02.21.20 Was I dead wrong, or just living in last week?

Posted February 21, 2020 by Keith Berner
Categories: Politics, Presidential Campaign 2020

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

After my last post (Goodbye, Elizabeth. Hello, Amy?), I heard from several people screaming “nooooo, it’s too early to count Warren out!” This week I heard from from some who said they agreed with my analysis last week, but that – only a few days later – it’s obsolete.

I thought I was so clever last week, but the following juicy tidbits no longer seem so juicy:

  • Goodbye Elizabeth. Did you watch this week’s Nevada debate? Elizabeth Warren was on fire, getting the most airtime, beating the crap out of Mike Bloomberg, delivering more of her policy chops, and even drawing distinctions between herself and Bernie Sanders. Nearly every commentator declared her the winner: she showed her smarts, her feistiness, and her compassion. This candidate is not done contributing to the race: Even if she is only auditioning for VP or a cabinet post, Elizabeth Warren matters!
  • Hello, Amy. As FiveThirtyEight pointed out about a few days after Amy Klobuchar’s surprising 20% finish in New Hampshire, there were no polling bounces for anyone out of NH. This week, Klobuchar is still polling in the single digits, pretty much everywhere other than her home state (Minnesota). Also, she was clearly rattled by Pete Buttigieg in the Nevada debate. If she’s going to get all wobbly when picked on by a veritable infant, there is no way she’ll stand up to the barrage that 45 and the GOP would throw at her. She has no plausible path to winning substantial numbers of delegates and I wasted the 25 bucks I sent to her.
  • It would be fun to watch Bloomberg fight 45. No, it wouldn’t be! We (I) hadn’t forgotten stop-and-frisk last week, but so many more details have come out about it, as well as about Bloomberg’s misogyny. Then, on the debate stage, we saw an arrogant prick who was unprepared and lacked any charisma whatsoever. Bloomberg, by producing one of the worst debate performances since Admiral Stockdale (Ross Perot’s 1992 VP pick), proved himself utterly unqualified to take on 45. His reference to offended women’s not being able to take a joke, also showed what a truly awful human being he is. Because of my fears about Sanders in the fall, I even went through some moments last week of thinking I could choose Bloomberg over him. No more. If it does come down to Bernie and Mike, I’m 100% for Bernie.
  • Bernie is only a weak front-runner. Not true: the past week has shown him gaining strength across the country, opening up double-digit leads nationally and in upcoming primary states.

Since my last set of guesses were so valuable (not!), let me try again.

  • Sanders is the overwhelming favorite to win the most delegates this primary season. But FiveThirtyEight now says a brokered convention is more likely than a first-ballot win for Sanders.
  • Warren is still unlikely to win any states (other than Massachusetts, where she is currently tied with Sanders) outright. But, her contributions to the race are invaluable and her impact at a brokered convention could be significant. I agree with the candidate that she is the most likely to unite the party and even draw independent support in the fall, than is any of her competitors.
  • Buttigieg and Klobuchar hurt themselves by going after each other so personally. Neither is likely to have the impact that Warren will, as primary season progresses. Both seem like midgets now.
  • I seem to be alone in this, but I thought Joe Biden turned in yet another troubling debate performance. The punditocracy seems to be grading him on a very forgiving curve, giving him big credit for being able to string together two coherent sentences. The problem with Bumbling Joe is that by the time he gets to a third sentence, he starts forgetting words or even what he was talking about. Right now, Biden is still 3+ points up on Sanders in South Carolina, but the two are headed in opposite trajectories. Biden could well lose in his firewall state and that would end his relevance (though I expect he would stay in the race until after Super Tuesday, which comes only three days after SC votes). In the current field (as appeared in Nevada), I consider Biden the most likely to get eviscerated by 45.

Big questions remain (of course!):

  • Does Sanders have a support ceiling under 40% among Democrats? If so, that bodes ill for him in the fall. Would his ceiling rise or fall if some of the so-called moderates drop out?
  • If moderates do drop out (most likely, Klobuchar), does that support go to Sanders, Warren, Bloomberg, or Biden?
  • Will Bloomberg continue to soar based on his dollars and in spite of his debate performance? Well, he’s not on the ballot until Super Tuesday and there’s another debate before that, so anything is possible.
  • Will Super Tuesday winnow the field (if not in terms of dropouts, then in terms of realistic momentum)? It sure would be easier for armchair pundits (like yours truly) if this were to come down to a two- or three-person race. Apart from Sanders, who even knows who that two or three might be?

