Sunday, July 19, 2020

Last Dance (Tonight)

Welcome one and all to the final installation of the old blog. My team has been working tirelessly on Spartan Considerations 2.0 for weeks. It will have a new look, a new web address, new content (of course!), and a rather new/renewed focus.

My plan was to address some of this with Post One, but I would rather use that first essay to look entirely outward as opposed to this more introspective piece.

We find ourselves in perilous times. Not so long ago, after the fall of the Soviet Union, some political scientists (and politicians for that matter) were heralding the “end of history.”  Despite the many pressing societal and economic challenges facing what was described as “the West,” the debates centered far too often on how best to manage liberal democracies – with two predominant schools of thought.  On one hand, you had corporate-friendly slightly-left-of-center parties (Bill Clinton and the New Democrats, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and New Labour) who often accepted the fundamental premises of the right-of-center parties but positioned themselves as being more inclusive on social issues.  On the other hand, there stood conservative parties such as the Republicans and Tories…also corporate-friendly but less forward-thinking on matters pertaining to race, gender, sexuality, etc..  But even the latter groupings tried to communicate a spirit of progressivism, to a certain extent…with pre-9/11 GW Bush running as a “compassionate conservative” and David Cameron attempting to reshape the image of the Conservatives as a more “modern” vehicle for change as opposed to offering a full-throated embrace of back-to-Thatcherism.

But with the endless wars, the Great Recession, and now a combination global pandemic/deep economic crisis, people began- and are - looking for answers outside of the old Consensus.  Unfortunately, people’s movements have only enjoyed limited success…as evidenced by the rise (and sad fall) of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and the impressive-yet-going-only-so-far accomplishments of the Bernie Sanders campaigns in 2016 and 2020.     

So here we stand, with egregiously horrifying examples of ethno-nationalism, government lawlessness, police riots, fascism, racist acts that are hurting and taking the lives of Black, Brown and indigenous people, a likely demented president with decidedly authoritarian leanings and ambitions served by his toadies, a Congress unable and/or unwilling to exercise its Constitutional authority in service of the rule of law, and a major political party that is hell-bent on holding power through both legal and illegal methods including, but not limited to, voter intimidation and vote suppression.  And all of these are occurring on a daily basis within the United States.

Neo-liberalism is not demonstrating that it is up to the task of providing a meaningful, coherent alternative. Keir Starmer is not showing that he will stand up to the Tory governing paradigm and Joe Biden, well, he is no “man of the future” but, importantly, he is not Donald Trump. 

Where I am going with this?  Right here.  In short, I have been distracted, sometimes by legitimate issues but other times by nonsense.

I believe that a better world is possible.  And I need to spend more time discussing issues and proposing ideas and solutions that will serve that cause.

Do I sometimes utilize a Manichean approach to political debate?  Yes, I do.  I only regret it when I might alienate potential allies or when I think to myself, “you know, I can do better than this.”  This occurred quite recently, on both fronts.

The closer I get to 50, the more I think about lost time and squandered opportunity.  Too often, I put out first drafts.  Do they make my point?  For the most part, yes. Will I still denounce the fascists and their supporters?  Absolutely, but I will be more thoughtful about it.  I know with more reflection and less of a willingness to engage in depressingly boring knife-fights, I can help further the cause that former British MP Aneurin "Nye" Bevan described as: “the only hope for mankind – and that is democratic socialism.”  

Being human, I cannot guarantee that my words and deeds will always align with such lofty ambitions.  That said, I have a lodestar and I need to focus my attention in that direction. The “break” afforded by shifting from the old platform to the new will hopefully help in the fulfillment of this goal.

Finally, it is my hope that you, the reader, will enjoy the content. In addition to the blog, I am in the early planning stages of developing other avenues for engagement…such as fora where those on the left, of all stripes, can discuss public policy matters and electoral strategies in a constructive, non-schism-inducing manner.  Perhaps now more than ever, we need a popular front.  

That is all for now.  107 days until Election Day 2020.  One throwback for old times’ sake:  

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

In solidarity.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Disingenuous, Dysfunctional, Demeaning, and Disturbing

Why Howard County?  Why do you compel me to write these articles?  I am, as we speak, developing the rules for a game I call Quar-Ball. It’s the ideal game for these times.  A combination of dodgeball, kickball, volleyball, badminton, squamish, and (at the advanced level) snooker – it is going to be the sport everyone will be playing in the autumn.

So why can’t I focus on this soon-to-be-beloved-by-millions-and-highly-profitable-for-me past-time? Because of the Howard County Council Legislative Work Session (Web-based Virtual Meeting) of July 8, 2020.

