Posted tagged ‘NRA’

08.09.17 Roger Berliner is no environmental hero (plus: the shame of Mike Tidwell)

August 9, 2017

On July 25, an email arrived in my inbox with the subject line: “Roger Berliner, the environmental leader you can trust.” It was signed “Mike Tidwell, Environmental Leader,” but was sent from the Berliner campaign, not from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network – CCAN, which Tidwell directs. This was an opening salvo from County Councilman Berliner in his endeavor to become MoCo’s next executive. He has joined the 2018 race against two other current councilmembers: Marc Elrich and George Leventhal.

Writing as Berliner’s mouthpiece, Tidwell goes over the top in declaring the candidate to be “the acknowledged county environmental leader” [emphasis added]. Hmmm: acknowledged by whom?

Well, let’s specify who has not shared in the accolades. For example:

  • Those who have sought to get plastic bags out of our streams and oceans. While Berliner did support the original bag tax that took effect in 2012, it seems the chemical industry got to him a year later and he championed a (losing) effort to remove the tax from most retail establishments. He was joined by Leventhal in that noble cause.
  • Those who don’t believe pretty lawns justify use of chemicals poisonous to children and pets. Safe Grow Montgomery (which is now under threat as a result of a recent court opinion) passed 6-3 in 2015 over Roger Berliner’s opposition (credit Leventhal for being a champion on this one).
  • Those who oppose unfettered development in the county, at least in part due to concerns about environmental impacts. Berliner has consistently sided with big developers’ attempts to pave everything outside the Agricultural Reserve.

Berliner was indeed the lead sponsor of a recent bill calling for MoCo to divest from fossil fuels. On closer inspection though, how heroic was this? Well, inside sources tell me that it was Marc Elrich who originally came up with the idea. It turns out that Berliner basically jumped the queue to introduce it before Elrich could and he got only two co-sponsors: Elrich and Nancy Navarro. Leventhal, Tom Hucker, Hans Riemer and the rest opposed the bill until it was watered down to be a non-binding resolution, at which point they jumped on the bandwagon. For a change, Berliner was on the right side of an environmental issue, but it didn’t end up amounting to much.

I wrote back to Tidwell on August 3, recounting the councilman’s poor environmental record and concluding:

I agree with you that climate change is the most important issue humanity faces, but an environmentalist should care about and support environmentalism across the board. . . .Unless you can document how Berliner is better than Elrich, Leventhal, or anyone else, you have no credibility with this endorsement. (If you can document this, please respond directly — I am receptive to new information that could change my view. I plan to blog on this topic shortly, so time is of the essence for your reply.)

I got this reply that day:

Thanks for your note. I support Roger personally because he has done more on the issue of climate change than any other leader in the county over the past 10 years – in my view. Climate change is my biggest concern as a voter. Mike

That is: It doesn’t matter if Berliner is wrong about everything else. For Tidwell, climate change is all that matters and it gives license to rank Berliner above all others, including others who have at least identical records on climate change. This doesn’t fly in my book: by definition, you cannot be an environmental leader if you have a record of opposing environmental legislation.

Just how credible is Mike Tidwell, anyway? Well, he has certainly has done a lot of work on climate change and deserves respect for that. But his decision to shill for Berliner is not the only time he has gone off the rails.

In 2011, Tidwell penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, titled “A climate-change activist prepares for the worst.” Here is the choice quote:

How will we feed ourselves adequately if our breadbasket is a desert? Answer: We won’t, and there will be social unrest as a result. . . . So I even took my first-ever lesson in firearms use last December, an introduction to skeet shooting. I told myself it was in part for sport, but I did it mostly to test various types of shotguns for eventual purchase.

Here was Mike Tidwell telling us: “Arm yourselves, the end is near!” That was when I stopped writing checks to CCAN. Just as I don’t believe climate-change activism necessitates abandoning the rest of the environment, I am horrified that any progressive-change activist would join the NRA in promoting guns or engage in fear-mongering about imminent societal collapse.

Back to the county executive race. It would be one thing if you were a single-issue climate-change voter and it were Berliner vs. Nancy Floreen or Craig Rice (whose records are terrible). But the fact is that Marc Elrich has been walking and chewing gum at the same time for decades, building a record against climate change and for the environment more broadly.

