Posted tagged ‘Washington Post’

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]

Wow.

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

 

03.01.17 An awful day

March 1, 2017

My stomach for reading the news has been getting queasier by the day over the past week. I already assumed — before Trump’s big speech last night — that I would have to avoid my daily diet of the New York Times and Washington Post today. I assumed that the daily horror would be some new policy announcement. No such luck.

Today was the day when NYT and WaPo, along with much of the rest of the media (I assume — I can’t bear to read it) decided to normalize the Trump regime. “How presidential!” they declared. “What a respectable tone,” they pointed out.

Yes, February seemed bad. But there was a certain amount of Schadenfreude during the month, as we witnessed the regime’s utter incompetence. There was hope — as day after day of temper tantrums and mismanagement played out — that the GOP might eventually tire of the antics and decide that enriching the 1% might work out better under President Pence.

But, with the cheerleading of our supposed newspapers of record today, we know that this regime is in it for the long haul, with full, enthusiastic GOP support from now ’til kingdom come.

Normalization of bigotry, incompetence, and corruption was the shoe left to drop. It has now fallen. I may never be able to read a newspaper again.

©2017 Keith Berner

02.06.17 Montgomery County must divest from fossil fuels (support Bill 44-16)

February 6, 2017

Bill 44-16 before the Montgomery County (MD) Council would require the country to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Credit goes to Roger Berliner (he’s not ALL bad), Marc Elrich, and Nancy Navarro for co-sponsoring this important legislation. I have already written to all my councilmembers about this. George Leventhal continued his record of being the only councilmember who responds to (my) constituent inquiries, but he is wishy-washy on this issue, writing to me, “This is not an easy call. I understand its symbolic value but I am concerned about anything that may put at risk the county’s ability to keep its promise to retirees.”

I have heard nothing from Nancy Floreen, Hans Riemer, or Tom Hucker, my other reps.

Supporting divestment should be a no-brainer. According to the Washington Post, fossil-fuel investments constitute $65 million, out of a $4-billion MoCo portfolio, or 1.65%.  So if we assume that moving those investments elsewhere would produce a rate of return 0.5% lower than leaving them where they are (this is a pessimistic assumption, since there are plenty of well-performing investments outside this industry), the overall impact would come to a 0.008% reduction in the portfolio’s rate of return. Bottom line: even under a pessimistic assumption, the impact would be negligible.

Those arguing against divestment either haven’t done the math, are climate-change deniers, or have a personal stake in the fossil fuel-industry.
Please contact your members (district, plus four at-large):
Councilmember.Berliner@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Elrich@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Floreen@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Katz@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Leventhal@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Navarro@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Rice@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov
Probably a bit less effective, but still worthwhile would be to use either use 350moco.org’s petition or to write to all councilmembers at once using the Council website.
©2017 Keith Berner

07.06.16 Apology to Bernie Sanders + Don’t trust NYT

July 6, 2016

On May 29, I wrote about the hypocrisy of the Sanders campaign’s having opposed the superdelegate system in principle, while turning to superdelegates as the the last hope for overturning the will of the voters. While I stand by the my post, as a whole, it included these unfortunate words: “his supporters. . .throw things.” This was an oblique reference to an incident that was widely reported as taking place at the Nevada state convention in May. I should never have made that reference and hereby apologize for it.

As it turns out, there was no chair throwing in Nevada. According to the myth-busting website, Snopes.com, the incident was completely made up by a Nevada journalist by the name of Jon Ralston and then further propagated by such liberal bastions as Rachel Maddow and the New York Times.

Your blogger was gullible enough to take Maddow’s and NYT’s reports at face value. Dear Reader, as an one-person opinion blogger, I cannot promise you that I will engage in the kind of fact checking that I would expect of professional journalists and the institutions they work for. I find it outrageous that Maddow and NYT (not to mention hundreds of other media outlets) didn’t do their due diligence on this. I have learned a new lesson about relying on them and will try harder to verify controversial items I see in the mainstream media.

Ultimately, I don’t think this particular piece of misreporting changed in any significant way the outcome of the race: Bernie Sanders pretty much had no hope of victory by then. But it certainly contributed to greater hostility between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, which has not been good for anyone (except Trump and the GOP).

So, what of the Bernie claim that the media was horribly unfair to him from the moment he got in the race. I certainly saw clear evidence of this from the Washington Post, which is a consistent pro-corporate rag with no line between editorial and reporting. But I again failed to notice New York Times’ irresponsibility. This outstanding piece by Bill Moyers sheds good light:

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone wrote a scathing takedown of The Times’ most egregious offense: a March article by Jennifer Steinhauer on how Sanders functioned as a legislator. Headlined “Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years Via Legislative Side Doors,” as originally published, the article recounted how effective Sanders was at attaching amendments to pieces of legislation, both Republican and Democratic, and forging coalitions to achieve his ends. The piece was bandwagon stuff.