Upon watching the first 28 minutes and final 10 minutes of the session, I heard comments and saw behaviors that included all of the words mentioned in the title of this post.  Check it out for yourself here:

Allow me one digression.  Of course these attitudes and actions are not limited to the Howard County Council…I see plenty of this on social media too.  From the squishy center sanctimoniousness from one FB group administrator to the “logical fallacy” FB group administrator. To the former: learn how to deal with public criticism.  To the latter: hey, what’s the logical fallacy for being a hypocritical gasbag? Ad homi-this, pal. 

Back to the main point, to expand upon a metaphor used recently in this context, the Howard County Council appears to be trapped in a five-way bad marriage. What I saw from this particular session, among other things, is the need for a strong commitment to antiracism.  I understand there are “reasons” why Howard County can’t move on this issue as Montgomery County did, with Councilperson Will Jawando pushing for a resolution declaring racism a “public health crisis” (which passed unanimously).  However, I think we can all agree that silencing a Black member of the Howard County Council, duly elected as the voice of the people of the district he represents, was reprehensible.  We need “unconscious bias and racial equity training for Councilmembers and County Council staff” now.  And we need the racial equity task force to launch ASAP, report their findings shortly after ASAP, and actually put into practice their recommendations (assuming, of course, they are quality anti-racist measures), ASAP after ASAP.

Some may decry the task force as mockery, or even a sham, but I disagree.  If the task force can change hearts, minds, and behaviors in such a way that more people, including elected officials, embrace antiracist beliefs and practices, then it will be a worthwhile endeavor.

Beyond (while still including) race, this County Council needs to get it together.  Otherwise, 2021 and 2022 are going to be very ugly years in terms of both local governance as well as electioneering. I guarantee it.

In solidarity.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

¡No pasarán!

Bearing in mind the enhanced interest in anti-fascism while also noting the seemingly increased tolerance for fascistic speech and behaviors in the United States and other countries, what follows is my book review of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, by Mark Bray.

Published in 2017, Professor Bray crafted a highly readable, well-structured work on the philosophical underpinning of the antifa movement.  He readily admits that a compressed time schedule (driven by global events) compelled him to focus on the areas which he knew best – specifically American and European anti-fascist organizations.  He acknowledges that that is a shortcoming.  He does make an effort to explore intersectional themes: most notably pertaining to race and racism but also on gender and patriarchy.

The first 60% of the book takes us on a history of anti-fascism.  The history is broken out into three parts:  anti-fascism through 1945 (with a focus on the inter-war period), from the end of World War Two to roughly the outbreak of the Iraq War, and the modern era of 2003 to the present.

There are a number of sub-themes which, in and of themselves, could each make for a book of their own:  the propensity of police forces to support fascist actors and regimes, the divisions on the Left which inhibited their ability to fight back against fascism, the weakness of liberals who advocate for “neutral” values that (in effect) provide opportunities for fascists to exploit, and the leitmotif of people believing that fascist parties were “jokes”…until they actually came into power (usually via constitutional/parliamentary means).

The other 40% of the book offers some key “lessons learned” and practical organizing counsel as well as communications suggestions, such as on how to handle questions about “no platforming” and the “what about free speech for all?” whinging articulated by not only fascists but neoliberals of many stripes, including liberals.

Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook seeks to remind people about the dangers of false equivalences.  We see them all of the time, on television as well as on social media (If you do X, you are just the same as Y).  The reality is far different, both in principle and on the ground.  Fascists want to dehumanize, hurt, and/or kill people who are different from them…racial or ethnic minorities, those who practice different faiths, women, members of LGBTQIA+ communities.  Anti-fascists want to stop them, using a range of strategies and tactics.  There is no ethical “middle ground” here.

I strongly recommend this timely and accessible work, especially when one considers the potential for even more widespread fascistic violence occurring between now and January 2021.  It is important to understand how best to defend against fascism and help protect those most vulnerable to its depredations.

In solidarity.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

War On Boxing Day!!?

As my more attentive readers know, I am an ordained minister of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude (Reformed, as I like the Eagles).   Don’t believe the church is real?  See for yourself:

Wayne Robey, Clerk of the Court for the Circuit Court for Howard County, noted in an email to an interested party that it would seem as though someone thus credentialed could, in fact, act as an officiant at weddings, funerals, etc…Of course, he acknowledged that his thoughts did not constitute “legal advice.”  My follow-up to that is that I provide my services at highly reasonable rates.

But enough of that.  You can imagine the intense chagrin I experienced upon reading an article in The Merriweather Post that stated that some local organizations were taking legal action to “shut down” the Symphony of Lights. 

I have read The Merriweather Post, dare I say religiously, for 35 years. I have never seen a headline in that august publication that has filled me with such horror.