 Marc Elrich is the only member of County Council with a consistent record on the environment. While most of county council has been in the pocket of developers since the early aughts; while Berliner has a negative record on pesticides and plastic bags; while Leventhal did as much as anyone to water down the fossil-fuel divestment bill and tried with Berliner to gut the bag tax; Marc Elrich has been a friend of the environment every single time.

I believe Mike Tidwell harmed his own cause when he associated it with gun-toting survivalism. He certainly isn’t helping it now by hitching his wagon to Berliner, an outright threat to the environment.

Dear voter: Don’t let Berliner and Tidwell sell you a batch of snake oil. For county executive in 2018, choose the one councilmember whom you can trust on the environment all the time: Marc Elrich.

©2018 Keith Berner

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07.10.16 Rage

July 10, 2016

Rage about all the black men killed by racist cops (not to mention all the injustice meted out that stops short of outright murder).

Rage at the sniper who killed innocent officers who were protecting protesters, setting back the cause of justice.

Rage at the NRA and the venal politicians who take their money and do their bidding.

Rage at the gun nuts who claim that an armed crowd at that gay bar in Orlando would have saved lives: tell that to the armed and dead cops in Dallas.

Rage at almost all Republicans for almost everything they support, oppose, and lie about.

Rage at the Clintons whose arrogance and paranoia have handed rope to our enemies over and over again for 25 years.

Rage at the right-wing freaks who think that misuse of an email server merits prison but starting a war founded on lies with hundreds of thousands of dead doesn’t.

Rage at the driver who ran over the kitten in the road today and was in too much of a hurry to stop, seconds before I arrived on my bike and held the kitten in my hands as it died.

Rage at the white people who chose on Friday to tell us how much better things are than we think, because violent crime rates are going down and GDP is going up.

Rage at the white people who will never get why Black Lives Matter.

Rage at a judge for putting a rapist in jail for only six months in order not to inconvenience him too much.

Rage at North Carolina for making me carry my birth certificate the next time I need to pee there.

Rage at the Nader and Sanders supporters who value their purity over the need to prevent evil.

Rage at Trump for everything.

Rage at Trump’s Virginia campaign manager, Corey Stewart, who blamed Hillary Clinton for the dead cops in Dallas.

Rage at Kansas for renaming public schools “government schools.”

Rage at Romney, Ryan, and Wall Street for not giving a shit about anyone who isn’t as lucky as they are.

Rage at journalists who enable climate change deniers and supply siders in the name of “balance.”

Rage at ideologues who decry science.

Rage at theocrats who declare Jesus white and bigotry right.

Rage at anyone who stays home on November 8. Rage at the right wing machine that steals voting rights while it proclaims freedom and tries to enforce it elsewhere at the barrel of a gun.

Rage at myself for looking forward to my page-view counts for this post.

Rage at the universe for not fixing any of this.

©2016 Keith Berner

04.16.16 Chris Van Hollen for Senate

April 16, 2016

This is a long piece. If you don’t know Chris Van Hollen well and have not been following the story of Donna Edwards’s lies about his record, you’ll learn by reading all of it. Otherwise, the executive summary is clear: Chris Van Hollen is an unusually effective progressive leader. Donna Edwards is unusually ineffective and lacks the character to be in public office.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-8) is a superstar. He offers a rare combination of deep progressive values, legislative expertise, and being part of the Democratic Party leadership. His talent is demonstrated by the fact that it took very few years after his election to Congress in 2002 to become a member of the leadership and that he did not have to become a corporate sellout to do so.

There have been times when your blogger has disagreed with Van Hollen. Two instances I recall were when he floated a potential unilateral concession to the GOP during budget talks several years ago, a move that I found distressingly similar to Barack Obama’s long period of negotiating with himself, while the GOP gave nothing. Another instance was when he briefly sided with the anti-privacy Senator Diane Feinstein regarding the NSA.

Otherwise, Van Hollen has been a champion of almost everything progressives hold dear: the environment, political reform (more on that, below), gun control (more on that, below), women’s rights, gay rights, Wall St. reform, responsible foreign policy. You name it, our congressman has been far more than a sidelines cheerleader. Rather he has provided real leadership over and over again.

Part of leadership is seeking compromise in service to the public good. Guess what? You cannot move legislation (or negotiate an arms control treaty), without giving up something to get agreement with the other side. There are limits to what concessions moral leaders can make. But ultimately, good compromise means calculating that what you’re winning is worth more than what you’re giving up.