©2020 Keith Berner

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02.13.20 Goodbye, Elizabeth. Hello, Amy?

Posted February 13, 2020 by Keith Berner
Categories: Politics, Presidential Campaign 2020, Presidential Campaign 2020

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

It was with considerable sadness that I removed the Elizabeth Warren button from my knapsack today and unsubscribed from campaign emails. I still think Warren is the best candidate in the field to be president. But after her drubbings in Iowa and New Hampshire (she was supremely well organized in both places), not to mention her steady decline in national polls (according to Real Clear Politics, she is now in fourth place, behind Sanders, Biden, and Bloomberg), she no longer has a viable shot at the nomination.

Yes, this race is still very fluid. But, it’s hard to see Warren finishing better than third place in any upcoming primary. I believe it is time to move on, because time is short and the reality is that Democrats must select someone who can win in November and that person has to get the nomination first.

As I posted on Facebook recently, the strong possibility of 45’s (the president’s) reelection has produced not only depression in yours truly, but has me shaking with terror. In this environment, no Democratic candidate’s policies or ideology matters a whit to me now. (How ironic that Warren’s “I have a plan for that” has proven irrelevant in a year when only winning matters.)

Where to turn?

Bernie Sanders represents my policy views extremely well (second only to Warren). His impact on the Democratic Party is something all progressives should be grateful for. But his theory that he can bring waves of new voters to the polls to beat 45 without significant support from moderates is a pipe dream. Sanders underperformed (in comparison to polls and his own expectations) in both of the first two states. More significantly, voter turnout was mediocre, meaning that few new voters showed up to demonstrate their Bernie burn. Sanders is now the front-runner, but he’s a weak one and could potentially spell disaster for Democrats in the fall campaign, not only losing to 45, but also failing to provide necessary coattails to Senate and House candidates.

Current polls show Sanders’ beating 45. Polls also show a majority of voters declaring their unwillingness to vote for a socialist, while they are much more willing to support old candidates, young candidates, women, and gays, among other categories. Sigh.

Amy Klobuchar was a bigger story out of New Hampshire than Bernie Sanders: she over-performed polls and in a few days shot up from mid-single digits to win nearly 20% of the vote there. She is more moderate than I am, but (as I have said) that hardly matters. I remain concerned about Klobuchar’s record of staff abuse – this bodes ill for her ability to govern. Her debate performances, though, reveal a candidate who could stand up to 45 well. What remains to be seen is whether Klobuchar has the resources and organization to compete in upcoming primaries and caucuses.

Some have deemed Mike Bloomberg the big winner out of New Hampshire, even though he won’t be on the ballot until Super Tuesday on March 3. I am negatively inclined towards Bloomberg: not only am I principally opposed to billionaires’ purchasing political power, but Bloomberg drove the infamous, racist stop-and-frisk policy, as mayor of New York. Just the same, recent polling shows his African American support growing, most likely at the expense of Biden. In a contest between two New York billionaires over age 75, one can imagine Bloomberg’s giving it to 45 as good as he gets. It could be downright fun to watch Bloomberg eviscerate 45 in debates and in advertising. Could Bloomberg be the Democrats’ savior this fall? Maybe.

Pete Buttigieg bothers me. He is so green – both his age and his experience as mayor of a small city hardly give me confidence. Also, his record in overseeing a racist police department is worrying. There is no sign of Buttigieg’s gaining any significant support from people of color (partly based on his record in South Bend, IN). Buttigieg will get the crap beaten out of him by 45. (Klobuchar also has minimal support from people of color at this point, but that could change quickly.)

The best thing that could happen to the Democratic field right now, would be for Joe Biden to collapse and bow out, clearing the path for the other remaining moderates. Biden has a firewall of sorts in South Carolina (to vote on February 29), where he has significant support from the African-American community. But I expect upcoming polls will show leakage or even a hemorrhage of that support. Would it go to Tom Steyer (the race’s other billionaire, who has purchased double digit support in SC) or Klobuchar? (Would Warren have a shot at a decent showing in SC? Perhaps, but doubtful.) Remember that Bloomberg will not be on the ballot in SC.

