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


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.