with some portion of noble intent – reveals that almost every single one has left things worse than they were before we got there. It is horrific to stand back while Assad and Putin slaughter millions. But if the US were to send in the Marines, would the bloodletting cease or would who is doing the slaughtering simply change for a time, with no reduction in carnage? And if we took the place over, how long would before our main purpose there became enriching General Dynamics and Apple?

So, you say you want a revolution (the classic Beatles song is going through my head)? It would be nice to see the bad guys dead or deposed. But do you really think the poor, women, and people of color would end up better off? At a very basic level, what if all the violence shut down those nasty coporations, which – until now – have been getting food from farms to tables all over the country and kept the water running? (Look at Venezuela! Yes, some poor are better off then under the oligarchs, but now there’s starvation on every corner and the health care system has collapsed.)

Or to get even more basic: When systems of order collapse, the power of the powerful becomes absolute.  I’m not a woman, but if I were, I might rather be out and about where there are imperfect institutions of order – even ones that abuse equal rights every day – than if the local strongman got to determine by himself whether I became his sex slave or made it home.

I hate unfettered capitalism. I hate institutionalized racism. I hate the Trump Regime. But, to replace them, there has to be a plan to replace them. There needs to be very careful thinking about the proverbial “day after” and it damn well better be better than the day before. Will there be a way to measure who has benefitted from violent overthrow and how the overall balance works out (in order to calculate whether the greatest possible good has been achieved for the greatest number of people)?

It may not be satisfying, but change within our deeply flawed system is the only means to try to help those who need it most to get at least something. Destroying the entire system at once means blood in the streets. Are you positive whose blood it will be?

As I have written, I believe the only chance to stop our current slide into fascism and dysfunctionality will be by electing folks who believe in democracy and will replace those who don’t. And it won’t – in our two-party system – be the Greens who get elected. It will be Democrats. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are our only path to progress, however unsatisfying the pace may be.

In this complex world, we don’t get to choose exactly what we want. The unjust system might be overthrown and replaced by something even less just. I might elect Democrats and they might disgust me. But if the result they produce is less bad than that produced by the GOP, it is good.

And now it appears the violent left has sprung back to life. The Antifa’s black-hooded, club-wielding, anti-free-speech goons aren’t going to launch or “win” a revolution. What they are already doing is grabbing headlines from the Nazis, the KKK, and the racist GOP. Since Charlottesville, the word “antifa” is suddenly everywhere (are there now more mentions of it than there are of Confederate statues?). So far, the newspapers of record that are reporting breathlessly on the phenomenon are reminding us in some of this coverage that the crimes of the right are far worse. Who thinks that Fox and the Wall Street Journal are being so careful? And how long until the Times and the Post re-embrace false equivalence in all its glory, by sowing fear of the left to match fear of the right?

The Antifa is discrediting Bernie progressives and moderate liberals at the same time. Two-thousand-eighteen is around the corner. The forces of reaction are already making the TV ads that will capture the hearts of low-information voters everywhere.  You can bet those ads will be full of Berkeley fires and DC property damage. If the left draws a single drop of blood these coming months, it will be smeared across the living rooms of the nation. You will see the face of some moderate Democratic senator morph into that of a communist hoodlum and that Democrat could lose because if it, keeping Congress in GOP hands.

Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi proved the value and moral rightness of nonviolence. In the current US political environment, though, violence on the left is not only morally condemnable, it is just plain STUPID.

Progressives and the “liberals” they dislike so much need to stand up together NOW to denounce the Antifa. Like me, you may at times silently cheer the injuries inflicted on those who so richly deserve it. But what we must do publicly is to develop Democratic candidates and bench strength (including some Dems we don’t much love) and win some goddam elections. It may be mildly nauseating to join hands with Nancy Pelosi to condemn the (left) mob, but it’s what we have to do.

I am scared, though, that the Antifa cannot be crushed and holds too much righteous anger to collapse on its own. If that is true, woe unto us, for now we face enemies on both sides.

©2017 Keith Berner

08.20.17 Mike Miller must go (in which the Maryland senate majority leader sides with Trump and the KKK)

Posted August 20, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Bigotry, Maryland

Tags: , , , , , ,

Thomas V. “Mike” Miller has been Maryland senate majority leader since 1987. Over 30 years, he has been proof positive that, while Maryland is deep blue, it is hardly progressive. Miller has been a consistent obstacle to progress, by (for example):

This week Miller stepped over the line from what might be called “conservative Democrat” to “right-wing activist.” Read on, Dear Marylander.