Of the remaining candidates who have a shot at the nomination (which doesn’t include Steyer or Warren) and in a field where every candidate has flaws, Klobuchar stands out. While 45 and the GOP will be merciless this fall, it is hard to see what their story line against Klobuchar might be. This is why I think she might be the right candidate to win in November. Today, I am switching my support to Klobuchar and hoping against hope that her surge will provide her the resources to compete over the next two months.

PS. Good riddance to Andrew Yang, Michael Bennet, and Deval Patrick, all of whom dropped out this week. They had no significant impact on the Democratic race for president and were merely taking up valuable space, especially Yang. It will be interesting to see where Yang’s support ends up going.

©2020 Keith Berner

02.18.19 Prohibitionism comes to Takoma Park

Posted February 18, 2019 by Keith Berner
Categories: Takoma Park

Tags: , , , ,

In the past few years, Takoma Park (and neighboring Takoma DC) have seen a burst of vibrancy, particularly in the form of new restaurants, such as Busboys and Poets, Cielo Rojo, Mansa Kunda, Republic, Seoul Food, and Takoma Beverage Company. (I’ve left off the list some older restaurants and a couple of spots I think are lousy.)

It seems that a quiet backwater, originally settled by sober Seventh-Day Adventists, is suddenly becoming a destination for the region. It’s exciting to be able to grab a bite of good food nearby and to see people on the streets enjoying themselves. And (gasp!) it’s also nice to be able to have a beer or glass of wine without leaving my zip code.

Last week came the announcement of a new restaurant and bar, The Girl and the Vine (TG&TV), planned for an empty building where previous cafes and confectioneries have been.

NIMBYism is hardly new to Takoma Park, a town where progressives dig in hard against over-development (this is admirable) and against almost anything under the rubric “change” (this is ultra-conservative). So it was no surprise that immediate neighbors of the planned establishment filed their opposition to its liquor-license application in order to prevent the restaurant from opening. This was simply de rigeur, for a community seemingly allergic to change. (The good news is that a petition supporting the license application has garnered nearly 500 signatures in a few days.)

What has amazed me is the anti-alcohol zealotry the NIMBYs have latched onto this time. Here are some choice quotes from the “official” opposition to TG&TV:

  • “If this alcohol license is approved, that will bring to ten the number of alcohol outlets in Old Town Takoma Park ” [gasp!]
  • “A number of us have experienced the down-side of these bar-restaurants. . . anecdotal observances of intoxicated patrons being served more alcohol at some bars; and at least one bad traffic accident when a drunk Republic patron failed to negotiate the curve on Carroll Ave at Columbia. . .” [emphasis added]
  • “Republic’s success seems to have spurred on additional alcohol outlets opening in close proximity. . .”
  • “This high density of alcohol outlets never has a positive effect on neighborhoods.”

So far, so NIMBY. But a post on a neighborhood listserv crosses a disturbing line:

  • “I wonder if the Takoma Park AlAnon community might want to weigh in from the perspective of the alcohol culture that seems to be consuming the Takoma Park commercial scene, especially given TP’s large population of young folks who are so vulnerable to that culture.” [So, if Takoma Park had fewer young people, this restaurant would be fine?]

Here we move from “don’t build it near me” to a call for theocracy by Al-Anon. (I have nothing against Al-Anon — I am close with people who have benefited greatly from their services.)

So, were these people ideologically opposed to alcohol before a restaurant was planned to be near them? Or did they trot this moral rectitude out in service to their general anti-progress agenda? Is it possible these are remnants of the former Adventist control of Takoma Park?

I don’t really care. But, just as I believe that theocrats shouldn’t get to make laws about gay rights and abortion, so do I believe that just ’cause you don’t drink, you get to stop new restaurants from opening. Moral zealotry has no part in public decision-making.

Now, I will grant that whoever lives next door to anything will experience downsides that those farther away won’t. The question is how one balances the legitimate concerns of a small number of opponents against the broader interests of a wider community. There is no magic formula for adjudicating these kinds of conflicts. I would just call on development opponents to be honest about their legitimate concerns, rather than using an anything-goes, kitchen-sink barrage of irrelevancy in their efforts (as was the case with the war over Takoma Junction development last year).

I, for one, stand with the person across the street from the proposed new restaurant: “Takoma Park is finally becoming what I thought it could be when I moved here 13 years ago.” Hooray for that!