But then something happened. The original article, already published, underwent a transformation in which Sanders suddenly wasn’t so effective a legislator. Even the headline was changed to “Via Legislative Side Doors, Bernie Sanders Won Modest Victories.” And this paragraph was added: “But in his presidential campaign Mr. Sanders is trying to scale up those kinds of proposals as a national agenda, and there is little to draw from his small-ball legislative approach to suggest that he could succeed.”

Responding to angry Sanders supporters, The Times’ own public editor, Margaret Sullivan, asked why the changes were made and wrote, “Matt Purdy, a deputy executive editor, said that when senior editors read the piece after it was published online, they thought it needed more perspective about whether Mr. Sanders would be able to carry out his campaign agenda if he was elected president.” Yeah, right.

Moyers also reports the numbers:

On CNN, Clinton got more than 70,000 of the Democratic-candidate mentions, while Sanders got just under 42,000. On MSNBC, Clinton got more than 93,000 mentions to Sanders’ roughly 51,000. On Fox News, she got more than 71,000 mentions to his more than 28,000. The numbers are similar on the Lexis-Nexis database of newspapers.

Moyers’s conclusion about why all this happened, though, contradicts one part of the conspiracy theory held by many Bernie supporters. According to Moyers, media bias against Sanders was not the result of a corporate, right-wing cabal to defeat the left, but rather resulted from a self-reinforcing echo chamber. That is, the media assumed from the start that Sanders couldn’t possibly win against Clinton. Therefore, they under-covered him and denigrated him to justify their firm conclusion that he was and would be a loser. Writes Moyers:

. . .this isn’t just what the MSM think of Bernie Sanders. It is what the media think of losers. They don’t like them very much, and they seem determined to make sure that you don’t like them either — unless they beat the press’s own odds and become winners.

Do I suspect anti-left bias in the media? To some extent. But in some ways it’s even more alarming to learn that the news sources we rely on are just so completely irresponsible that truth and balance simply don’t matter. If you can’t rely on the New York Times, whom can you rely on?

©2016 Keith Berner

04.27.16 Schadenfreude (election wrap-up)

April 27, 2016

Before I go negative, I want to acknowledge Jamie Raskin’s extremely important victory yesterday. His win not only sends a substantively excellent man to Congress. It also demonstrates that – at least in this district and this year – money can’t purchase victory. Passion, vision, and grassroots organizing won the day. Everyone in MD-8 can be proud of this result!

Now to my Schadenfreude* list:

  1. Washington Post: Both the editors and MoCo political correspondent, Bill Turque, did their best to discredit Raskin as a left-wing extremist. It’s downright fun to annoy the big-business-obsessed Post by voting for progressives who scare them.
  1. David Trone: The man spent over $12-million to sully the electoral process in our district, after he went around the country delivering over $150k to right-wing Republicans in order to “buy access” (his words), ala Donald Trump. It’s sad to think that he didn’t bankrupt himself in the process of this campaign, but one can hope he’ll never try this again.
  1. Kathleen Matthews: Without a public-policy or community-service background, this corporate shill became the most heavily PAC-funded congressional candidate in the country. After having overseen Marriott’s opposition to labor and $1-3/4 million in contributions to Republicans, Matthews tried to play on her husband’s connections (Chris Matthews is the star of Hardball) and her gender to steal our district. Her distant third-place finish should send her right back to the corporate world.
  1. Jonathan Shurberg of Maryland Scramble: The overwhelming majority of Shurberg’s posts are “just the facts”: links to primary sources, scans of candidate mailings, and the like. These are generally offered without commentary and make Scramble is a very useful blog, indeed. It’s the less frequent commentary that deserves criticism. In this race, Shurberg:
  • Excused Matthews’s and Trone’s lack of legislative background by pointing out that lots of members of Congress don’t have any (and what a great job they’re all doing, eh?). In defending the two moneybags, he also purposely ignored opponents’ arguments that neither had any background of public service.
  • Declared the money from one’s pockets or from corporate PACs to be no dirtier than money raised in small dollar amounts from inside Maryland and our district. Shurberg went after Matthews’s opponents for citing the difference and, thereby, demonstrated a (newly found?) love of big money in politics.
  • Forgave Matthews’s responsibility for Marriott contributions to GOP candidates and office holders
  • Explained away Matthews’s money from Hardball guests
  • Repeatedly attacked Raskin and his supporters in a tone that can only be described as mocking, gleeful, and morally superior. It is well known the Shurberg has never forgiven Raskin for the 2014 state delegate race, when Raskin didn’t endorse Shurberg. It was still remarkable that Shurberg couldn’t suppress his contempt borne of personal hurt.
  • Huddled with Kathleen Matthews during the entire J Street annual gala last week.