I make a pilgrimage to the grounds where the Symphony of Lights occurs every December.  As I interpret the First Amendment regarding the free exercise of religion, it is not only a privilege but a right for me and my spiritual comrades to:

·      Drive very slowly through the winding paths as we look at the displays (and they damn well better be the same ones I saw last year),
·      Tune into a weak AM radio station with a four-song playlist and a signal that fades immediately after you cross Governor Warfield Parkway; and
·      Fork over $20 for the entire experience.

So, I am taking the American route to resolving this problem.  I am suing everyone in sight.

Specifically, my attorneys will be pursuing legal action against (but not limited to): the Columbia Association, the Inner Arbor Trust, the DCACC, the IMA, County Executive Calvin Ball, Delegate Warren Miller, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, that barista who “forgets” that I want a five-pump chai tea latte, and many others.  You will be hearing from my lawyers forthwith.

And God help Macy’s if they don’t have their holiday display up in September.

In solidarity.


Monday, June 29, 2020

End ICE, in HoCo and Beyond

Let us go back, as we must, to the Beginning.

It was March 1, 2003,  50 Cent’s single “In da Club” just reached the top of the charts.  Daredevil, the Ben Affleck/Jennifer Garner vehicle no one asked for, was wrapping up its box office run at #1.  Aaron Sorkin was still writing episodes of The West Wing.

The United States was less than three weeks away from launching “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

As part of the massive expansion of the national security apparatus (and the enhanced police state powers of a combined governmental-military-industrial nexus) following 9/11, The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency was brought into being.

ICE is now 17 years old, older than many of the children ICE has held in cages. One must ask the fundamental question:  Why does ICE exist?

The current activities of this agency seem far-removed from the original foci of engaging in counterterrorism and handling “threats to our national security,” especially as understood in the context of the times in which it was created.

Now, ICE could best be described as a tool of a lawless Administration, an ungloved fist thrown at whoever the Trump Clique considers an enemy-of-the-state (which appears to be an over-growing list).  ICE’s own numbers, reported upon by the Brennan Center, reveal that “the number of ICE arrests has increasedrising 42 percent between 2016 and 2017.” U.S. citizens are being detained, trapped in a legal and administrative limbo and, in many cases, for extended periods of time.  Legal residents are being arrested by ICE over old misdemeanors.  And, as is typical in ethnostates, racial and ethnic minority communities, our neighbors, are being targeted.   ICE’s tactics include kidnappings, of adults as well as children (see also: forced family separation).  These actions have caused  extreme hardships for the families impacted, financial as well as emotional.

Who is the real threat to our national security?

The Howard County detention center can and should be closed. There is no question that its presence represents a moral blight in our midst. And it is critical to consider the human impact on all those who are held in this facility.

As long as this corrupt system allows the existence of ICE, and provides this agency with the ability to shift the people they hold from one facility to another, often exercising police powers or collaborating with other law enforcement agencies to work-around regulations that limit their scope of authority, then one must also ask the question: If we oppose what ICE is doing, what is the best expenditure of our time, energy, and resources directed at ending it? 

Yes, it would feel good to shut down the Howard County detention center.  Yes, the people who are calling for that are overwhelmingly honorable and well-intentioned members of our community.  Yes, our public officials should sit down and listen to those who are advocating for the cancellation of the contract. And yes, shutting the center down would be a good thing to do.

But it cannot stop there.

How long-lived would that closure catharsis be once it was realized that the people held there would be shipped off to another locale where it is altogether possible they would face even worse treatment and/or even more challenging living conditions?  As long as the agency exists, given oxygen by an inhumane system, closing down one detention center as an “ICE prison” would be a minor and (from the perspective of those held there) perhaps Pyrrhic victory.

While I stand in support of the principles articulated by those who want to terminate the Howard County - ICE contract, I believe a more effective strategy would be to go after more than a single TIE fighter and focus on the Death Star itself.  ICE should be abolished. That approach offers the best prospect for a long-term and far-ranging solution to the bigger problem, which is not a single building access issue but the very existence of ICE and the organizations, individuals, and mindsets that allow ICE to terrorize local communities.

In solidarity.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Get into the Zone: Autonomous Zones

Until recently, the only famous Chaz’s were Bono and (albeit with an extra “z”) Palminteri.

Now, we have CHAZ, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle, Washington.  Although it also goes by CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) as well as other names.

Several of the causes espoused by many denizens of the Zone are admirable and righteous, including but not limited to combating police brutality and other criminal justice reform proposals as well as greater funding for social services investments (such as community health).

The overall political outlook of the Zone is broadly anti-fascist.  And (according to news accounts), while democratic socialists are on the scene, it seems to the present author (based on those same accounts), that the protest/micro-polity is more animated by anarchist principles (see: Peter Kropotkin).  

From what I can tell, most of the protestors seem like sincere and committed activists. 

At the risk of being accused of (gasp) concern trolling, I nonetheless find myself wondering:

·      What are the possibilities of this protest being co-opted or undermined by bad actors (such as dilettantes, fame-seekers, profiteers, grifters, criminals, and/or state agents)?