©2019 Keith Berner

01.09.18 Some Countries

Posted January 9, 2019 by Keith Berner
Categories: Bigotry, Civil Liberties, Democracy, International Affairs, Politics

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

Readers of this blog and my followers on Facebook know by now that I am a democracy and anti-bigotry zealot. I have particular contempt for countries that voted in their authoritarian and/or racist governments and I reserve a special place in hell for those whose existence is underwritten by my tax dollars.

Here is a very incomplete list of countries that are bad in various ways. These are the countries that stand out for me, which is obviously subjective and not comprehensive.

Hegemonist or externally aggressive countries

  • China
  • Iran
  • Israel
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • US (even if there is no present agenda to take over other countries, history is replete with examples US aggression/domination)

Authoritarian countries

  • most countries in the world (see Freedom House’s democracy scores)
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Cuba
  • Hungary
  • Israel (in that non-Jews are second-class citizens and residents of the Occupied Territories have no rights at all)
  • Myanmar
  • Poland
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • US (the US is not [yet] fully authoritarian, but its democratic foundations are under assault by the GOP)
  • Venezuela

Racist/bigoted/misogynist countries (including some where the far-right is part of government and some that have passed harsh laws against immigrants/immigration)

  • most of Central and Eastern Europe
  • Australia (one of the harshest countries in the world to refugees)
  • Austria
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Denmark
  • Hungary
  • Iran
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Myanmar
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Switzerland (parts)
  • Turkey
  • UK (racism was the only reason for Brexit’s passage)
  • US

Countries where the people vote(d) for racist/authoritarian leadership

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Brazil
  • Hungary
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Poland
  • Russia
  • Switzerland (parts)
  • Turkey
  • UK
  • US
  • Venezuela

Countries where my tax dollars underwrite authoritarianism, bigotry and/or hegemony

  • Israel
  • US

If I weren’t American, I would certainly boycott this country. Israel is the only other country that appears on all these lists. While anti-Semitism is a serious issue, my strong opposition to Israel is neither anti-Semitic (I’m Jewish!) nor unfair.

Want to nominate other countries for this list? Disagree with some of my choices? Let me know!

©2019 Keith Berner

 

 

12.21.18 To Ben Cardin

Posted December 21, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Civil Liberties, International Affairs, Politics

Tags: , ,

I just sent this to Maryland’s recently reelected senator:

At a time when US democracy is under full-throttled assault by an authoritarian GOP (and today’s news about Ruth Bader Ginsburg again highlights the fragility of our democracy), how DARE you be spending time on restricting civil liberties by criminalizing free speech, via your pro-Likud bill? I am a progressive Democrat who didn’t vote for you and who helped assure the Progressive Neighbors didn’t endorse you. The time has come to look into Maryland law regarding recall of elected officials. You are an affront to human dignity and democracy. For shame!

©2018 Keith Berner

12.01.18 What to do about Facebook

Posted December 1, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Politics, Technology

Tags: , , ,

Sheryl Sandberg Asked for Soros Research, Facebook Acknowledges

The past two years, as demonstrated by articles like the this one from the New York Times, leave no remaining doubt that Facebook (the company) is evil: a parasite, feeding off democracy and willing to use anti-Semitic* tropes and right-wing thugs in pursuit of global domination.

We must consider stopping FB (and Google, at least) to be nearly as important as crushing the GOP. Yet, FB (the platform) is too important to many of us to quit it in disgust. While the company is evil, the platform does much good, from allowing progressives to organize and share information, to keeping families and friends in contact around the world. I, for one, am not going to quit and (thereby) cut off my nose to spite my face.

Hear are some actions you can take without cutting yourself off from the communications that are important to you:

  1. Write to Congress and demand that Facebook – and the other tech giants – be broken up and regulated. (I’m not saying this is an easy task, without impinging on free speech.)
  2. Go through your investments and divest from Facebook and other companies that are affronts to your values.
  3. Refuse to purchase or donate via Facebook. I get that many nonprofits benefit from FB fundraising. So when you see their appeals, go to their own websites to make your contributions. As for all the product marketing, do your purchasing elsewhere, period.
  4. Hide all product ads in your feed. If enough of us do this, it will send a message that we ain’t buying what they’re selling.
  5. Criticize Facebook on Facebook. As is my practice, I will post this piece on my blog and on Facebook. And I will keep on attacking Facebook on their own platform.