Which brings us to Chris Van Hollen’s sponsorship of a campaign finance reform package in 2010 in the wake of Citizens United. The bill would have forced transparency regarding contributions to and expenditures by PACs. In order to gain support from red-state Democrats, the bill exempted the NRA (and, to appease other Dems, the Sierra Club) from its provisions. Most pro-gun-control Democrats supported the measure (which ultimately passed the House, but failed in the Senate) because the finance transparency to be gained was far more important than the potential lost insight into the NRA, whose agenda and actions were hardly a secret to start with.

Fast forward to the Maryland Senate campaign of 2016. For weeks, Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-4) has been portraying Chris Van Hollen as being in bed with the NRA, based on the 2010 bill, which had nothing to do with gun control. Given Van Hollen’s “F” rating from the NRA (which Edwards shares), your blogger considers this beyond distortion: it is an outright lie. Edward’s own advertising has featured this libel.

This past week, Edwards’s libel gained national attention, as a heretofore little-known PAC called Working for US, featured Obama’s image in a new ad making the same spurious claim about Van Hollen. The ad implied (1) that Obama opposed to the 2010 campaign-finance bill (he did not) and (2) that Obama had endorsed Edwards (he had not).

The President does not usually intervene in primary races between Democrats. But, the PAC’s ad (as put by the Washington Post in an April 14 editorial) was “beyond the pale.” Barack Obama publicly called for the ad to be pulled. In short order, House and Senate Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Harry Reid (D-NV) followed suit. (Van Hollen is part of Pelosi’s and Reid’s team. Would they be likely to work with Edwards now?)

If Donna Edwards had not already been spouting the same lie as the PAC promoted, she might have been able to distance herself from it. She can’t and, in fact, has reasserted it in recent days.

Party because the 2010 campaign-finance reform bill didn’t become law, it’s not easy to understand a PAC’s inner workings. Nonetheless, John Fritze at the Baltimore Sun reported on April 14 that the major funder of the noxious ad was a Maine-based hedge fund manager, S. Donald Sussman. (Kudos to Jonathan Shurberg at Maryland Scramble for pointing me to the Sun article.) Fritze writes:

Van Hollen’s campaign found irony in the fact that the ad was paid for a hedge fund manager. The Edwards campaign has said for months that Van Hollen is too cozy with Wall Street.

“Chris Van Hollen has been leading the fight to close the loophole that lets hedge fund managers pay less in taxes than working people,” Van Hollen spokeswoman Bridgett Frey said. “That she claims to take on Wall Street is clearly the height of hypocrisy.”

Your blogger worked hard to get Chris Van Hollen elected in 2002. I have remained a fan over the years, but entered 2016 also positively inclined towards Donna Edwards. Her voting record is nearly identical to Van Hollen’s and she offers the bonus of adding much-needed diversity to the overwhelmingly white, male US Senate. What Maryland progressive would not be proud to be represented by an African-American woman?

At the same time, I was disturbed by the pervasive stories of Edwards’s apparent inability to get along with others. Her lack of support in this race from the Congressional Black Caucus or many Prince George’s County political leaders has been striking. Various analyses have deemed Edwards among the least effective members of Congress, in terms of legislation passed or contributed to.

Nonetheless, I flirted with political neutrality in the contest between Van Hollen and Edwards. Van Hollen’s effectiveness is highly compelling. So is Edwards’s stated commitment to principle – I don’t mind having some progressive bomb throwers in power.

Edward’s despicable campaign decisively ends my flirtation. She is a hypocrite on campaign finance. Her claimed purity about the NRA helped damage an effort to do something about the issue.

It’s worse: her inability to get along with anyone makes her not a Bernie Sanders figure (who is rather pure, ideologically, but has a record of being able to work with those who don’t agree with him on everything). No, Donna Edwards is the Ted Cruz of Maryland progressive politics. Bomb-throwing that inspires a movement can be laudable. Alienating produces no value for anyone. The mendacious, hypocritical campaign Edwards has run saps any remaining attractiveness from her candidacy.

Your blogger feels almost guilty for toying with a decision not to endorse Chris Van Hollen. Racial and gender balance are important objectives. But they cannot outweigh the substantial differences between candidates for a single seat. Chris Van Hollen has the character, the skills, and the record of accomplishment Maryland needs in its next senator.