·      Is this form of protest expending valuable organizing time, energy, and resources in the most efficient and effective way possible? 

·      Is this method of protest sustainable?  Is this about building a movement or just living a moment?

·      Will the desired outcome(s) be realized?

I am, of course, hopeful that such CHAZ-style protests will help bring about positive changes to the country.  Yet knowing the forces arrayed against them, I recognize that enthusiasm and good intentions are not enough to win.

In solidarity.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Calculated Misogyny

A member of the Howard County blogging community has come under attack.  No, not the usual “you are an idiot,” criticisms which all public affairs bloggers invariably face.  These are vile, sexist (often sexually explicit), and personally invasive assaults involving both words and deeds. Perhaps even more frightening is that these attacks, which largely center on misogynistic tropes and stereotypes, are being applauded in public fora.  Beyond that, some commenters choose to ignore or discount these hostile statements, choosing instead to word-police how she responds to these outrageous remarks.

By she, I am referring to the author of the Howard County Progress Report.  Note: I believe it is important to disclose that I am using this identifying information with her express permission.  While relatively new to the blogging world, she has already established herself as a significant influence on the local political scene…including publishing a piece that had a major impact on a Board of Education race.

Recently, she has been subject to a particularly horrifying strain of vituperation that has included:

·      Insinuations as well as unambiguous claims that she is “mentally ill”
·      Denunciations of her as having “a lot of unresolved anger”
·      The use of profane and, at times, obscene epithets directed at her (by both men and women)
·      Remarks and actions that delivered the message “we know where you live”

There is absolutely no place for this in civilized society.  And, for as much as people talk about Howard County in almost triumphalist terms, there is certainly no place for this misogynistic hate in our community.

Now, is anyone going to be shamed (by name) in this blog today?  Not today, no.  That said, rest assured that screen grabs have been taken. And the present author has no qualms whatsoever about sharing said screen grabs with the public.  It seems like some of you are very proud of your statements, so I am certain you would have no issues if they were signal boosted on multiple platforms and/or sent out widely via email to interested parties.

In short, stop the nonsense or face the consequences.  Imagine if you said those same words to her, or anyone, in person…you don’t think there would be repercussions?  Think about that.

One last thing, if you believe that someone defending themselves from such abuse is somehow a voice that is “negative” or “nasty”, maybe you should stow your laptop and retire from commenting while you reflect on the idiocy of your statements.

In solidarity.   

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Reality: Up Close and In Your Face

“You're fooling yourself if you don't believe it
You're kidding yourself if you don't believe it”  - Tommy Shaw

These lyrics came to me while I was discussing local politics with my good friend, Tranche Gerund.

She noted (correctly as always) that at least three of the BoE general election contenders (out of five seats) are receiving support from Republicans - ranging from a “you should check out Candidates X, Y, and Z, non-endorsement endorsement” to financial contributions to campaign help. 

For those of you howling that BoE elections should be “non-partisan,” you can gaze down the tracks and see that that train has indeed left the fucking station.

It’s time for all good Democrats and others who share their progressive, pro-inclusion, pro-equity worldview to vote your values.  Fence sitting is simply not an option in the face of well-organized local Trumpists who want a majority on the Board of Education. Did your preferred primary election candidate fail to advance?  Lick your wounds and get over it. Does the candidate with Republican support seem “nice?”  Who cares; some people thought that Pat Buchanan was a wonderful dinner party guest.

In short, get serious, do your research, and recognize that a Democratic sweep up and down the ticket is the only way to ensure that the Board of Education will have a progressive majority.  Having values is splendid, actually living those values by demonstrating them with your vote for, and active support of, like-minded candidates is crucial.

In solidarity.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Intersectionality and Today’s Challenges

“We are socialists because we believe that work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create the products, and not for the profit of the bosses…We are not convinced, however, that a socialist revolution that is not also a feminist and anti-racist revolution will guarantee our liberation.” – Combahee River Collective

The Combahee River Collective Statement, crafted by Black feminists in 1977, is a seminal work that explores themes pertaining to intersectionality, a word which was itself coined by a Black feminist lawyer and civil rights advocate, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, in 1989. 

Democratic socialism (or even it’s more “accessible” cousin - social democracy) would not, in and of itself, eradicate racism or misogyny in the United States overnight. That said, it is the belief of the present author that all such struggles are inter-related.  In short, if more people were able to live within a polity which embraced the tenets of political and economic democracy and where they experienced greater practical liberties, it would be easier to root out these societal plagues.  There would be far fewer “malefactors of great wealth” (TR quote) engaging in class warfare against the poor, working, and middle classes…and using race and/or gender or other elements of identity as both a wedge and cudgel.  