As you undertake these actions, be careful not to blame it all on Sheyrl Sandberg. She is an ugly figure (morally, not aesthetically) to be sure. But it is flat-out misogynist to blame her while letting the equally evil Mark Zuckerberg off the hook. He has carefully cultivated his image as just not being bright and mature enough to be responsible for anything. That’s bullshit: this is his company and if he valued truth and honesty, FB would be a vastly different place.

*There is a special place in hell for Jews (Zuckerberg and Sandberg) who play with anti-Semitism to enrich themselves.

©2018 Keith Berner

09.26.18 The Cherry Tree

Posted September 26, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Judiciary, Politics

Tags: , , ,

George Washington: “I cannot tell a lie. I chopped down that tree.”

Bill Clinton: “What do you mean by ‘tree’?”

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions II: “I do not recall.”

Brett Kavanaugh: “I’ve never even seen a tree or been within a mile of an ax. PS. I’m still a virgin.”

©2018 Keith Berner

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

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

07.04.18 Official campaign lit report

Posted July 4, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Maryland, Montgomery County, Politics, Takoma Park, Uncategorized

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At our home, we received 3.84 pounds of campaign literature during the Maryland/Montgomery county primary election campaign, beginning with a piece from county executive candidate David Blair in early February. Overall, we received 105 pieces of campaign mail. The biggest polluter of all was (big surprise, eh?) the aforementioned Blair, MoCo Pharma Bro and General Plutocrat, who drowned us in 14 pieces. This doesn’t include three more pieces sent by the developer’s group, Empower Montgomery (which Blair helped found), from whom we got three particularly ugly pieces in the final two weeks.

What amazed me as a political analyst is that Blair had the mailing campaign almost completely to himself until mid-May for the June 26 primary. I asked one candidate who I know had enough money to mail why he waited so long to do so. His reply was that his political consultants told him no one would be paying attention until the end.

Common sense tells me that when as many as a dozen pieces are arriving daily in mailboxes by early June, no one is going to pay attention to your piece then, either. So much for the great wisdom of consultants who only know one way of doing things: the way they did them four years ago.

Because I follow local politics so closely, none of the deluge made a whit of difference to me. I read almost none of it; though, I occasionally marveled at something that was particularly well (or poorly) designed. I get that this stuff is meant for low-information voters, some significant percentage of whom are actually swayed by  it (though, the Washington Post’s horrific endorsements certainly counted for more).

Of course, very few mailers contained any actual information about what the candidate intended to do or why they deserved a chance to try and do it. Perusing such vapid campaign communication is the equivalent of following the email-only campaign of my Takoma Park City Councilman Jarrett Smith who threw his hat in the ring for County Council at-large just before the deadline. (He managed to spend a few thousand on graphic design, but had no money to mail — the two or three signs he managed to put up were gorgeous). Smith’s justification for running was laid out so carefully in this email he sent to the main Takoma community listserv on June 26:

Neighbors,

I ask for your vote on this Election Day. There are big issues before our county. It is the time to vote for experience and proven leadership.

In your service,

Jarrett K. Smith

I suppose Smith should be congratulated: he got his substance-less message out for tens of thousands less than other candidates who spent all that money to tell us nothing.

PS. Smith came in 29th place out of 33 candidates for MoCo at-large, so maybe his strategy was a little wanting, after all.

©2018 Keith Berner

06.27.18 Post-election blues

Posted June 27, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Maryland, Montgomery County, Politics

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There were some sweet victories last night. Yet, I felt depressed when I went to bed towards 1 am and even more so today. Let me focus on the positive, first:

  • District 20’s dream team –  Lorig Charkoudian, David Moon, and Jheanelle Wilkins – beat back the ethically challenged Darian Unger.
  • Marc Elrich holds a 452-vote lead against Evil Plutocrat David Blair, pending counting absentee and provisional ballots.
  • My completely irresponsible Takoma Park city councilman, Jarrett Smith came in 29th place out of 33 in the County Council at-large race.
  • Ben Jealous summarily kicked ass against the bland, ethically challenged (his endorsement of David Trone for $39k) Rushern Baker. Jealous offers the hope that a passionate campaign can unseat Larry Hogan this fall.
  • An outstanding progressive, Vaughn Stewart, won a delegate seat in D-19.

