Posted tagged ‘gay marriage’

07.01.17 “Get off Facebook,” she said.  (In which I get lectured on FB’s sole purpose.)

July 1, 2017

Facebook is a free-speech zone, for better or worse.

I got under the skin of a bunch of people earlier this week, when I posted this on Facebook:

I hereby declare: with occasional exceptions, I will no longer like profile picture updates or pics of themselves people post. (I have unfollowed a couple of people already due to selfie pollution.)

I received more comments on this little expression of exasperation than I usually do. When a couple of people asked me why I felt the need to post this, I replied that I was making a point about self-absorption. Some then accused me of being self-absorbed for expressing my view.

So far, fair ‘nuff. If I’m going to post (or blog, for that matter), I have to accept that not everyone is going to like what I have to say and cherish their right and duty to call me out.

A bit more background. My FB friends consist of a nice (in my view) mix of old friends, recent friends, and many fellow political activists from my neck of the woods. I don’t tend to post much that is personal – the majority of my content has to do with politics and social issues. I expect that some of my personal friends probably hid my feed long ago, because they are uninterested in these topics or disagree with my views about them.

By the same token, I have hidden some of my friends over time, because I am not that interested in their family vacations, their hobbies, or because 85.3%* of their posts are their own picture.

Yeah, I am turned off by people who are too passionate about themselves. Some of you won’t blame me in this era of the Narcissist in Chief. Others will find me to be harshly and unfairly judgmental. (I own being judgmental and said so in response a comment I got).

But, my post was not an attack on any individual. Neither did I declare self-promotion to be illegal for anyone who engages in it or their audiences who can’t get enough.

Then, this this popped up in the comments:

I think its BS and judgmental to make that statement. Facebook was not actually intended as a method for you to scream your political opinions at everybody. It was intended as a way to help friends stay connected and keep updated about each others lives. Unfriend people if your not close enough to them to want to look at their pictures. But I think it’s incredibly self absorbed to pass judgment on people using facebook for its intended purpose. I really truly do not care if you don’t want to like my photos. If all you want is politics stick to a blog and get off facebook. [emphasis added; grammatical errors in original]


This came from the daughter of an old friend, a young woman I was once close to. Let’s call her “Jane” – no need to drag her real name through the mud.

I just have to laugh at Jane’s declaration of Facebook’s “intended purpose.” I wonder: does she have a direct line to Mark Zuckerberg? As I seem to recall, Zuckerberg created FB as a way for college students to find potential dates.

Further, FB now claims two billion members. Might there not be room among the billions to use the platform for a variety of purposes like getting dates, sharing selfies, political organizing, news dissemination, coordinating relief to disaster zones, seeking advice, or whatever?

And that’s what I found most stunning in Jane’s complaint: she is a trying to control others’ right to free speech, declaring what is acceptable not only for herself, but for all the rest of us. Sorry all you two billion people: henceforth you may use FB only under Jane’s guidance and approval. Right.

Here’s my harsh judgmentalism, again: I am offended by anybody who would argue not only to suppress free speech, but also – specifically –  to clamp down on sharing information and opinions about the most important issues affecting billions of human beings across the globe.

(My FB posts this week have been about transgender rights, Germany’s approval of same-sex marriage, a powerful Washington Post editorial on Trump, the quality of CNN news coverage, plastic in the oceans, my respect for Canada, and an analysis of communism/socialism/social democracy. Yeah, you’re right: your selfies are far more important – and legitimate – than my “scream[ing]” about politics.)

It’s interesting to note that Jane had never hidden me or unfriended me. She still hadn’t by the time I came upon her screed the next day, so I did the honor.

I got the last word in that comments string: “Isn’t it beautiful that we all get to be irritated by different things on FB?” Ahhh, the joy of a free world.

*Exact figure courtesy of Fox News.

PS. Dear Readers: you may have missed me in recent months. I have found it hard to write in blog-length form about anything, while being in a state of rage about everything. Maybe this post will unblock my muse and I’ll resume blogging more frequently. Otherwise, I encourage you to follow me on FB. All my posts there are public, meaning that we do not have to be mutual friends for you to see what I have to say. To find me on FB, know that I am the Keith Berner in Takoma Park, MD. (Sadly, I’m not the only Keith Berner on FB – another one is a race car driver in Ohio.) Or you can try this link (I’m not sure if links to FB content work).

©2017 Keith Berner



10.18.12 Biennial Election Guide for Takoma Park & Montgomery County, MD

October 18, 2012

President of the United States

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the entire Republican Party are evil. There. We’re done with that topic and nothing more needs to be said about it.

Some feel betrayed by Barack Obama. They wonder where the progressive they thought they had met in 2008 has gone, along with that uplifting vision of hope and change. He never was the great dreamy progressive many believed him to be. Apart from his opposition to the Iraq War, Obama is a center-right guy. Like most of the Democratic Party establishment, he is fully committed to the welfare of Wall Street. Further, he is the worst civil liberties president in American history. Sure, he banned torture. But otherwise, his policies on military tribunals and imprisonment without trial are expanded from those he inherited from W, as is his commitment to spying on Americans at work, at home, on the road, on the internet, everywhere.