Of course, socialism need not be a prerequisite of a feminist or anti-racist state, those advancements could come first or all could be brought about simultaneously.

These are hardly radical notions.  One need look no further than President Franklin Roosevelt’s expression of the Four Freedoms (freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear) in conjunction with his proposal for an “economic bill of rights” (also known as the Second Bill of Rights) which offered guarantees pertaining to employment, housing, medical care, education, and other rights.  The logical conclusion of these freedoms and these rights would result in a society based more on human need than lining the pockets of the uber-wealthy and their willing minions. In other words, if i may wax idealistic for a moment, these principles brought into being would help usher in the creation of a society with a genuine comradeship of the people (if I may be permitted to update the appropriate John Lennon’s lyric from Imagine).

I strongly encourage you to read the Combahee River Collective Statement here.

In solidarity.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Actual Trump Derangement Syndrome

Within in the last several days, I reached out to two old and now former friends. Both reside in Michigan.  One is a conservative and was a local officeholder, the other has raised funds for GOP candidates for over 25 years.  When police began rioting (again) in cities across America following George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis cops, I asked both of them to speak out against the lawlessness of the Trump Administration.  One provided a bullshit response about not being able to comment on political matters.  The other, my best friend of 30 years and “Best Man” at both of my weddings, did not reply at all.

Bear in mind these folks had political careers which began long before Trump announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for president. They were both fairly typical Midwest Republicans, one being more focused on social issues and the other more centered on economic and defense concerns.  Neither would be out of place at a Chamber of Commerce gathering.

Yet neither of these supposed “small government” aficionados could muster the moral fortitude to speak out against the authoritarian tendencies of the current regime.  Why are they in thrall to the Trump Administration?  Is it because of careerism?  Is it the money? Or are they true believers?


I wish I had written more about emerging conservative voting blocs a few years back.  I had this idea that a particular group, represented by the Ted Nugent archetype, would play an influential role in the 2016 elections.  These are conservative but not particularly religious, blue collar or mid-management white collar, racist, white men.  While they would prove to be highly susceptible to Trump’s message, I did not think they would gravitate (as they did) to Trump the man.

Let’s face it, if Trump were growing up in their neighborhoods and went to their public schools (which would not have been the case with Mr. Private Boarding School), they would have recognized him as an entitled prick and kicked his ass whenever he started shooting off his mouth.  They never would have hung out with him.  Later on, while some of them went to go fight in Vietnam, they would have rolled their eyes upon hearing that he received four draft deferments (“His rich old man musta pulled some strings…”).

And do you think Trump would have wanted to get to know them when he was busy leeching off his dad’s pocketbook?  Of course not. He would have looked down at them, because that is the kind of person he is. 

So why do so many follow him?  I can only believe it is because they are genuine adherents to Trump’s twisted ideology or because they are willing to be complicit in his and his minion’s wrongdoings (including committing acts of violence against fellow Americans, especially Black, Brown, and Indigenous people).   His supporters have proven to be so willing to go along with this aspiring despot, this hollow man, that one must ask, who is truly “deranged?”  Yet, unlike those who suffer from actual mental illnesses, Trump and his ilk are fully accountable and fully culpable for their words, their actions, and their silences.

In solidarity.  

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Board of Education Post(-ish) Election Wrap-Up

With four canvasses remaining on the calendar, it is challenging to write a proper “what happened, and what it all means” article. 

However, I believe the following can safely be said:

First, the Howard County Public School System Board of Education's commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) principles, staffing, initiatives, and activities will continue to be a highly salient issue.  On a related note, June 11, 2020 is the date for a hearing on equity policy.  I encourage Howard County residents to testify for DEI positions, the equity budget, and increased funding for: closing the opportunity gap, population growth-based Liaison staffing, mental health, and technology.

On another related note, especially in these times, Christina Delmont-Small and Sezin Palmer, do you still believe that DEI positions should be slashed from the budget? 

Looking ahead to November, I believe (as of this writing) that there will be two marquee BoE races to watch in Howard County.  This is not to say that the other three districts will witness slumber-fests.  Antonia Barkley Watts (D2) and Jolene Mosley (D3) are excellent candidates and I hope both are elected to the Board of Education this fall.  And I suppose District 5 will sort itself out...but getting back to the two Races to Watch:  

District 4 is one of them.  Jen Mallo appears to have clinched one of the two spots for the General Election.  Matt Levine registered an ignominious and well-deserved defeat and for that, I say a hearty “Thank you!” to my fellow 4th District voters.   Sezin Palmer currently has a 366-vote lead over Kirsten Coombs.  Surmounting that gap would require a healthy swing in Coombs’ direction among the as-yet-to-be-counted ballots.  

