Monday, November 21, 2016

Filling Jamie Raskin's State Senate Seat in District 20

Last Thursday there was an excellent forum for 4 candidates who have announced that they would like to be selected to fill the vacancy in the Maryland State Senate created when Jamie Raskin was elected on Nov. 8 to become a Congresman and shortly thereafter resigned his State Senate seat.

According to the Maryland Constitution, the selection of people to fill vacancies in the legislature is made the county central committee for the party of the person who resigned, so in this case the MCDCC (Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee). 

Many people are not aware that in every election where we elect a governor, Democratic voters also elect 8 members of MCDCC at large and 2 from each legislative district, and then MCDCC selects gender-balance members to insure that there is an equal number of male and female members. The members of MCDCC are in charge of the Democratic party in our county and their meetings are open to the public.

The 4 people at the forum last Thursday were current State Delegates David Moon and Will Smith, the head of the ACLU in MoCo and Progressive Neighbors Darian Unger, and newcomer in politics Scott Brown (not the former Republican Senator from Massachusetts but a much younger and better looking Scott Brown).

Although many feel the current Delegates are front runners, the others have many points in their favor too.

I'll start with Scott Brown, since he has had the least publicity. To give a sample of what he does, when we had our recent question on term limits on the ballot Scott, without anyone's urging, decided that term limits would be a bad idea for MoCo and made a terrific video giving the reasons for that position. The video was filled with facts and also was very funny to get people's attention. If Scott Brown is not successful in his  current race, he is definitely a person to watch for political office in the future.

The other non-incumbent is Darian Unger. I have worked with and watched him for years and have found him to be one of the most dedicated citizens in our county. He's a Professor at Howard University and a volunteer firefighter, in addition to being a husband and father of three. Darian is, I believe, the only person running for this position who not only said he doesn't like the appointment system of filling vacancies (all candidates said that) but Darian also pledged not to run for reelection if he wins, proving how much he believes in this position.

Delegate David Moon is known by just about everyone who follows politics in MoCo. He was campaign manager for Jamie Raskin and Nancy Navarro, but I believe he became known much more when he ran Maryland Juice, a blog on which he posted important facts that often were not available anywhere else. He also was the prime mover in the Maryland Constitutional amendment that was adopted Nov. 8, requiring vacancies in the offices of Maryland Attorney General and Comptroller to be filled from the same party as the person who was elected to that position.

Delegate Will Smith is also running for this State Senate seat. At the forum on Thursday he was the most well-organized candidate with lots of volunteers wearing t-shirts urging votes for him and a very slick and long brochure listing his qualifications and achievements. He also pointed out during the discussion that he was one of the most successful freshman Delegates in Annapolis in terms of having his bills enacted into law.

If I were on MCDCC I would not know how to vote on this. All four candidates, including the non-incumbents have great qualifications and potential. The decision will be made on December 7 and you can bet all the candidates will be in touch with the 28 voters on MCDCC. For the rest of us, we can attend and watch, and hear what the candidates say to MCDCC on December 7 (the location of that meeting has not yet been announced). I hope all of them will be successful, if not in this race then in future races. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

How Did Trump Win? Who's Responsible?

There will be many who know, for sure, why Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. And they will love to point out who is responsible and it will be anyone other than themselves. The leaders of the Hillary campaign already did that.

First, though, I must repeat that the statement that Trump beat Hillary is untrue. It is now clear that Hillary Clinton got many more votes than Donald Trump. The only reason Trump will become president is that we still adhere to the horrible electoral college system, which was intended to insure that the votes of the U.S. people did NOT decide who would be president. But there's nothing we can do about that.

So why did Hillary lose? She was a bad candidate although she would have been a great president. She was foolish or worse to use a private mail server in her basement and to allow so much of the campaign to focus on this. She didn't excite young people as much as Bernie did. She wasn't a good speaker. She didn't have exciting policies. FBI Director Comey unfairly and horribly interfered with the election process. There is now solid evidence that Putin in Russia interfered with our election process to help elect Trump, whom he obviously assumes will do things to help Russia. There was definitely voter suppression, demanding that people show id's even when there is no evidence that is needed to insure fair elections, and many Republican leaders cut back on early voting and did other things targeted to lower voting by those they thought, probably correctly, would vote for Democrats. The third party candidates probably drained votes that might have made the election outcome different. The media allowed Trump and his surrogates to lie to the voters and kept inviting them back on their shows to lie more, as if the whole campaign was a joke or a football game. And unquestionably some, possibly many, of Trump's supporters hate African-Americans, women, Muslims, Jews, any immigrants, and others. The KKK and Nazis are claiming some credit for Trump's election and they are right. And, we must sadly admit, some of our fellow citizens hate people who are not like them. At the same time, we have to admit that some people who voted for Trump are having bad lives and/or just want change. Many of them, to our great cheers, voted for Barack Obama before voting for Donald Trump.

