Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

12.31.17 The year I stopped reading the newspaper. And my hope for 2018.

December 31, 2017

Don’t misunderstand. I still subscribe to the New York Times and the Washington Post. It’s just that – where I used to spend up to two hours reading them every day – I now have my fill after about 20 minutes of headline skimming.

And don’t get me wrong. I still maintain that every adult human being whose basic Maslow’s needs have been met must actively seek to understand and be involved in their world. It’s just that knowing all the details neither helps me grasp reality, nor helpfully informs the actions I take to try and make things better.

I cannot stomach and do not benefit the least from the blow-by-blow of GOP tax legislation. Likewise, I see no positive outcome for me or the planet if I read a thousandth article about someone’s president’s latest escapade. I already know the theme and have determined that’s good enough. (I apologize to some of my favorite columnists: I’m sure your piece today finds some new way to tell the sordid tale, but the same sordid tale it remains.)

The turning point for me came months after the 2016 election. It wasn’t until the reality of GOP evil and irresponsibility had sunk in that I finally gave up. Until then, I assumed that Republicans valued our country and constitution. I counted on at least some in the GOP holding the president accountable. But it just ain’t so. In pursuit of Ayn Randian dreams and in celebration of power, there is nothing too low for the party of racism, fascism, misogyny, Russophilia, and hostile retreat from the world.

So – as I have written – there is only one project that matters in 2018: booting Republicans out of power at every level and in every state. Nothing. Else. Matters. And I don’t need to read the daily paper cover-to-cover either to understand this or to fuel my persistent engagement in this project at the local, county, and state level.

Here is another thing that has changed for me. I used to say there could be Republicans of honor and goodwill, even if they were the minority of the party. I know longer believe that. Every single person in the United States who still calls themselves a Republican is as evil as every single one of their elected officials and their president.  I can respect and engage with principled conservatives. There are none of these creatures left.

Please, 2018: deliver us the obliteration of the Republican Party. If we can’t have it all at once, at least be the beginning of a longer process that produces a responsible conservative party. The Democrats should win first and then face some healthy competition.

©2018 Keith Berner



01.07.17 Lorig Charkoudian for D20 Delegate – corrected MCDCC contact email addresses

January 7, 2017

In yesterday’s post, some email addresses for MCDCC members got truncated.. Here is the corrected list of the folks to write to in support of Lorig Charkoudian:


01.31.16 Heart and head do battle in the Democratic primaries

January 31, 2016

Hillary Clinton is by far the most experienced and qualified candidate for president this year, with background in the White House, the Senate, and as Secretary of State.

Bernie Sanders represents my ideals and aspirations.

Hillary (and Bill) create scandal without crime, when they meet criticism with silence. Their arrogance and sense of entitlement led to Ken Starr and Monica Lewinski as it has to the continued prominence of the “email scandal” this year. If the Clintons had opened the books on Whitewater or said “I blew it and I’m sorry” as soon as the email issue arose, there would have been no festering wound that wasted their political capital and damaged our interests. This same arrogance led Hillary to sell her soul to Wall St. in million dollar speeches even though (1) she didn’t need the money, (2) knew she was going to run for president, and (3) knew (or ought to have) that her actions would hurt her politically.

Bernie is squeaky clean.

Hillary is nearly 100% artifice and focus-group-tested sound bites. (It was distressingly hilarious when her campaign announced a few months ago that she would henceforth be more spontaneous.)

Bernie is authentic. He says what he means and doesn’t pretend to be anyone else.

The Clintons turn nasty when they sense they’re in political trouble. Who can forget their racist campaign in 2008, once they realized that they had underestimated Barack Obama (another sign of their famous arrogance)? The same tic is on display in 2016, with Chelsea Clinton’s lie that Bernie would take away everyone’s health care. (Clinton supporters do the same kind of thing: in yesterday’s Huffington Post, Peter D. Rosenstein twice calls Bernie a liar, just because they happen to disagree.)

Bernie fights fair, exemplified by his refusal in the first Democratic debate this year to carry on about Hillary’s emails or to distort her record and positions.

Hillary couldn’t excite a roomful of kindergarteners hopped on Frosted Flakes. Bernie draws huge, passionate crowds wherever he goes.