He is also an utter, unmitigated failure as a political leader. It took him nearly three years in office to figure out what the rest of us knew by March 2009: that the GOP was determined to ruin the country, if that’s what it took to drive him from office and impose their plutocratic, theocratic state. He ceded to Congress complete control over his key initiative: health care. In the process, single payer was destroyed and any reform at all came perilously close to the brink. His public dithering and inability to articulate a vision led to the horrendous 2010 GOP takeover – not just of Congress, but of statehouses coast-to-coast.

Then there was that debate two weeks ago: the epitome of fecklessness. With his opponent on the ropes, Barack Obama’s lack of engagement or willingness to fight for anything allowed the GOP to spring back to life. Will Romney actually win? We don’t yet know. But we do know that a competent leader would never have given him a chance. And Obama is just not a competent leader. (Ok, the second debate was better. But still!)

Jill Stein is the Green Party’s candidate for president. I know almost nothing about her personally; though, I do know that the Green Party well represents my values. That’s beside the point, because she is not going to win significant numbers of votes and a vote for her is only about protesting. If I were in Ohio, say, or Virginia, I would bite my cheeks and vote for Obama. Because Obama is a sure landslide winner in Maryland, though, I have the luxury of casting a protest vote against his pro-corporate, anti-civil liberties policies and complete spinelessness. And that is what I shall do by voting for Jill Stein.

Having said this, I call on you lefties to be firm and vocal with your friends and family in swing states: there is a HUGE difference between a bad Democrat and any Republican, when it comes to the courts. There is no place for Naderism, when the president controls lifetime appointments, not only to the Supreme Court, but all federal courts. The extreme right wing has taken over the judiciary in much of the country. Only a Democratic president will be able to slow the bleeding. No matter how bad Obama is, anyone who is not a right-wing nut job and lives in a swing state must vote for him!

US Senator

Ben Cardin has been surprisingly progressive. One great example is his vote against a defense authorization bill that contained provisions increasing the federal assault on civil liberties. Barbara Mikulski (when will she retire?!) voted for it. I can’t think of any good reason to oppose Cardin’s reelection.

US Congress District 8

Chris Van Hollen is the only progressive in the congressional Democratic leadership. We should be proud to be represented by Van Hollen and try to get him over 80%, if we can!

Judges and Board of Education

I have no opinion of my own in these races. State Senator Jamie Raskin (D-20) tells me that all the judges are fine and had nice things to say about Rebecca Smondrowski for Board of Education, District 2. (The fact that Smondrowski’s opponent, Fred Evans, has tied himself to Doug Duncan – MoCo’s own Prince of Darkness –hardly endears him to me.)

State Question 1 – PG County Judges

Yes. I have no well formed opinion on this, but it seems reasonable that any judge in the state should be eligible to practice law in the state and be a member in good standing of the Bar. If there are good reasons to oppose this, please send them my way.

State Question 2 – Baltimore Country Judges


State Question 3 – Suspension and Removal of Elected Officials

Yes. This provision would remove elected officials from their jobs as soon as they are convicted of a serious crime. This would prevent a recurrence of the Leslie Johnson fiasco, where she was convicted of corruption, but stayed in office as a PG County Councilmember – able to vote and collect her salary – while she deliberately stalled having her conviction finalized.

State Question 4 – “The Dream Act”

Yes. This provision allows undocumented immigrants who live in Maryland to attend college at in-state tuition rates. This is a no brainer: why wouldn’t the state want all of its residents to become educated, productive members of society? The only justification for opposing this measure is sheer bigotry.

State Question 5 – “The Gerrymander”

No? (It actually hardly matters – stick with me, dear reader, to find out why.)

Repeat after me: Just because Democrats came up with it, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing! The Maryland Democratic Party machine has shamed itself and our state by creating monstrosities of our (US) congressional district maps.* The most outrageous shape is District 3, connected in several spots by little more than highways as it meanders through every part of the state except the Eastern Shore. (Poor Eastern Shore!)

What are the Democrats up to? Just the same game as the GOP plays everywhere it has control. The Dems saw a chance to knock out one of the state’s two GOP members of Congress (Roscoe Bartlett, District 6) and just couldn’t help themselves. Oh yeah, they also saw a chance to make a principled stand in favor of nepotism, by creating that awful 3rd District as a permanently safe seat for John Sarbanes, son of the former senator.

So, am I calling for Democrats to disarm when, after all, everyone else is doing it? In short, yes. Sometimes, (small-d) democracy is more important than winning. If doing the right thing means that Bartlett gets to serve another term and Sarbanes has to fight harder for his seat, so be it.

What is the right policy? Nonpartisan redistricting commissions that produce districts based on both natural and human borders, as well as history. Sadly, as long as Maryland remains a one-party state, this just won’t see the light of day. Bosses don’t like power dilution.

Martin O’Malley’s and Ike Leggett’s cheerleading for the gerrymander will make it very hard for me to support their future campaigns. (O’Malley is rumored to be considering a run for US president in 2016. I would only support Leggett if he were the only alternative to Mean Mr. Duncan.)