Oh, but the bad news seems boundless:

  • The new County Council was practically hand-picked by the Washington Post and the development industry. Newcomers like Andrew Friedson (D-1) and Evan Glass (at-large) will team up with pave-it-all incumbents like Craig Rice (D-1), Sidney Katz (D-3), and Hans Riemer (at-large) to give away to the developers what little remains of the store.
  • In the at-large race, every strong progressive got nearly obliterated: Bill Conway (3.3%), Seth Grimes (1.5%), Danielle Meitiv (3.3%), Jill Ortman-Fouse (3.3%). (By comparison, the fourth-place winner in this pick-four race –  Gabe Albernoz –  garnered 7.3%.) Two progressives – Brandy Brooks and Chris Wilhelm –  did relatively well at 5.9%, but not winning means only bad guys (and, yes, no women won) will be making policy.
  • Liquor salesman and plutocrat David Trone successfully purchased his seat in Congress (unless he gets beat by a Republican in the fall) from District 6, destroying progressive hero Roger Manno in the process.
  • Elrich could still lose. If David Blair manages to pull this out, we will have by far the worst county government in my 18 years living here.
  • Darian Unger and Jarrett Smith got a sufficient number of votes that they might be encouraged to keep living in their alternate universes where time is on their side and they will eventually be swept to glory by adoring crowds. (Someone: please tell me how a content-less city councilman who doesn’t interact with city officials or constituents managed to get ~2,200 votes. Who are these people? Did they just like the name Smith?)
  • Turnout was abysmal. I’m not comparing to previous years, but simply looking at the fact that in a county of one million, the county executive winner will have garnered less than 35,000 votes. US democracy is broken and this is a leading indicator.

As if I weren’t feeling glum enough, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement today. There is no way to sugarcoat this: the GOP theft of the seat that went to Neil Gorsuch and the right to replace swing-vote Kennedy give the far right control of the Supreme Court for the coming 20 years. Couple this with our system’s bias towards the GOP (from partisan gerrymandering, to the concentration of Democrats in small geographical areas, to the Electoral College) and a minority band of racists and authoritarians could dominate our politics for decades.

(I don’t mean that Democrats won’t score any victories: they may well take the House this year and Trump seems pretty vulnerable going into 2020. But the victories will be partial and sporadic, hardly enough to rebalance the system.)

Even though US foreign policy has been hypocritical in relation to our stated values more often than not, our rhetorical support for democracy and human rights – as well as our ability to collaborate with allies – has done a substantial amount of good in the world. The damage done by the Cheeto administration in <2 years will never be remediable, especially as democracy retreats all across the globe. And, as we slide ever more towards authoritarianism and minority rule at home, any possibility of domestic or international progress is as good as dead.

I don’t know yet how I will manage to keep fighting for positive change given my present despair, especially when I don’t even see any hope at the local level. If any of my dear readers has a suggestion, please bring it on.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

 

06.25.18 Annoy the Post: vote progressive

Posted June 25, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Maryland, Montgomery County, Politics

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If you have decided not to follow my guidance completely or you think your favorite labor union’s endorsements are off the mark; if you’re still confused about what to do tomorrow (that is, if you haven’t already voted), you can remember this basic rule: anyone the Washington Post has endorsed is to be avoided like the plague. From Rushern Baker to David Blair, good ol’ WaPo can be counted on to loathe workers and to consider  development titans to be a disadvantaged minority deserving affirmative action (and a good percentage of your take-home pay).

So, look up all the Post endorsements tonight and just resolve to vote for someone, anyone who isn’t on their list. Not only will you be voting for a better state and county, but you’ll have the added pleasure of causing aneurysms in the editorial suite. What more fun could a person have on Election Day?

©2018 Keith Berner

06.23.18 It’s Elrich vs. Blair – what kind of county do you want to live in?

Posted June 23, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Montgomery County, Politics

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It is now a two-man race for Montgomery County executive. You can choose Marc Elrich, the least ego-driven, most ethical politician in the county, someone who prioritizes people and communities. OR you can choose David Blair, the plutocrat who is spending millions  to purchase power, a man with no governmental experience, set on feeding the rapacious development industry at our expense: the notorious #MoCoPharmaBro.