I loathe the Clintons. It’s only somewhat about policy. Yeah, I’m very disturbed by Hillary’s hawkishness and history of Wall St. fealty. But what I truly hate is their character: the entitlement, the nastiness, the perpetual handing of rope to their (and our!) enemies. It’s shocking how politically tone deaf these veterans of national politics are. But arrogance and stupidity go hand in hand.

As one after another progressive pundit has made the case against Bernie in recent days, they keep coming back to how unrealistic his plans are. (On Facebook, I recently agreed with Paul Krugman’s argument in the New York Times against “relitigating” health care reform.) Or they point out that Bernie could lose by McGovernite proportions against whatever evil fucker the GOP puts up against him.

Of course, the critique of Bernie’s pie-in-the-sky idealism is on the mark. Faced with a hostile Congress (there’s doubt that even the Democrats would support his plans), there isn’t a chance in hell for single payer or free college tuition. But the flip side of that argument is that all campaigns tout plans that won’t stand a chance in the meat grinder of politics and legislation. What is wrong with painting a picture of where you would like to lead?

As for electability, Bernie’s supporters are right that many recent polls show him running as well or better than Hillary against named GOP opponents. But the flaw in this argument is that the national media has only just begun to beat up on him (thanks, Washington Post for your great leadership on this) and the GOP has mostly ignored him. How will his polling numbers fare when he is in the spotlight as the Democratic nominee? Not well, I assure you.

On the other hand, everyone knows everything about Hillary. There will be no new lines of attack on her. Those of us who loathe her will still loathe her. Those who love her know their lover well and won’t suddenly go fickle. That is, the polling on Hillary is what it is and is not going to change more than marginally in months ahead.

Oh how I want a Bernie Sanders in character and ideals to be our president. Oh how terrified I am that – even if he could pull off the nomination (which remains extremely unlikely) – he could lead us off the cliff in November.

And don’t forget, the left and the Democrats are at the edge of the abyss. Unlike when Ronald Reagan won in 1980 and W pulled off his wins in the aughts, the GOP now has a lock on Congress and a huge majority of states and this year’s party is far to the right of the GOP of even 10 years ago.

The only thing in the way of hard-right government by mandate in this country is a Democratic president in 2017.

I will vote for Bernie in Maryland’s April primary. And I won’t vote for Hillary in November, because I know that Maryland will go blue even without my vote. But if I were in Ohio or Virginia, I’d do what I must to prevent a catastrophe.

I want Bernie to win in Iowa and New Hampshire, because the progressive idealism he represents needs an ever-increasing voice in the national debate.

But after going back and forth on this for year, I’m back where I started: crossing my fingers that Clinton does nothing (more) to self destruct, wins the nomination, and vanquishes the forces of darkness in November.

PS. I contributed to Bernie’s campaign this year and would never give a dime to the Clintons or their wholly owned DNC.

©2016 Keith Berner


06.25.14 Close races: Hucker vs. Glass in MoCo D5 & Morales vs. Crutchfield in MD D19

June 25, 2014

I am following two very close races:

  • MoCo Council D5, where Tom Hucker leads Evan Glass by 217 votes (out of 18,609 cast)
  • MD D19 Delegate, where Maricé Morales leads Charlotte Crutchfield by 399 votes (out of 26,854 cast)

These races are not over, because MoCo Board of Elections (BoE) still has not processed about 2100 provisional ballots. These ballots result from registration discrepancies found when voters sign in at the polling place. The voters are allowed to vote, but their registrations have to be investigated and validated before their votes are actually counted. The BoE will start gong through these tomorrow.

So, do the candidates who trail by 200 or 400 votes actually have a chance at this point? Unlikely and here’s why:

  • The approximately 2100 provisional ballots are county wide. (The BoE could not tell me in advance of processing them how many fall into which districts.) With eight state districts in the county and five county districts, and assuming a relatively smooth distribution of provisionals across the county, that would mean approximately 263 provisionals per state district and 420 per county district.
  • An unknown number of these provisional ballots will be disallowed, meaning that the actual number counted will be lower than these estimates.
  • So, for Crutchfield to overtake Morales would require her to win more than 100% of the outstanding votes; that is, her only chance is if for some reason D19 has a huge surplus of provisional ballots and then she would have to win virtually all of them. Forgeddaboutit!
  • For Glass to overtake Hucker, he would have to win 51.6% of the provisionals. Given Glass’s 37.44% of votes already counted, this is a stretch, but by no means impossible. With the likelihood that some of D5’s provisionals will be disallowed, the road for Glass to climb becomes that much steeper. Partisans of the two candidates in this race will be on pins and needles for days to come.