©2016 Keith Berner

12.16.12 Guns: equivalent extremism?

December 16, 2012

Don’t you love when apologists for the right claim that the left in this country is extremist? Here’s a recent incident, from a very well respected Takoma Park opinion leader, excerpted from a community listserv:

I hope if there’s a national dialog about this, we can exclude the extremist rhetoric from left and right.

I served on the city Committee on Gun Violence umpteen years ago. It looked at this issue in great detail and I came away with three main conclusions.

First, the NRA and the gun-ban lobby both inflame passions about this because they all want to keep their jobs. Neither side has any interest in winning, just keeping the passions going.

Second, you can’t believe any statistics from anyone, except maybe the FBI, because even though the interest groups may use legit sources, they skew them to fit their views. For example, the anti-gun people cite the correct number of annual gun-deaths, but they don’t tell you half of them are suicides, instead leaving the impression they are all murders.

Third, there is common ground between pro- and anti-gun people.

And here’s my reply:

I am very disturbed by your claim of equivalent extremism on both sides of this issue. This reminds me of the highly irresponsible media who have spent the last decade trying to claim equivalence between starve-the-government, enable-the-plutocrats, global-warming-deniers, evolution-deniers, theocrats on one side and scientists and (mostly) moderate-center-lefties on the other. Sometimes, just because there are two sides on an issue does not mean that their claim to rationality or legitimacy is equivalent. Nor can one always adjudicate two sides of an issue by splitting the difference. Just because (for example) the GOP moves further and further to the right on issue after issue does not mean that the the split-the-diffference midpoint between them and the Democrats, which is dragged ever further to the right, is the place to be.

I am particularly disturbed by your claim that folks in the Brady Campaign (for example) are in this to protect their jobs and are not seeking solutions. That claim is truly offensive.

In the gun debate, one side: the NRA and collectors/sportsmen has owned all of one party and most of the other. The huge amount of cash they control has enabled them to completely out-gun the gun-control community (do you really mean to imply that both sides have the same firepower?). Though many of us in that community might love to ban guns entirely (indeed, I do), 95% of us have accepted that the the gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment has been upheld and is the law of the land. While one side refuses to discuss any restrictions at all on gun acquisition and ownership, the other is working to make marginal changes that would improve public safety. Equivalence? I think not. The Supreme Court has moved the midpoint much further to the right. I don’t like it, but it is so and I and the rest of the gun controllers are working in that new middle.

I get the home-defense part of the gun lobby, even if I would never place a gun in my house, knowing that they are most often used against those we know (including ourselves) rather than against unknown intruders.

As for sportsmen and collectors, I stand by my view: one person’s hobby or sport is not worth the loss of a single innocent life not involved in that “sport.” (Football players are welcome to maim each other: they all choose to be there.) Defense is one thing (however misguided). Hobbies are quite another.

And let’s not forget the part of the gun lobby that is made up of true right-wing extremists: those who claim that Obama and the UN are planning midnight attacks on American liberty. These folks are a not-insignificant part of the huge increase in gun proliferation in recent years. When those on the moderate right refuse to engage in common-sense discussions of gun control, they are enabling this extremely dangerous element.

There may indeed be common ground to be found between pro-gun and gun-control folks, but to claim equivalence between the two sides hardly helps us navigate the path to find it. It is like claiming that Democratic position in the “fiscal cliff” talks needs to come halfway toward the make-no-compromise-hold-the-country-hostage position of the GOP and the Tea Party.

©2012 Keith Berner

12.15.12 Fuck guns. Fuck the NRA. Fuck “freedom.”

December 15, 2012

Big thanks to local blogger Newsrackblog for presenting links to several articles about yesterday’s massacre:

Fuck You, Guns by Katie J. M. Baker

“[We] refuse to talk about how to prevent fucking massacres from happening over and over again thanks to how fucking simple it is for practically anyone to get their hands on some nifty automated mass murdering weapons. Fuck everyone who says today isn’t the time to politicize gun violence. Most of all, fuck the NRA and all of its political cronies. This is your fault.

Fuck you, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, for saying that “today is not that day” to discuss gun control. The only acceptable explanation for that statement is that you got cut off from saying, “because yesterday was.”. . .

