Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ category

09.27.15 FFRF’s Attack on Pope Francis

September 27, 2015

An open letter to Freedom from Religion Foundation

I am an atheist of Jewish heritage and an avid secularist. I have also been a supporter of FFRF.

I am writing regarding your wrong – and wrong-headed – full page ads in the Washington Post and New York Times on the occasion of the Pope’s speech to Congress:

Wrong. An invitation to a foreign dignitary and figure of worldwide respect has nothing to do with separation of church and state. (The opening of each congressional session with a prayer does, however.) Congress – and the American people – benefit from hearing the views of international leaders.

Wrong-Headed. FFRF is foolish to try to raise its profile by attacking this pope, who is beloved by the devout (of many religions) and secular across the world. Yeah, you will likely say, “We were attacking his speech to Congress, not him as a person.” But that is not the way your full-page ads will be perceived and this is all about perception. Your choice of this high-profile campaign is likely to alienate more people than it will attract and, thereby, set back the cause of secularism.

Further, I imagine your ads cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I cannot imagine that going after the pope will produce more in revenues for FFRF than the ads cost.

I cannot support an organization that does such a poor job of managing its resources, nonetheless adopts a public profile that will be so counter-productive. Fortunately, FFRF is not the only game in town. From now on, I will make an annual contribution to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, as a better steward of our cause.

©2015 Keith Berner

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08.27.10 In which your Blogger takes on an added challenge

August 27, 2010

I’m rather excited to let you know, dear reader, of an event that effects us both.  (Drum roll, please.)  Beginning this week, I am a member of the Washington Post’s Local Blog Network (the link will take you to an announcement of three new bloggers, inculding yours truly; if you scroll down the page, you’ll see my photo and bio).

From now until I become sufficiently renowned to charge gazillions for my content, I’ll be submitting one blog post per week to the Post.  They’ll run the piece on their website and I’ll cross-post it here.  Sometimes, the Post will grab an additional piece or two that appears here first.  And, from time to time, they’ll run me in the Sunday newspaper.

Though Left-Hand View has covered  things local to international, my commission from the Post is local only (i.e., mostly the Montgomery County and Maryland scene).  You may have noticed in recent weeks that I have been scaling up the proportion of my content fitting that bill — I started doing so as soon as the Post reached out to me, so that I could get in practice.

Apologies to my myriad fans across the globe (that’s a joke!) that so much of what I’m posting these days doesn’t mean a whole lot to you.  I’ll endeavor to keep covering national and international topics of interest, to the extent time allows.

As always (in fact, now more than ever) I welcome your comments on the blog site or by direct email (lefthandview@kberner.us).  I will come up with ways to reward loyal readers who give me good story ideas!

©2010 Keith Berner

07.26.10 I Hate Driving to Work

July 26, 2010

With the recent increase in Metro fares, it costs nearly as much for me for take public transportation to work ($8/day) as it does to park downtown ($10).  Talk about screwy incentives in this gas-guzzing land of ours!  So, like any rational economic actor, I’m now somewhat more likely to drive downtown than I was a few weeks ago.  And, indeed, I have done so a couple of times already.

I notice that most of the senior folks in my organization drive every day.  I guess they simply find it super convenient, regardless of the relative cost of driving vs. using public transportation.  And this reminds me of some of my best, oldest friends, who wouldn’t be caught dead using public transportation, even if it were free.

My view is the polar opposite.  Except in extreme whether — or those occasions when Metro is broken or the bus doesn’t show up — I relish my public-transportation commute.  Letting someone else drive, frees me up to read.  How else would I give the Washington Post and New York Times a thorough skim, read a New Yorker article a week, make it through the Atlantic Monthly, flip through MacWorld and PC Magazine, and even read a book or two?

In fact, though there are neighbors and friends I love to run into on the bus or Metro, I don’t even want that to happen too often or I’ll fall behind on my reading!

For me, sitting behind the wheel is a complete waste of time.  When I worked in non-public-accessible locations in years past, I would make the best of it by listening to NPR.  But I’m so sick of business as usual in the American body politic and economic and military, that I can’t stand listening to the news, even from such a good source.  (I really don’t get those who listen to commercial news stations while they drive with “traffic on the eights,” headlines repeated over and over, and the commercials droning on and on.)

So count me a public-transpo guy.  This isn’t even my sacrifice for greening the planet.  It’s where I’d rather be.

©2010 Keith Berner

03.21.10 Reviving Left-Hand View

March 21, 2010

Q: Where have I been for the past 10 months?

A: So disgusted and disillusioned that I couldn’t bring myself to write about anything policital.

Q: What has changed now?

A: I’ve been quietly re-finding my voice.  I’ve done a little posting on Facebook.  I’ve gotten a couple of pieces in the Washington Post (see here and here).  I’ve been tweeting (@kberner) on nonprofit technology issues.  And I’ve started a blog on iPhone tips.

These outlets have been satisfying, in their own ways.  But none (other then the Washington Post) is the right venue for political ideas and opinions.  (I purposely don’t mix political opinions with my technology posts and tweets, because those are my professional voice — as a creator of IT policy and strategy for a non-political international development NGO.)