In Annapolis, a statue honoring Roger Taney had stood since 1872. As chief justice of the Supreme Court, Taney authored the infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857, barring African Americans from US citizenship. As recently as July 2015, Maryland’s GOP governor, Larry Hogan, defended the statue, calling efforts to remove it “political correctness run amok.”

On Tuesday, however, Hogan showed himself capable of learning, declaring a change of heart and supporting the statue’s removal:

While we cannot hide from our history — nor should we — the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history.

The decision-making body responsible for such matters is the State House Trust, which is chaired by Hogan and includes Miller, Speaker of the House Michael Busch, and Charles Edson, chair of the Maryland Historical Trust. Bush indicated last Monday that he favored the statue’s removal and Edson agreed. At that time, Miller indicated only that if Hogan wanted to make the change, he would go along.

On Wednesday, the Trust voted by email (their usual procedure) 3-0 to remove the statue, with Miller abstaining. But Miller was not satisfied with simply remaining silent in the face of historic change: on Thursday, he released a letter excoriating the decision.

Miller devoted most of the letter to praising Taney, saying the justice “served with distinction” and trying to build a case that Taney was actually “reform-minded” and engaged in “anti-slavery words and action.” Of course, the evidence Miller cites is weak tea in comparison to Dred Scott, but that mattered little to him. He closed his obnoxious letter by calling the Trust’s vote by email “just plain wrong” and an insult to Maryland citizens.

With this action, Mike Miller put himself solidly to the right to Hogan and in alignment with the KKK and Trump, bringing shame to Maryland and to the state Democratic Party.

In the Seventh State Blog, Adam Pagnucco had this to say:

If [Miller’s] comments on the Taney statue had come from Hogan, Maryland Democrats would be swarming all over him.  What happens when such sentiments come from one of the most powerful Democrats in the state? . . . The rest of the Democrats now have a choice.  They can be intellectually honest and take on one of the leaders of their party.  Or they can ignore Miller and look like hypocrites.

The time is long past for Maryland Democrats to move the party to the left, including stripping a right-wing, racist-sympathizing Mike Miller of his outsized power. Please join me in writing to the Montgomery County senate delegation to demand action: senate@montgomerycountydelegation.com. Sample text:

Mike Miller has always been too right-wing for Maryland. With his opposition to the removal of the Taney statue in Annapolis, he is siding with the KKK and Trump. I urge you to oppose Miller’s continuing as senate majority leader in the 2018 legislative session.

©2018 Keith Berner

08.13.17 American depths (Charlottesville & North Korea)

Posted August 13, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Bigotry, International Affairs

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This has been one of the darker weeks in the American history of my lifetime. At least since last November, I have known consciously that the worst had not yet come, but emotionally, denial prevented me from hitting bottom. And, even as I feel the United States of America to be at utter depths now, there is probably more digging to come before we slowly begin to crawl our way back to something resembling a nation of compassion, rationality, and hope.

Of course, I’m writing about Charlottesville. (And I feel so badly for the good people of that town, whose name will be drenched in hatred and blood for years to come.) It is no surprise that white supremacists and Nazis would gather to spew hate. What is different this time?

  1. The hoods are off. There is apparently nothing that is considered too much for polite company, too outrageous to risk being associated with publicly. After decades of festering and culturing in the GOP, Trump has completely normalized the violence and hatred on display the past two days. Sieg heil, Nazi salutes, and driving into crowds of people you disagree with are on main streets and in living rooms across the country. Like gun deaths, soon we will cease to even notice them.
  2. For the first time since before World War II, we have a president who is a violent bigot, who cannot discern the difference between good and evil.* Even as numbers of Republicans have come out to condemn white supremacists as the sole cause of Charlottesville (the name now stands in for the events there), the inciter-in-chief – and all his henchmen – just can’t see where blame belongs. (And, of course, even those GOP officials who are condemning the hate are not speaking out about Trump or about his fitness for office. Are you listening, John McCain?)

I’m also writing about North Korea. The tweeter-in-chief is frothing at the mouth and is doing so without any forethought (as if he were capable of forethought). Since he has never read a book, he knows nothing of the Cuban Missile Crisis, or deterrence strategy, or even (absurd as it is) nuclear gamesmanship theory. The narcissist-in-chief probably doesn’t even know that Seoul is 35 miles from the DMZ and has a population of 25.6 million (greater metropolitan area).