For all of those who stayed home this election, you have only yourselves to blame for not being among the handful of votes to decide these two squeakers.

Though I did not endorse Hucker in D5, I am rooting for him as hard as I can. Given the victories by the pro-development forces in the rest of the county (except for Marc Elrich’s first-place finish in the at-large race), Hucker would be the only potential moderate-growth progressive to partner with Elrich.

As I came out of my polling place yesterday, Glass approached me politely to say that he thought I (and the Post’s Bill Turque) had treated him unfairly by lumping him in with the developers. Of course, I first turned sour on Glass based on his horrific mailing about the transit center debacle. Only after that did Turque’s piece about the developers’ embrace of Glass come out. Anyway, I was mulling Glass’s point as I was on my way to Elrich’s victory party last night. Just then, I drove past Developers’ Row, the Lee (big developers) property at the corner of Colesville and East-West Highway, where they put up huge signs for their best pals. There stood a mega Glass sign, right next to Nancy Floreen’s and George Leventhal’s. One doesn’t get these gifts from developers without being in their pockets. I stopped wondering then and there whether Turque and I had been unfair to Glass in any way.




Full disclosure: I ended up voting for Hucker, notwithstanding my endorsement of Terrill North. I knew that the Hucker-Glass race would be very close and that my friend Terrill didn’t stand a chance.

I am delighted to see Morales beat Crutchfield in D19, given Crutchfield’s association with Ben Kramer and Alec Stone.

©2014 Keith Berner


05.30.14 How your blogger chooses candidates to love (and hate)

May 30, 2014

Dear Readers, you may just be wondering what happens in the mind of your blogger, as he writes about candidates for public office. Some of you might be surprised that much is going in there at all. Anyway, I do indeed have some criteria for selecting good guys and bad guys in politics.

  1. Ideology and values. If you’re not a progressive, at least in a substantial part of your agenda, you cannot win my love. (I’m not going to define “progressive” here — most of you know pretty much what I mean.) On the county level, I go for environmentalists over developers. Thus do Doug Duncan, Nancy Floreen and 99.9% of Republicans lose my consideration. Oh yeah, those who run on tax-cuts for the wealthy (that’s you, Doug Gansler) also get no love from me. Chris Van Hollen — NSA lover — also no longer gets my vote.
  2. Relevant knowledge and competence. Does the candidate know anything about the issues at play, the other players, and the process? I’m sorry, you can’t just show up suddenly in Rockville or Annapolis and be a hero, without knowing anything. By the same token, you can’t declare yourself ready to run a state, when the largest previous operation you have ever run is a political campaign: sorry Heather Mizeur.
  3. Previous service to the community. Don’t show up here suddenly demanding glory if you haven’t paid some dues. I want to see a resume of engagement — a record of caring about this place and its people. This is where Hans Riemer (the Liar) lost me at the start of his quest for glory — he hadn’t even lived here long enough to know anyone’s name when he declared his first run for office. This remains a valid criticism of Will Jawando, who certainly has experience, but not serving our area.
  4. Diversity. I don’t think diverse communities should be served by a non-diverse set of elected officials.
  5. Tempered ambition. I get that nearly all politicians are ambitious. Heck, your blogger is ambitious in his day job. But I want to vote for people who intend to do the job they’re running for, rather than plotting their next advancement from Day 1 in office. Empty ambition, thy name is Heather Mizeur.
  6. Putting power in perspective. Power is necessary for the accomplishment of anything. Power ought never be the end in itself. Beware these cynics for whom power is the only thing. If your fundamental political views are malleable and subservient to your pursuit of power, you won’t get my support — sorry, Duchy Trachtenberg (more on this soon!). And Valerie Ervin is the poster child of a power-hungry pol.
  7. Ability to work with other elected officials. If you and those you’ll be serving with can’t get along, this is a black mark against you.
  8. Stopping the worst of two evils. Sometimes, I do the pragmatic thing and vote primarily out of disgust with the other guy (rather than love for mine). When I vote for Democrats at the federal level in general elections, this is usually what I’m up to. That’s what I’ve decided not to do in MoCo D5 this year (Hucker vs. Barclay).
  9. Character. If you behave with impunity (Doug Gansler), steal from the public (Chris Barclay), or treat people badly  (Tom Hucker), you have a hill to climb with me.
  10. Personal. If I know you personally and like you, it certainly helps drive my support for you. Great examples include Sheila Hixson, Jamie Raskin, Marc Elrich, and Terrill North. But they are not the only ones — in a year of depressing politics, I have met some really nice people who are running for office.