So, I’m back to Left-Hand View.  I think this will be a different blog than when I left it last May.  I’m likely to post fewer original essays and do more of passing along others’ news and opinions, with a bit of my own commentary thrown in.  I’m also a bit less likely to focus exclusively on politics: I’m fascinated by my professional work on technology and can’t imagine not including some of that here.  Finally, I probably will post less often that I did before: we are all overwhelmed with incoming information and I don’t need to add to the flood on a pre-set schedule.

So, I welcome myself — and you — back.  As always, your feedback is welcome!

04.24.09 Spring

April 24, 2009

Nation’s Capital Enjoys Annual Day of Spring

After weeks of rain and 40-degree temperatures, with frost warnings as recently as last night, today is Washington’s annual Day of Spring: sunny and 75.

Summer begins tomorrow, with highs in the upper 80s.  Soon oppressive humidity and mosquitos will kick in and last until late September, as every resident of this region knows.

Here’s hoping that once Obama changes evrerything else, he can get to work on our weather.

©2009 Keith Berner

07.13.08 Not Flying with US Airways

July 14, 2008

Not flying. 
As in arriving on an originating flight an hour late and not finding your connecting flight anywhere on the flight board. 
Not flying.
As in going to the planned departure gate and seeing no information about your flight there, either. 
Not flying.
As in being scowled at by overworked and underpaid ground staff, who either have no information to give you or no interest in giving it to you. 
Not flying.
As in sitting in an airplane that hasn’t backed away from the gate, though you’ve been sitting in it for almost an hour. 
Not flying.
As in no snacks, no beverages, and $15 per bag checking fee.

It’s not just US Airways, of course.  It’s the entire stinking industry. 

For today, though, I am the victim of this particular airline.

Next time I have a trip of less than eight hours by car, that’s how I’ll travel – gas prices be damned.

(See, I told you this blog would not be only about politics!)

–Philadelphia International Airport, 10:50pm

©2008 Keith Berner

07.05.08 Welcome to Left-Hand View

July 5, 2008

Welcome to the first post of Left-Hand View, a blog project of Keith Berner.  I am a proud resident of Takoma Park, Maryland, which Utne Reader once called “the leftiest ‘burb anywhere.” We’ee sometimes called the “Berkley of the East” but that has it backwards: Berkley is actually the Takoma Park of the West.

I have been a political activist my whole life.  In 1963, my parents moved to the only purposely integrating community in the country (the Ludlow community in Shaker Heights, Ohio) and promptly dived into the Civil Rights Movement.  At age 8 (1968), I was going door-to-door raising money for the “Chicago 7” (victims of Mayor Daley’s police riots at the Democratic convention that year).  My first trips to Washington, DC came the following two years, as the whole family protested the Vietnam War.  I had my picture in Time as a 12-year-old campaigner for George McGovern in 1972.

It was only after I moved to Takoma Park in 2000 that I became active in local politics.  In the years since, I have worked on issues specific to my community, as well as the political campaigns of local, county, and state candidates.  I also served for four years as precinct chair for the Democratic Party, quitting in disgust in 2006.

During this time, I have become increasingly cynical about politics and politicians.  What I have seen up close is that even the politicos who tend to vote the right way in their respective legislatures are almost all driven principally by self-aggrandizement.  They often (usually?) put political calculus above principle.

As for the Democratic Party, I have concluded its national cohort is spineless and inarticulate, unable to communicate purpose, and consistently adopting the rhetoric and policies of the right, out of fear, narrow (and short-term) self-interest, or shear idiocy.

On the state and county level, the party is all and only about the pursuit and maintenance of power.  The party has utter contempt for (small-d) democratic principles in its governance and no sign of any principles when it comes to policy.  The people who make it up are mostly petty autocrats and cowardly automatons, the latter blindly carrying out orders and adding nothing to the political debate.

(Note: I’m speaking here of party officials, not the rank and file.  The rank and file consists overwhelmingly of people who are doing their best to change the world one voter at a time.  Hats off to them!)

There are only five politicians left I can think of who are sufficiently driven by idealistic purpose to merit my financial and shoe-leather support. More on them in another post.

I will continue to vote for Democratic candidates the overwhelming majority of the time (and will never, ever, ever vote for a Republican).  But I no longer support the party and am a great deal less likely than I used to be to advocate publicly for candidates who pander to the right or otherwise lack integrity.

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The name I have chosen for this blog is obvious. I plan to present a progressive view of the world.I’m likely to focus heavily on politics, though, not exclusively.And, yes: I’m left handed. (Apologies to those of you who aren’t local: though I hope to write a lot about national issues and personages, it is also likely that many of my posts will have local themes that will mean nothing to you.)

I would love to hear from readers (being optimistic that I’ll have some!).  Tell me if you want me to update you every time I post something new.  Tell me if you agree with me.  Tell me if you don’t (and let me know why!).

Warning to the politicians I know: though you may well be able to count on my vote, you cannot count on my gentleness in this blog.  One of the great advantages of not being an aspiring or actual elected official is that I can tell it like it is.  And that is what I plan to do.

I don’t have any illusions that the dialogue I hope to engender here will change the world.  But maybe it will make those of us who engage in it feel a little better.

Feel free to contact me directly: lefthandview@kberner.us.

©2008 Keith Berner

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