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No one reading this blog was going to vote for Blair. But some of you may have been tempted by George Leventhal, a distant second-best to Elrich on policy, but also someone whose bad temper makes him a risk with executive power. You may also have been tempted by Roger Berliner, because you were deceived by Sierra Club’s misguided endorsement. Whatever their strong points, face it: Neither Berliner nor Leventhal is going to win on Tuesday. If you cast your vote for one of them, you will be helping to elect Blair.

Don’t waste your vote. Vote for Marc Elrich for county executive.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

06.22.18 Revisions to Keith Berner’s biennial voter guide

Posted June 22, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Maryland, Montgomery County, Politics

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You may want to review the original version of my guide, which I published on June 5.

Governor: Rich Madaleno Ben Jealous
US Senate: anyone but Ben Cardin
US Congress CD6: Roger Manno
US Congress CD8: Jamie Raskin (unopposed)
Montgomery County Executive: Marc Elrich
Montgomery County At-Large:
—–Definite (in alpha order): Brandy Brooks, Jill Ortman-Fouse, Will Jawando, Chris Wilhelm
—–Pick two of three: Bill Conway, Seth Grimes, or Jill Ortman-Fouse
MoCo D1: Meredith Wellington
MoCo D3: Ben Shnider
MoCo D5: Tom Hucker
MD Senate D18: Dana Beyer
MD Senate D20: Will Smith (unopposed)
MD Delegates D20: Lorig Charkoudian, David Moon, Jheanelle Wilkins
Moco Democratic Central Committee At-Large:
—–Women: Marie Mapes
—–Men: Justin Chapelle, Edward Fischman, Dave Kunes

With so many dilemmas of riches, new information incoming, and an opportunity to interact directly with candidates, I am revising some of my original recommendations.

Governor. It is without any joy that I am switching my recommended vote from Rich Madaleno to Ben Jealous. I still believe that Madaleno has the most talent and experience in this race, by a considerable margin. Sadly, his campaign just hasn’t caught fire: he has remained around 6% in polls for a good while now. The race is now pretty clearly between Jealous and Rushern Baker. If you agree with me that Baker is too bland and centrist and likely to get creamed by Larry Hogan in the fall, you have to vote tactically. Vote for Ben Jealous to stop Rushern Baker and set up a strong November match-up that Democrats can win.

Montgomery County Council At Large. I have moved from listing Will Jawando as someone definitely to vote against last summer  to believing he has the smarts, policy understanding, and progressive philosophy to deserve your vote. I had been concerned in the past about what I thought was a thin history of community service in our county. At a meet-and-greet this week, Jawando disabused me of that notion, rattling off a nice list of his contributions, including a summer reading program for disadvantaged youth. (See also his response about this on the Progressive Neighbors questionnaire – Question 6.) I’m also impressed by the zero rating the pernicious developer group Empower Montgomery (EM) gave him in recent mailings. (See why EM is bad news.) I remain concerned that Jawando’s outsized political ambition will distract him from his job on County Council after a couple of years, but am willing to accept this risk.

So, if I am moving Jawando into my top four in the 33-person at-large race (where you get up to four choices), whom am I “demoting”? This practically breaks my heart, because all the candidates whom I have considered seriously would be fabulous in office.

So: Chris Wilhelm and Brandy Brooks absolutely remain among my top choices. My other finalists have been Bill Conway, Seth Grimes, and Jill Ortman-Fouse.

I have, in effect, demoted Ortman-Fouse into a three-way tie with Conway and Grimes. I still think Jill Ortman-Fouse has a good chance of winning, but I am disturbed by the very high ranking given to her by Empower Montgomery. Ortman-Fouse shared with me the questionnaire she submitted to EM and I don’t see any obvious reasons for concern. But I am bothered by her willingness to accept their support without comment (and have asked her to renounce it and denounce them). Just the same, Ortman-Fouse remains on my list.

I also still think highly of Bill Conway whom I think is well positioned to win. I am concerned that Grimes is not as well positioned to win at the other two, based on my observation that he has trouble “sealing the deal” when he meets informally with progressives. So, I’ll be flipping a coin between Conway, Grimes, and Ortman-Fouse until I actually cast my vote.

Another nuance revision from two weeks ago is that I strongly urge voters to reject Evan Glass. My opposition to Glass has increased because of Nancy Floreen’s endorsement and the high score he got from EM (in addition to his WaPo endorsement I already wrote about). There remains no doubt which side Glass is on in MoCo’s major cleavage: the role of the development industry in our politics.