Clearly Shurberg wanted Raskin not only to lose, but to be embarrassed. He seemed to want Matthews to win (he certainly found ways to excuse nearly everything about her that progressives objected to) but wasn’t honest enough to come right out and endorse her. If Shurberg used to be a progressive, he sure sold out those values in this race and most likely did so in a fit of personal pique. The Progressive Neighbors Steering Committee should take note and remove him from their membership.

  1. The giant PACs and bigwigs who funded Matthews’s campaign: Money down the drain. Hah-hah! (sound file)
  1. Emily’s List: Sorry, gender isn’t everything. I get why Emily’s list doesn’t fund men. But they ought to be selective about the fights they pick. This year in Maryland, their outsized support of Kathleen Matthews and Donna Edwards put them on the wrong side of two men (Raskin and Chris Van Hollen) who have impeccable records on women’s issues. Again, money down the drain. And – in this case – money that could have better used elsewhere.

I’m really sad about how poorly Kumar Barve did in yesterday’s election (a little over 2%). In a race where all the oxygen was not sucked up by Trone and Matthews, this serious, accomplished legislator would have gotten a lot more attention. I still would have endorsed and worked for Raskin, but Barve was my clear second choice and I hope he will continue serving the public good. (I also feel sad for Ana Sol Gutierrez [5.5%], another good person.)

I can’t quite put Will Jawando (<5%) on my Schadenfreude list, because he’s not a bad guy (except for that Big Pharma money he took). But it would be nice if he would do some work in our area before he decides to run for another seat (he ran for state delegate in 2014 and lost badly). Simply having a story that is superficially similar to Barack Obama’s doesn’t really qualify him for office.

Final comment: If one accepts the probability that Trone and Matthews were fighting against each other for the same set of pro-business, moderate Democrats, we can thank Trone for helping Raskin win.

*My writing Schadenfreude with a capital “S” is not a symptom of the widespread disease I call “Random Capitalization Syndrome”; rather it is true to German grammar, where all nouns are capitalized. For more random linguistic tips or a dose of severe grammatical discipline, feel free to contact your blogger any time.

©2016 Keith Berner

04.17.16 Jamie Raskin for Congress

April 17, 2016

Jamie Raskin’s record of accomplishment is astounding. Let’s start with his 2006 campaign for the Maryland Senate from District 20. (Beginning there gives short shrift to Raskin’s career as a nationally respected professor of constitutional law at American University.) In launching the effort, Raskin not only took on an entrenched incumbent, Ida Reuben, who had been serving a decidedly anti-progressive party machine and big-business interests for decades. He also purposely took on a long history indifference to state politics by D-20 voters.

While our district is home to some of the most progressive voters in the country, many of our neighbors had only been focused on national and international politics. Year after year, Ida Reuben and her ilk represented us in Annapolis, keeping Maryland blue, but hardly better than center-right. Raskin not only trounced Reuben thoroughly (2 to 1) in a race he was supposed to lose. He also carried Tom Hucker and Heather Mizeur with him as state delegates, in a progressive sweep. D-20’s powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Sheila Hixson, got with the program, moving from cautious centrism to forceful progressive leadership, with Raskin as a guide and partner.

Jamie Raskin’s election, then, was not only about a single senate seat. He consciously sought to create a movement, providing the vision and voice that have given D-20 and our values the power we lacked in Maryland. This is leadership defined.

The list of legislation passed with Raskin’s authorship, contribution, co-sponsorship, or advocacy is too long to recount here. Same-sex marriage, gun control, environmental regulation and remediation, economic justice, campaign finance reform. Not everything Raskin has touched has become law. (There is more work to do in a state that remains far more conservative than its Democratic reputation implies). But so many laws would never have seen the light of day or gotten to victory without him in the trenches.

Raskin’s most recent success is his “Noah’s Law” the toughest anti-drunk driving measure in the country, which passed in the just-concluded legislative session, overcoming years of liquor-lobby opposition.

Another element of Jamie Raskin’s leadership is his compelling oratory. He generates enthusiasm and motivates action by walking into a room and opening his mouth. The legions of passionate volunteers who have served in his campaigns demonstrate this. In fact, it is the door-knockers and phone-callers who have made Raskin viable against two opposing campaigns flush with millions of dollars of dirty money. (Kathleen Matthews is the most heavily corporate-PAC funded congressional candidate in the country. David Trone has spent a completely mind-boggling $9.1 million in a blatant attempt to purchase personal glory.)