The other race can be found in District 1.  If you are a progressive minded D1 resident and you think it is important to vote your values, then Matthew Molyett is the candidate for you.  Christina Delmont-Small and her coterie of far right-wing backers represent a clear threat to an authentic commitment to public education as well as to the aforementioned DEI staffing and activities.  It has been said before and it must be said again, Delmont-Small is Howard County’s Betsy DeVos.  Matthew Molyett is a light-years better alternative whose values are far more in tune with District 1.  Molyett has earned the active support of those who want to move HCPSS forward.

Stay tuned for election updates as votes continue to be counted.

In solidarity.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

An Open Letter to White Protestors

I am more likely to believe that the white protestors who are engaging in acts of vandalism over the course of the past several days are, overwhelmingly, right-wing agent provocateurs. True anti-fascist allies would not be using legitimate, peaceful protests against racism and police brutality as a cover in order to act out and damage property. Moreover, no offense to my friends on the left…these white protestors seem to be operating in a very organized manner.  The Left is seldom so well-organized.

That said, if any white socialists, communists, or anarchists are committing such acts, they need to stop…immediately.

Those white folks who are smashing windows, setting fires, and flipping over cop cars are subverting the point of the protests – which are about combatting racism and ending police violence against Black and Brown people.  Full stop.

By acting in such a manner, those white folks are providing fuel for the media outlets (and others) that want to portray these uprisings as something they are not – lawless riots.  The true lawless rioters have been the racist cops who are using these protests to commit acts of violence against those who are exercising their First Amendment rights, specifically freedom of speech and the right of the people to peacefully assemble. What we are seeing now are akin to the police riots of Chicago ’68, but on a national scale.

Furthermore, these white “protestors” need to recognize that the consequences of their actions are far more likely to have a negative impact on Black and Brown people.  Who will the police target for reprisals?  Not Skippy from the ‘burbs who thought it would be “fun” to graffiti a bank or smash out a headlight or two.  And burning businesses, especially small businesses that serve predominately Black and Brown communities, just makes life harder for said communities.

In short, if you are a white protestor who is engaging in such behaviors or even thinking about it, cut that shit out.  You are damaging the cause and, more importantly, hurting those you should be supporting.  Be a good ally, don’t make it about you, and listen to your Black and Brown comrades. 

In solidarity.  

Re-Open Howard County and Their Praise for Racists

The recent police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, against the backdrop of hundreds of years of oppression and countless lost Black and Brown lives, have led people across the country to rise up in protest against racism and police brutality.

Meanwhile, a cowardly, feckless sociopath skulks around the grounds of 1600 Pennsylvania.  Bull Connor with a Twitter account.  His words and deeds have “inspired” some of his followers to encourage and/or engage in violent acts, up to and including murder.  Tragically, some of those toadies are in positions of authority…ranging from local police officers to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Turning locally, much has already been written about Re-Open Howard County and their true motivations.  Yes, they may issue statements that are soaking wet from their crocodile tears, but their mask continues to slip. 

On the evening of May 30, on their official Facebook group page, they touted three “great speakers” who offered their perspectives at the Re-Open Maryland rally in Annapolis held on that same day. One, Michael Peroutka, was described by Re-Open Howard County as a “constitutionalist.”

The question is, whose constitution?  The United States?  The Confederacy?  Another nation?

Peroutka is perhaps better known in Maryland for being a one-term Anne Arundel County Council member, having fluked his way into a GOP nomination in 2014, he lost his re-election bid (in the primary) in 2018.

But before then, he was a member of the League of the South, a “white nationalist, Neo-Confederate, white supremacist” organization. The Southern Poverty Law Center designated this organization as a hate group.  This should not be surprising given the League's worldview as well as their connection with various neo-Nazi groups.

From Wikipedia:

“On December 6, 2012, the Human Rights Campaign called Peroutka an "active white supremacist and secessionist sympathizer" due to links to the League of the South.[15][16]Peroutka told The Baltimore Sun that he "continues to be a proud member of the League of the South,"… and

In 2012, a video of Peroutka showed asking a group to stand for the national anthem, then leading them in Dixie.”


He claims to have left the League of the South, having once served on their Board of Directors.  But has the organization left him?

If Re-Open Howard County can praise such a figure in public, who else are they adulting in private?

In solidarity.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Buying a Board of Education Seat: The Sezin Palmer Edition

Going through the latest campaign finance report, it appears as though Sezin Palmer and her deep-pocketed donors are attempting to purchase a Howard County Board of Education seat (District 4).

Thus far, she has raised $25,930, which is quite a healthy sum for such a local race.  Most disturbingly, more than two out of five of those dollars (43%) have come from just six donors, including one PAC (CAPA-PAC) that has donated $6,000 to her campaign.  Combine their $6,000 with five other donors who have each sent at least $1,000 to the Palmer effort, and that works out to $11,100 out of $25,930 in total receipts, not even including the “other receipts and in-kind contributions.”