D20 Delegate. I have not changed any of my endorsements: Lorig Charkoudian, David Moon, and Jheanelle Wilkins. The only revision here is that I was gentle to Darian Unger two weeks ago. It is now apparent that Unger’s love affair with himself has fueled a highly unethical campaign. Voters should not only reject Unger’s style of politics, but should send him a strong message to return to community service and give up the quest for public office. (See my two recent posts about Unger: here and here.)

Democratic Central Committee. This body is not widely known or understood. Most of the time, these folks organize fundraisers, phone-banks, and door-to-door canvassing. But, under Maryland law – and in an affront to democracy – this is the body that appoints candidates to fill openings in public offices. (An example is that when Jamie Raskin won his Congressional seat in 2016, the CC appointed then Del. Will Smith to fill Raskin’s seat and Jheanelle Wilkins to fill Smith’s seat.)

In fact, a HUGE number of Maryland senators and delegates have been appointed by party committees. Therefore, it is important to vote only for reformist progressives as CC members: progressive because thats the type of appointments we want them to make; reformist, because we want them to work to change Maryland law to replace appointments with special elections.

Here are my recommendations for DCC for Montgomery County at-large (the D20 races are unopposed). Note that the party split the races by gender this year.

  • Women (select up to four): Marie Mapes (only)
  • Men (select up to four): Justin Chapelle, Edward Fischman, Dave Kunes (only)

Candidates whom I am not endorsing here are not necessarily bad: I just don’t know anything about them. For the same reason, I am not making endorsements in other races, such as school board, judges, and other offices.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

06.22.18 Wait! There’s more! (Unethical behavior from Darian Unger, that is.)

Posted June 22, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Maryland, Montgomery County, Politics

Tags: , , ,

Darian Unger is falsely claiming endorsements for this year’s race.

In this example, Unger has not tried to hide the date of the WaPo article, but he has pinned it to the top of his Twitter feed, clearly assuming most people won’t notice the date.

2018-06-22 10_10_56-Tweets by Darian Unger (@DarianUnger1) – Twitter - Opera

The following comes from a recent Unger mailer. It not only fails to note that the Jamie Raskin quote is from 2014, but also fails to provide the context, which is a survey of all candidates in the race that year, with something nice to say about each (i.e,. it was not an endorsement). 

2018-06-22 10_46_48-Unger_20180622_0002.pdf - Adobe Acrobat Pro

Here’s the full paragraph Unger grabbed that quote from:

Each candidate in this race has something distinctive and important to say that enriches our public dialogue and needs to be heard. Justin Chappell, a veteran campaigner for the rights of the disabled, has eloquently underscored the central importance of effective and responsive government for the most vulnerable Marylanders amongst us. D’Juan Hopewell, a passionate anti-hunger activist, has spoken movingly of building coalitions to make government an instrument of empowerment for the poor. Will Jawando, who has had a strikingly impressive career in national politics and government serving Senator Obama and then President Obama on educational issues, has offered a compelling vision of “progress and opportunity, together.” Jonathan Shurberg, longtime attorney and progressive policy advocate, has focused on the importance of promoting fair elections and educational opportunity for all. Darian Unger, an effective civic leader, environmental engineer and volunteer firefighter, provides a laser-like policy focus on climate change and the problems associated with environmental degradation. And George Zokle offers a strong and much-needed public policy focus on mental health, an issue with ramifications in areas ranging from education to public safety to housing.

I reached out to Congressman Raskin today to ask if he had authorized Unger’s use of this quote. Here’s a screenshot of our conversation.

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(Raskin asked me to note that his only endorsement for an open seat this year is Rich Madaleno for governor.)

Finally (for this round), Unger has claimed on every mail piece he sent this year that NARAL endorsed him. Again, Unger is distorting the truth: NARAL publishes a list of endorsements and a separate list of candidates with 100% pro-choice records. It’s nice to see Unger on that second list, but he is not on the first one.

2018-06-22 10_56_56-Unger_20180622_0003.pdf - Adobe Acrobat Pro

Darian Unger is running a thoroughly unethical campaign. The last thing we need is another self-absorbed public official so certain of their right to power that they cut corners to achieve and maintain it.