Indeed, the contrast could not be starker between Raskin, whose life has been dedicated to public service and the two moneybags candidates who have served only themselves and their business interests.

I have written previously about these birds of a feather, both of whom cared so little about policy and politics – prior to seeking their own renown in Congress – that they didn’t bother to vote in two of the last three primaries. Each has been responsible for massive contributions to far-right GOP candidates and officeholders around the country (see Matthews and Trone). Both claim a moral pass on this, because throwing money to bad guys in a corrupt system was what they had to do for business.

There is no moral exemption for helping bad guys in order to enrich yourself or your corporate masters. If you send money to the GOP, you are backing GOP policies, period. While Jamie Raskin has been working hard every day to clean up campaign corruption, Kathleen Matthews and David Trone are its very embodiment.

Your blogger is deeply offended by the mere presence of Matthews and Trone in this race. Their progressive rhetoric is superficial. Their lack of community service reveals their selfishness. Should either be elected, the best a progressive voter could expect would be general support for a Democratic agenda, without any leadership for progressive values. And we could expect both to advocate for the status quo regarding the role of big, corrupting money in our broken democracy.

Jamie Raskin is not the only worthy candidate for Congress in MD-8. Kumar Barve (D-17) has served honorably in the Maryland Senate, making a name for himself as an environmental leader, among other things. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18) has been a reliable progressive vote in the House. But both lack Raskin’s power and results. Gutierrez seems in this race to be running solely on her Latina identity, a worthy consideration, but hardly sufficient to justify your vote.

Will Jawando is smart, articulate, and progressive. But he is tainted by having taken Big Pharma money, has provided little or no community service in the area, and seems to offer only his ethnic identity (as an African American) and brief, barely-relevant service in the Obama White House as rationales for his campaign.

Former State Department official Joel Rubin has contributed positively to the race, mostly by criticizing Matthews and Trone.

Coverage of this campaign would not be complete without commenting on pernicious role played by the Washington Post. It is hardly a surprise that the virulently pro-corporate, anti-union newspaper endorsed Matthews – they can count on her to do its bidding and serve its interests, if not explicitly, then certainly in style and attitude. (Another indication of Matthews’s likely fealty to big business if she were elected is her endorsement by former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, the prince of pavement.)

Even though the Post acknowledges that there is hardly an iota of stated policy difference among the candidates, it condemns Raskin for being “doctrinaire.” This flies in the face of his success in building bridges, not only across Maryland’s partisan divide, but also within the Democratic Party. (Raskin has managed to create an enduring alliance with hardly progressive Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller [D-27], a remarkable feat.)

The Post’s influence is more insidious than its editorials. While sole Montgomery County political reporter Bill Turque has done some good reporting on the race. He has also ignored Raskin (at times) or damned him with right-wing language that clearly reflects the Post’s editorial bias.

Jamie Raskin has an extremely bright future, not only as a movement leader, but as an effective legislator who will serve the public good for decades. And if Raskin ever decides to move on from legislating, look for him to serve in the judiciary or in a future Democratic administration.

Maryland D-8 voters must show we cannot be bought. We owe it not only to ourselves but to the country to keep Jamie Raskin on an upward trajectory in service to all of us.

©2106 Keith Berner

04.06.16 Loaded language in WaPo’s profile of Jamie Raskin

April 6, 2016

As part of a series profiling the Democratic candidates for Congress from MD-8, the Washington Post this morning ran Bill Turque’s piece on Jamie Raskin. While I am happy to see a mostly positive piece about Jamie Raskin in the Post, Turque’s use of loaded language once again demonstrates the lack of a line between WaPo’s editorial and reporting.

In endorsing the oh-so-corrupt Kathleen Matthews last month, the WaPo editors called Raskin “doctrinaire.” Today, Turque described Raskin as “furthest out to the left flank” in comparison to Matthews and David Trone. Compare that to other language Turque might have used, such as “further left” or even “furthest left.” The use of “out” and “flank” make Raskin look like an extremist – this is opinion-mongering in the guise of reporting.

Also, note Turque’s reference to Takoma Park as “ultra” progressive, which continues a long Post tradition of either condemning or ridiculing my home town. Wouldn’t “very” have sufficed? For the biased Post, the answer is clearly “no,” because anything less than fealty to the corporate elite is tantamount to Maoism.

Only after the subtle picture of Raskin-as-freak has been painted does Turque cite – at the end of the article –  Raskin’s record of working well with the GOP and others who don’t wholly share his politics.

©2016 Keith Berner