Notable contributors include:

One Thomas Harriman who hails from Santa Barbara, California.  He sent her campaign $1,000 on February 17, 2020. 

Timothy Dull, gave her $1,000 on February 12, 2020 (another Dull in the same household contributed $100 on January 8, but that is not included in $11,100 figure).  Tim Dull also contributed to current GOP congressional candidate Liz Matory as well as the Republican presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney in 2011 and John McCain in 2007.

[Other “notables” whose contributions are not included in the aforementioned $11,100 are current County Council person from District 5, Republican David Yungmann.  Mr. Yungmann also helped the Board of Education campaigns of Christina Delmont Small and Vicky Cutroneo (both current BoE members).  He was their campaign Treasurer in 2016.  The Palmer campaign also accepted money from Larry Pretlow, current Board of Education candidate in District 2).]

Beyond the conservative ideology held by some/most of these donors, anyone concerned about the aggregation of political and economic power at the national, state, and local levels should be alarmed at the sizable contributions that have managed to find their way into the Palmer campaign coffers...and what they might expect for their "generous" support.

Let Sezin Palmer and her well-heeled donors know: our public schools are not up for sale.

** Correction: the first iterations of this post incorrectly identified Dr. Wu as being on the board of directors of the CAPA PAC (which is also based in Howard County).  He is, in fact, on the Board of Directors of CAPA - Howard County, which is a different organization.  For that error, I apologize to Dr. Wu.

In solidarity.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

On Re-Opening HoCo and the Proposed Budget Cuts

Played by the irreplaceable John Spencer, The West Wing’s Leo McGarry (quoting Khalil Gibran) once said “Never argue with a drunk or a fool.”

I have been violating that tenet with great regularity recently.

While I cannot speak to their state of inebriation, the fools have been coming in many forms:

Bipartisanship-fetishists, Republican death-cultists, Democrats who appear to have either taken leave of their senses or who should know better, people who argue in bad faith and/or just badly.

So many of the arguments can be distilled to choices. 

The Reopen Howard County folks, exercising a newfound embrace of the concept of “choice,” (albeit a twisted version of it), believe in flinging the doors wide open when we are still not out of the COVID-19 woods.  “Well-considered public health guidance be damned!” appears to be their mantra.  They even have a rally planned, regardless of whether or not Ellicott City business owners or residents want such protestors tramping about their streets and sidewalks.  Will people get sick as a result of such a gathering?  Unfortunately, it is quite likely.  Further, they try to cloak their behaviors as being expressions of “patriotism.” This is codswallop of the highest order.  Even General Washington’s army took preventative measures to protect against the spread of smallpox during the Revolutionary War.  So, employing their logic, George Washington was being un-American?   

Turning to Howard County’s FY21 Budget, this is more of a nuanced choice compared to the first example, but nonetheless, there are clear right and wrong approaches…especially if you call yourself a progressive.

Now, perhaps Councilpersons Deb Jung and Liz Walsh have embraced monetarist economic theory over the past few days, I don’t know.  But assuming they have not, making budget cuts in the midst of a recession or depression is incredibly ill-advised. 

Should developers pay more? Absolutely.  And the proposed recordation fee increase is progressive and will largely be paid by developers.  As Councilperson Rigby noted, “76% of the revenue comes from a 2% tax on real estate transactions over $1,000,000.”   This is simple math, not rocket science. Democrats should love a user-fee that largely impacts those with deep pockets. Especially considering the alternative…

Instead, channeling some version of budget hawkishness (how did that work out for Paul Tsongas in ’92 by the way?), Councilpersons Jung, and Walsh…along with their partner in this endeavor, conservative operative and Republican Councilperson David Yungmann, want to cut vital services.  The cuts would have a negative impact public health, public safety, infrastructure, and transportation (among other areas).  They would defund the New Cultural Center (along with the affordable housing that comes with it).  And, also distressingly, it looks like it will cost jobs.  Again, this is being proposed in the midst of a pandemic.

I strongly encourage Councilpersons Jung and Walsh to reflect on this issue.  Think carefully about its impact.  Do the correct thing.

In solidarity.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

It's All in the Details

Let’s face it, two individuals running in District Four are, essentially, single-issue candidates:  Matt Levine and Sezin Palmer.

I have seen this before.  These candidates are so focused on one part of the job, they neglect doing their work on other important issues and they make mistakes. 

Take Ms. Palmer for a moment.  The *one* time she provided testimony on an issue aside from redistricting, she got the facts wrong.  In her testimony regarding the Superintendent’s Proposed FY 2021 Budget (remarks delivered in January 2020, after she got into the race for Board of Education) she claimed there was a “near doubling of the Student Access and Achievement budget.”