Today, we don’t need prayers. We don’t need thoughts. We need action. We need to politicize this, and we need to politicize this now. Fuck everyone who isn’t ready to talk about gun control. You’re the reason 27 people (and counting) died today. Don’t forget it.

This article provides a helpful link to a list of the members of Congress who received NRA money in this past election cycle.

Shame on Jay Carney. Obama should fire him immediately. We don’t need a Democratic president’s press secretary acting as NRA spokesman!

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The NRA is the enabler of mass murderers by Alex Seitz-Wald:

New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler said yesterday: ““Al-Qaida killed 3,000 people in the World Trade Center in 2001. The United States went to war because of that. Because of the NRA, we’ve lost 10,000 people last year unnecessarily. It’s time we went to war.”

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Five Lies The Gun Lobby Tells You by Zack Beauchamp:

The five lies are:

    1. More guns don’t lead to more murders
    2. The Second Amendment prohibits strict gun control
    3. State-level gun controls haven’t worked
    4. We only ned better enforcement of the laws we have, not new laws
    5. Sensible gun control is prohibitively unpopular.

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Now’s the time to talk guns by Joan Walsh:

“I beg to differ [with Jay Carney]. Today is precisely the day. It’s true, we still don’t know details about the weapons the school shooter, or shooters, used in Connecticut. But we know that there are too many guns, and that the gun lobby fights all efforts to regulate them. The grief and outrage sparked by the Newtown tragedy ought to strengthen the arguments of those who fight for sane restrictions, as well as broader mental health services.

Guns in national parks. Guns in church. Guns in schools and day care centers. All over the country, the spaces that used to be gun-free zones are now open to them.

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Fuck Everything, Nation Reports in the Onion:

“Americans reported feelings of overwhelming disgust with whatever abhorrent bastard did this and with the world at large for ever allowing it to happen, as well as with politicians, with the NRA, and above all with their own pathetic goddamn selves, sitting in front of a fucking computer instead of doing fucking anything to help anyone—Christ, as if that were even fucking possible, as if anyone could change what happened, as if the same fucking bullshit isn’t going to keep happening again and again and fucking again before people finally decide it’s time to change the way we live, so what’s the point? What the hell is the goddamned point?”

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I wonder today how this country has the chuztpah to lecture Bashar al-Assad as he oversees the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent Syrians. What moral standing does this country have to tell anyone anything? Far from a shining city on a hill, we have become the example of government-sanctioned mass murder that serves as a warning to all peoples who contemplate where to draw borders between individual rights and public rights.

US obsession with individual freedom has long passed the point of worthy respect. It has descended into the utter hell of “collectors'” and “sportsmen’s” freedom being considered more valuable then the tens of thousands of lives lost to gun violence in this country each year and where billionaires’ rights to double their billions comes while middle class families sink into penury and the already poor lose their access to any help at all.

American freedom can be — and often is — a beautiful thing. It is also despicable. Only when we face our demons and beat them down can we progress.

+++

So do something! Candlelight vigils are fine for sharing our collective grief. But we cannot forget that laws get changed by presidential leadership and Congressional action. Call or write your legislators today. Tell them they have blood on their hands if they are part of the NRA. Tell the others that the time of spinelessness and silence is passed. Tell them to hold the president accountable (he must not be allowed to follow his press secretary’s lead!). And send a check to the Brady Campaign, the best and strongest gun control organization out there.

Copyrights belong to the individuals and publications quoted. My comments are ©2012 Keith Berner.

12.14.12 It harder to vote in this country than it is to acquire and use a firearm

December 14, 2012

Sportsmen’s “rights” are not worth a single innocent life, period.

Assault weapons, armor-piercing bullets, automatic and semi-automatic weapons have nothing to do with home self-defense.*

Meaningful waiting periods with serious background checks and without loopholes do not threaten home self-defense.*

The NRA owns the entire GOP — lock, stock, and barrel — and a plurality of Democrats, as well.

We will now see if Barack Obama has any moral fiber in him whatsoever. Because, gun violence is now THE most pressing issue facing our country. If the president cannot lead on this, what is the point of the presidency?

*I find home-defense arguments for private gun ownership to be ludicrous, because guns at home are much more likely to be used against those we know than against intruders. But I accept that taking away all those pistols in dresser drawers just ain’t gonna happen.

©2012 Keith Berner