So, am I 100% consistent in applying these criteria? Yeah, right. As you have previously accustomed yourself to, Dear Reader, your blogger is flawed. But he takes comfort knowing that those who criticize inconsistency are hoboglined by little minds, or some such.

©2014 Keith Berner


12.15.13 Hans Riemer: Embellishments and lies

December 15, 2013

Montgomery County Councilman Hans Riemer (At-Large) has been embellishing his record ever since he declared for council in 2006 (before the paint was dry in his first-ever Maryland domicile). He came to us with specious claims about his importance as a savior of Social Security as we know it. More recently, he tied himself closely to Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign victory even though he had disappeared from the campaign many months earlier, without an explanation. Riemer’s colleagues on County Council complain behind closed doors that he regularly tries to take credit for others’ work.

All of this is distasteful, creating a general impression of sleazy self-service. But has this been outright dishonest? Not clear. Now, however, Riemer has crossed the line.

Hans Riemer is lying about his support for the minimum wage bill that just passed in Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties.

Marc Elrich (At-Large) led the effort to get a decent minimum wage ($11.50/hour) on the books and to reach it in a reasonable amount of time (2016). He put together an agreement with PG and DC legislators to pass equivalent measures, so that the employment impact of higher wages in our county would be mitigated. When I began following the issue closely a few weeks ago, I was delighted to see that Elrich had support from George Leventhal (At-Large), Nancy Navarro (D-2), and Valerie Ervin (D-5): four of the necessary five votes on the nine-member council.

I reached out to Phil Andrews (D-1; disclosure: he is a personal friend) and Riemer to see if I could help move either to be that fifth vote. Andrews confirmed his opposition (and, indeed, he was the lone dissenter when the final bill passed 8-1 on November 26). You can count on Andrews to own his positions and be honest about them, even when you may disagree with him.

Not the case with Riemer. What ensued in response to my inquiry were several rounds of squirrely emails in which he kept claiming credit for being philosophically in favor of a better minimum wage and leading the effort to get a bill passed:

• “I came out very clearly for an increase in the minimum wage weeks ago” (Riemer, 11/18/13).

• “. . . my support for raising the wage is bringing other council members along” (Riemer, 11/19/13).

Meanwhile, Riemer’s real position was that any new minimum wage not be enacted until the state took action, be substantially lower than Elrich’s bill (even lower than $10, depending on what Maryland ended up doing), and take much longer to implement (as late as 2020) – see Riemer’s blog.

Because of Riemer’s opposition to the progressive bill, Elrich and his cohort eventually had to settle for a one-year extension on full implementation, to 2017, but they beat back Riemer’s attempt to gut the wage itself – the final bill included the $11.50 rate. Notwithstanding Riemer’s argument that Elrich’s measure should be opposed because PG and DC wouldn’t pass such a progressive bill, PG did indeed pass a nearly identical measure the following week and as of this writing, the DC council appears poised to pass it unanimously.

Here’s the comical part: If you watch the final vote on the bill (30 seconds), you can see five hands go up immediately. Riemer (on the far left [ironically]) is so opposed to the measure that he is the waits to raise his hand  until he sees that he can’t stop it. Then, he jumps on the speeding bandwagon just in time to claim that he was the one driving it all along.

Hans Riemer worked hard to kill a decent minimum wage in Montgomery County, but that didn’t stop him from claiming credit for its passage. This is from his self-congratulatory blast email on November 27:

“I am proud that I helped deliver an 8-1 council vote for this hugely important progressive priority. . . . I worked hard to strengthen the county proposal. My work fighting to protect Social Security taught me that the broadest policies have the best impact.”