In the same remarks, Ms. Palmer questioned the evidence behind equity-related initiatives (which should provide a clear indication of where she stands on equity in education).  And, going back to the “doubling” point, her statement was simply incorrect.  The Student Access and Achievement program was combined with another initiative, which explains the budget increase.  After the fact, she acknowledged that “the increase is not nearly as big as it appears.”  Her full quote is below.

She tried to pass the buck by saying the information was “buried” in a large document.  Really?  If you want to serve on the Board of Education, you have to do your homework.   Howard County’s students deserve the best, not the functional equivalent of “I didn’t have time to do the reading” excuses.

In solidarity.

“Apparently buried in the 600-page document that accompanies the plethora of spreadsheets, there is information that indicates the Student Access and Achievement program is actually being combined with another program, hence the increase is not nearly as big as it appears. Thanks to a helpful BOE member for pointing this out... really shouldn't be this complicated though!” – Sezin Palmer

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Protest Vote

I am going to level with you, Dear Reader.  I have not yet voted for once and current U.S. Representative Kweisi Mfume (MD-7).  I was a Michigan resident during his first terms in Congress, listening to contemporary artists such as Terence Trent D’Arby, Johnny Hates Jazz, and Pebbles.

Fast forward to 2020, I voted for Jill Carter in both the special and June primaries.  In the special general election, I wrote in a name.  I just couldn’t bring myself to cast a ballot for Mr. Mfume for several reasons (too much “Yesterday,” being insufficiently progressive on health care and other issues, and…).

While the Fightin’ 7th is a Safe Democratic seat, and I certainly am not voting for the Republican nominee, be it Kimberly Klacik or whoever else the GOP electorate decides to put up as their standard-bearer, I am not yet on Team Mfume.

If you feel similarly, the June ballot is a perfect time to express your discomfort with the direction of the Democratic Party.  Will Mfume do a capable job as a legislator, filling out the remainder of Congressman Elijah Cummings’ term?  Most likely.  Does he deserve a full term of his own?  That is up for you to decide.

Mfume garnered 43% of the vote in the special primary election, held before COVID-19 dominated the U.S. headlines and our lives. Quick math, that means 57% of the Democratic primary vote went for other candidates.

I strongly encourage you to vote for another, more future-oriented choice.  For me, it was and is Jill Carter.  I can also understand a vote for Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings although, in order to defeat Mfume in a primary, the opposition should be united behind one candidate.

Mfume may win again in June, but a healthy protest vote may encourage him to re-think his policy stances on certain issues…and realize that the Democratic Party of 2020 is far different than the Democratic Party of the early ‘90s.  Looking at his campaign literature, featuring a photograph of a younger Mfume standing next to a younger Bill Clinton, I don’t know if he recognizes that yet.

In solidarity.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Mostly Levine with a Little Palmer

In a typical election cycle, I would not spend much time writing about Matt Levine, candidate for Howard County Board of Education and local shouter-at-clouds.  But in this world where a morally bankrupt megalomaniac reality tv performer can become President of the United States, it is best to bring relevant information to light.

The Howard County Progress Report already did an excellent job of discussing his proclivity for tossing rhetorical firebombs.  Even some Republicans and right-of-center Independents I know roll their eyes at the mention of his name.  The common theme expressed is, “if elected, precisely what problem would he not make 100% worse?”

If you are concerned about having greater collegiality on the Board, Mr. Levine’s penchant for hurling insults makes him more of a bridge-burner than builder.

If you are seeking a candidate who possesses a great deal of education subject matter expertise, you would be hard-pressed to find that quality within Mr. Levine.  I went to the Howard County Neighbors United YouTube page, where they posted clips from an HCPSS Board of Education forum that occurred on February 24, 2020.  I was actually doing some fact-finding on another candidate when I decided to watch the Matt Levine clips, which featured his responses to several pressing, and usually complex, questions facing our schools.  His answers were shockingly vague and platitude filled. I strongly encourage you to visit this page to see for yourself:    

His views on inclusion and equity reveal a hard-edged, dogmatic conservativism that do not prefigure an ability to work well with others, on the Board, in the school system, or in the community.

And yes, his campaign does have a tendency to place yard signs illegally.  I think we can agree that being a scofflaw is a bad thing.

I am hard-pressed to come up with any positive attributes about Mr. Levine.  I think back to some of my past campaigns, going all the way back to the “Before Time” when I was a GOP pollster. Newt Gingrich was a terrible human being but at least he was capable of discussing weighty policy matters.  Dan Quayle was wrong on a host of issues but at least he was amiable.  Matt Levine…?

Shifting focus for a moment, I have one update on Sezin Palmer. I don’t know if this was discussed elsewhere but I believe this screen capture expresses a certain cut-and-run mentality, a lack of depth of commitment to Howard County Public Schools that some may find troubling:

That is all for today.

In solidarity.