So much for the “axis of adults”** we have been told would provide necessary supervision of the infant-in-chief. None of them knew in advance what Trump would say about the Kim regime. None of them could do any more than deny that he meant what he was saying over the past week: these supposed adults are little more than a shovel brigade. There are no brakes at all on an impulsive, vindictive, mentally ill man with the nuclear codes.

And, again, the few mumblings of criticism from the likes of Über Patriot McCain and Lindsey Graham don’t amount to shit. No one on the GOP – even in the face of a potential nuclear war – has a meaningful, powerful, actionable word to say about getting the Giant Cheetoh’s tiny hands off the nuclear trigger.

I am purposely demeaning Trump by calling him names in this blog post, something I have avoided doing up until now. Why have I avoided this? Because the name calling has the side-effect of dimishing the clear and present danger this man and his enablers pose to our country, our values, and the world. Yet, today, my anger and fear need full expression that tempered language just cannot fulfill.

The hate of Charlottesville, the toying with nuclear war – these are only the latest news items to consume us. Even worse than the events themselves is the coming to grips with a government – under the complete control of a racist, irresponsible party – that will do nothing – NOTHING – to save us.

How much lower must we go before someone, anyone, with actual power says: “No more”?


*This is not to say that previous presidents have not been racists or haven’t promulgated policies with racist impact. But Trump is both of a different magnitude and kind.

**John Kelly (chief of staff), Jim Mattis (secretary of state), H. R. McMaster (national security advisor), and Rex Tillerson (secretary of state)

©2017 Keith Berner

08.12.17 Will Jawando can’t even keep track of what office he’s running for!

Posted August 12, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Montgomery County

Tags: ,

Will Jawando, who has announced his candidacy for MoCo council at-large, is running his fourth campaign in three years (without ever having done anything for this community). No wonder he can’t keep track of what he’s running for. Thanks to Seventh State for catching this.

HIS ANNOUNCEMENT SAYS COUNCIL . . . BUT HIS WEBSITE SAYS CONGRESS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

08.12.17 Chris Van Hollen: thy name is political cowardice

Posted August 12, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Civil Liberties, International Affairs

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Sorry, Dear Reader, but I’m not about to let go of my outrage over Ben Cardin’s bill to criminalize free speech (S.270).

I have now written three times to Senator Van Hollen via his official campaign website. I have now written three times to his foreign affairs legislative assistant, Afreen Akhter. I have not received a single reply; though I was cc-ed on a reply Ms. Akhter sent to someone else:

Senator Van Hollen has not co-sponsored this legislation. He does not support restrictions on free speech and is reviewing the legislation in light of those concerns.

And here is what I sent to her today:

Ms. Akhter:

During the Reagan years, Act Up responded to the administration’s inaction on AIDS with this slogan: “Silence = Death.”

S.720 is not a matter of life or death, but Chris Van Hollen’s silence regarding our fundamental civil liberties is tantamount to endorsing Ben Cardin’s bill. I played a key role in helping Chris get elected to Congress the first time, something he thanked me for thereafter. I did not work for his election so that I could hear “has not co-sponsored this legislation” as an excuse for silence — this is political cowardice at its worst.

Will you present my views to the Senator? Will he stand up for he First Amendment and explicitly oppose S.270?

I would appreciate the courtesy of a direct reply.

— Keith Berner

Please stand with me in persistent support for civil liberties: please let Van Hollen and the rest of the Maryland congressional delegation* know how you feel.

*These Democrats are shameful cosponsors of Cardin’s pernicious bill:

  • Anthony Brown (MD-4)
  • John Delaney (MD-6), who is now running for president in 2020 (suppress giggles here)
  • Steny Hoyer (MD-5)
  • Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2)
  • John Sarbanes (MD-3)

©2017 Keith Berner

08.09.17 Roger Berliner is no environmental hero (plus: the shame of Mike Tidwell)

Posted August 9, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Environment, Gun Control, Montgomery County

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On July 25, an email arrived in my inbox with the subject line: “Roger Berliner, the environmental leader you can trust.” It was signed “Mike Tidwell, Environmental Leader,” but was sent from the Berliner campaign, not from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network – CCAN, which Tidwell directs. This was an opening salvo from County Councilman Berliner in his endeavor to become MoCo’s next executive. He has joined the 2018 race against two other current councilmembers: Marc Elrich and George Leventhal.