So, Social Security’s Savior was a fighter for the workers of Montgomery County? Give me a break. Propaganda is far more important to Hans Riemer than progress. He can call himself “progressive” from now ‘til kingdom come, but the word is utterly meaningless when he utters it.

I have been a harsh critic of Riemer ever since he magically appeared in our county claiming to be our next progressive hero, without ever having done a shred of work in the region and without having even bothered to hold a single conversation with our real, live progressive fighters.

I have tried the past couple of years to go easy on the poor lad, hoping that he would ditch the false claims and fulfill his progressive promises. I don’t maintain that he’s always wrong or dishonest. But this recent bit is just too much.

Everyone paying attention to local politics gets this. And we have between now and the June 24th primary to educate everyone else.

PS. It’s typical that Riemer has endorsed White House Darling Will Jawando for the open state delegate seat in D-20, who – as I have written – is clearly the worst candidate in the race. Maybe Riemer hopes to create an empty-ambition caucus.

©2013 Keith Berner

11.16.12 Cut off Israel, now!

November 16, 2012

I really wish I had posted this before the latest hostilities between Israel and Hamas. I have indeed had this one in my head since a couple of weeks ago. Now, I will look mean because Israel is once again painting itself as a hapless victim with no choice but to inflict massive pain on its enemies. And, to be fair, if I were living in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, I wouldn’t care right now who is right and wrong, historically — I would simply want my state to protect me.

But, let’s take a step back. Jews were victims for thousands of years, culminating in the Holocaust. Israel was in extremely dangerous circumstances, mostly not of its own making, through the 1970s or early 1980s. But once Israel began appropriating land that did not belong to it and populating it with civilians who had no business being there (and in defiance of international law), it became — on balance — the perpetrator, not the victim. That balance has become more and more out of whack in the years since. Even during the Oslo peace process, Israel kept stealing land and populating it with civilians. In the last decade, Israelis have elected one after another hard right wing government. It seems that there is no left remaining in that country. When the masses choose bigotry and violence, there is no more valid claim to victimhood.

This is not to say the Palestinians (or the Arab states, in general) have been all good. Hardly. Mostly, I think they and the Israelis deserve each other.

I have long believed that the US should have been reducing aid to Israel year by year, as long as that country kept up its insidious aggression. I think all aid should have been cut off by the turn of the century.

What has happened in the past year, brings a new urgency to this call. Just as Israel has been clamoring for a disastrous war with Iran, they have also begun meddling in our internal affairs. That’s right: your and my tax dollars have been underwriting Bibi Netanyahu’s blatant alliance with Sheldon Adelson, Mitt Romney, and significant portions of the GOP to drive Barack Obama from office.

This is beyond the pale.

Right-wing Jewish Americans (many of whom are avowed neocons) and their buddies among Christian fundamentalists who believe that Israeli instigated war will bring back Jesus, have been claiming for decades that Israel is a crucial, strategic ally: a bulwark in the Middle East. During the Cold War, there may have been a wee bit of truth to that, since every international conflict was related to the epic struggle between the US and the Soviets.

The fall of the Soviet Union begs the question: strategic bulwark against what? The answer? A bulwark against the enmity the US faces as a result of its alliance with Israel. That is, the US needs Israel as an ally because Israel is the US’s ally.

This country cannot be an honest broker in the Middle East, as long as it underwrites everything that Israel does, not only in taxpayer dollars, but also in UN votes and diplomacy.

The time has come to shed ourselves of this albatross. Not only would this save us a boatload of cash and enhance our diplomatic standing in the world, it is also the morally correct thing to do.

Except where there is an overwhelming justification, the US should not be associating itself with right-wing hegemonic states.Further, Israeli misbehavior is not in Israel’s own interest. Israel has nearly extinguished any possibility of a two-state solution, as it stumbles along an inevitable path toward outright fascism and apartheid. A giant splash of cold water from an erstwhile blind ally (the US) might force Israel back from its self-created brink and towards a sustainable future. If throwing that cold water on Israeli aggression is not the morally correct thing to do, I don’t know what is.

©2012 Keith Berner