County councilman Phil Andrews (D-1), a former director of Maryland Common Cause, is providing great leadership on this issue, speaking out forcefully in the media against the gerrymander. Andrews plans to run for county executive in 2014. I hope he’ll prove to be a compelling alternative to politics as usual.

Now, here’s the sad news (and the crux of the story). The very Democrats who brought us this nonsense are now secretly hoping we vote against it. Why? Because all that will happen is that they’ll get a brand-new chance to gerrymander, this time with brand-new 2012 voting data! (To clarify: if the redistricting proposal loses, the 2012 election results will still stand and the job of creating new maps will go back to the same people who drew these abominations. Then, the new abominations will be used in 2014, pending an inevitable court challenge.)

Bottom line: if you vote yes, you are endorsing gerrymandering; if you vote no, you are helping the gerrymanderers.

I’ll vote no out of principle and just seethe silently about the Democratic forces of evil who run our state. I suppose there is one very tiny hope in voting no: that enough constituents will pressure enough party machine-heads to create better maps next time. Then again, pigs might sprout wings and sing arias.

*These districts are for Maryland’s members in the US Congress. Districts for all Maryland state bodies and offices are not at issue.

State Question 6 – Marriage Rights for All

Yes. You don’t need me to convince you that bigotry is always wrong.

State Question 7 – Gambling Expansion

No. Gambling is regressive taxation: state-sponsored theft from the poor in order to excuse the rich from paying their fair share. Further, gambling doesn’t produce the financial payoffs its zealots always claim. Look at what happened after Maryland voters first approved gambling. Almost nothing. No windfall for education. No budget surpluses. It was all a bunch of lies.

Further (#2), don’t believe the propaganda about gambling proceeds being dedicated to some cause (like education) you support. The fact is that the Maryland General Assembly — if given the chance to use gambling money for education — will go ahead and fund education exactly where it was before and then use the money they take out of the education budget for something you are not quite so committed to. Finally, so many social ills are caused by gambling (increased crime and destitute families, to name two) that a significant portion of whatever money does not end up lining the gambling industry’s filthy pockets will end up paying to redress them.

County Question A – Hiring Preference for People with Disabilities

Yes. Seems like the right thing to do.

County Question B – Reducing Police Union Control over Operations

Yes. Here’s one where you have to be determined not to let ingrained ideology or union propaganda confuse you. This is not about cutting back on the unions’ ability to bargain over compensation, benefits, and major issues of work safety. Rather, it’s about eliminating the unions’ power to stop every single management initiative regarding daily operations. Say the police chief thinks it’s a good idea that every police car be equipped with a snow shovel. No, says the union — not until you give us “x” (whatever “x” might turn out to be). This isn’t about collective bargaining. It’s about preventing union-powered blackmail.

You lefties and lifelong labor activists need to get off your ideological high horses and deal with reality. Just as with Democrats, just because a union says they want something does not make it ipso facto good. I believe, in fact, that overreach by public employee unions feeds directly into the agenda of the hard-right corporate elite, because it turns public opinion against all labor. If we stand up to labor when they are wrong, we will be serving not only the broader interest, but also the long-term interest of the unions themselves.

downloadable PDF of this guide

©2012 Keith Berner

10.14.10 David & Sam Get Married

October 14, 2010

This is cross-posted with the Washington Post’s All Opinions Are Local.

I’m thankful to live next to Washington in a year when Republicans didn’t control Congress and its power to override DC laws. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to attend last weekend’s wedding of David and Sam – dear friends who have been a couple for 12-ish years, about the same as my wife and me. What a fabulous wedding, from the ceremony, to the ambiance, to the luscious food! The utter joy of the event was transcendent.

And that is what a wedding ought to be. But could not have been – for these two people – in most other places at most other times.

There has been so much pain just recently: bullying and suicides and beatings, not to mention outrageous political pronouncements. But justice for gays and lesbians will not be stopped. If nothing else, the rise of more gay-friendly generations will ensure that.

In the meantime, even for David and Sam the struggle for justice isn’t over. Sam is Korean. He’s been in the United States for years, under student and employment visas. But David can’t sponsor Sam’s permanent residency in this country, because the federal government doesn’t recognize their marriage. A lost job for Sam could cost this loving couple the right to live in the same country.  (To do something about this, please give to Immigration Equality.)

Sadly, the prospects for marriage equality aren’t so bright in Maryland. This state may appear very blue at first glance, but political power resides with social conservatives such as Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and the Roman Catholic Church. I’d wager it will take six years for Maryland to catch up to DC on this one. It would probably take longer still if Maryland didn’t have DC’s good (and demystifying) example right next door.

©2010 Keith Berner

08.30.10 Thanks, Bill Clinton!

August 30, 2010

Last week, a judge blocked federal funding for most stem-cell research based on a 1996 law called the Dickey-Wicker Amendment that prevents funding of research where a human embryo is destroyed.

Every day loving couples in this country are deprived of the right to codify their relationships and protect their families, with help from a 1996 law called the Defense of Marriage Act.

Do you remember who was president in 1996 and signed both measures?

© Keith Berner