Writing as Berliner’s mouthpiece, Tidwell goes over the top in declaring the candidate to be “the acknowledged county environmental leader” [emphasis added]. Hmmm: acknowledged by whom?

Well, let’s specify who has not shared in the accolades. For example:

  • Those who have sought to get plastic bags out of our streams and oceans. While Berliner did support the original bag tax that took effect in 2012, it seems the chemical industry got to him a year later and he championed a (losing) effort to remove the tax from most retail establishments. He was joined by Leventhal in that noble cause.
  • Those who don’t believe pretty lawns justify use of chemicals poisonous to children and pets. Safe Grow Montgomery (which is now under threat as a result of a recent court opinion) passed 6-3 in 2015 over Roger Berliner’s opposition (credit Leventhal for being a champion on this one).
  • Those who oppose unfettered development in the county, at least in part due to concerns about environmental impacts. Berliner has consistently sided with big developers’ attempts to pave everything outside the Agricultural Reserve.

Berliner was indeed the lead sponsor of a recent bill calling for MoCo to divest from fossil fuels. On closer inspection though, how heroic was this? Well, inside sources tell me that it was Marc Elrich who originally came up with the idea. It turns out that Berliner basically jumped the queue to introduce it before Elrich could and he got only two co-sponsors: Elrich and Nancy Navarro. Leventhal, Tom Hucker, Hans Riemer and the rest opposed the bill until it was watered down to be a non-binding resolution, at which point they jumped on the bandwagon. For a change, Berliner was on the right side of an environmental issue, but it didn’t end up amounting to much.

I wrote back to Tidwell on August 3, recounting the councilman’s poor environmental record and concluding:

I agree with you that climate change is the most important issue humanity faces, but an environmentalist should care about and support environmentalism across the board. . . .Unless you can document how Berliner is better than Elrich, Leventhal, or anyone else, you have no credibility with this endorsement. (If you can document this, please respond directly — I am receptive to new information that could change my view. I plan to blog on this topic shortly, so time is of the essence for your reply.)

I got this reply that day:

Thanks for your note. I support Roger personally because he has done more on the issue of climate change than any other leader in the county over the past 10 years – in my view. Climate change is my biggest concern as a voter. Mike

That is: It doesn’t matter if Berliner is wrong about everything else. For Tidwell, climate change is all that matters and it gives license to rank Berliner above all others, including others who have at least identical records on climate change. This doesn’t fly in my book: by definition, you cannot be an environmental leader if you have a record of opposing environmental legislation.

Just how credible is Mike Tidwell, anyway? Well, he has certainly has done a lot of work on climate change and deserves respect for that. But his decision to shill for Berliner is not the only time he has gone off the rails.

In 2011, Tidwell penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, titled “A climate-change activist prepares for the worst.” Here is the choice quote:

How will we feed ourselves adequately if our breadbasket is a desert? Answer: We won’t, and there will be social unrest as a result. . . . So I even took my first-ever lesson in firearms use last December, an introduction to skeet shooting. I told myself it was in part for sport, but I did it mostly to test various types of shotguns for eventual purchase.

Here was Mike Tidwell telling us: “Arm yourselves, the end is near!” That was when I stopped writing checks to CCAN. Just as I don’t believe climate-change activism necessitates abandoning the rest of the environment, I am horrified that any progressive-change activist would join the NRA in promoting guns or engage in fear-mongering about imminent societal collapse.

Back to the county executive race. It would be one thing if you were a single-issue climate-change voter and it were Berliner vs. Nancy Floreen or Craig Rice (whose records are terrible). But the fact is that Marc Elrich has been walking and chewing gum at the same time for decades, building a record against climate change and for the environment more broadly.

 Marc Elrich is the only member of County Council with a consistent record on the environment. While most of county council has been in the pocket of developers since the early aughts; while Berliner has a negative record on pesticides and plastic bags; while Leventhal did as much as anyone to water down the fossil-fuel divestment bill and tried with Berliner to gut the bag tax; Marc Elrich has been a friend of the environment every single time.

I believe Mike Tidwell harmed his own cause when he associated it with gun-toting survivalism. He certainly isn’t helping it now by hitching his wagon to Berliner, an outright threat to the environment.

Dear voter: Don’t let Berliner and Tidwell sell you a batch of snake oil. For county executive in 2018, choose the one councilmember whom you can trust on the environment all the time: Marc Elrich.

©2018 Keith Berner