All these things are true but they don't matter now. Trump will take over as president on January 20, 2017, and he has Republican majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, and probably soon on the Supreme Court.

As Senator Elizabeth Warren and others have said, we have to deal with what we have now. Paul Krugman wrote that the answer is not to stay out of politics. The beliefs of those who supported Hillary are fundamentally right, and of Trump and those who supported him are wrong. All people should be treated with respect and fairness. No people should be treated badly because of their religion, gender, or anything else other than what type of people they are. Civil liberties are important and we should never allow our country to be seen as torturers or killers of innocent families of anyone, even terrorists. All people should be entitled to health care. Those who make the most money should pay higher tax percentages than those who make less. College students should not be burdened for their lives by having to pay off education loans. 

We should continue to stand up for these principles, no matter what is going on. After we get over our deep depression -- I don't know how long that will take me -- we should start all over again to protect the principles in which we believe.

Paul Krugman on What We Should Do About the Trump Victory

First, in my opinion, we should remember that Hillary Clinton won more votes in the 2016 U.S. presidential election than did Donald Trump. The only reason Trump won is that the U.S. is the only country in the world that has something called the electoral college, a relic of a time when the "best" people in our country felt you couldn't trust the people to select the "right" person to be president.

That's pretty ironic since the weird electoral college system has produce a winner who is clearly not qualified to be president, while the vote of the people would have produced a winner who was one of the most qualified ever to run for president.

Still, we are stuck with the electoral college system and everyone knew it, so Trump is legally going to be president of the U.S. What do the rest of us do about that?

I think Paul Krugman made the best case in his NY Times column titled, "Thought for the Horrified," which is available at 

First, we take a little vacation from thinking about this. Do some gardening, watch silly movies, read books we like. I, like so many people, was extremely depressed and each day when I woke up I hoped the election results had been a bad dream.

"First of all, remember that elections determine who gets the power, not who offers the truth. The Trump campaign was unprecedented in its dishonesty; the fact that the lies didn’t exact a political price, that they even resonated with a large bloc of voters, doesn’t make them any less false....  Lies are lies, no matter how much power backs them up.

"And once we’re talking about intellectual honesty, everyone needs to face up to the unpleasant reality that a Trump administration will do immense damage to America and the world. Of course I could be wrong; maybe the man in office will be completely different from the man we’ve seen so far. But it’s unlikely.

"Unfortunately, we’re not just talking about four bad years. Tuesday’s fallout will last for decades, maybe generations." Climate change, Supreme Court Justices, voter suppression, racial discrimination. civil liberties.

"The White House will soon be occupied by a man with obvious authoritarian instincts, and Congress controlled by a party that has shown no inclination to stand up against him. How bad will it get? Nobody knows.

"Trumpist policies won’t help the people who voted for Donald Trump — in fact, his supporters will end up much worse off.

"So where does this leave us? What, as concerned and horrified citizens, should we do?

"One natural response would be quietism, turning one’s back on politics....It’s definitely tempting to conclude that the world is going to hell, but that there’s nothing you can do about it.

"But that is, in the end, no way for citizens of a democracy — which we still are, one hopes — to live. I’m not saying that we should all volunteer to die on the barricades; I don’t think it’s going to come to that, although I wish I was sure. But I don’t see how you can hang on to your own self-respect unless you’re willing to stand up for the truth and fundamental American values.

"Maybe America isn’t special, it’s just another republic that had its day, but is in the process of devolving into a corrupt nation ruled by strongmen.

"But I’m not ready to accept that this is inevitable — because accepting it as inevitable would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The road back to what America should be is going to be longer and harder than any of us expected, and we might not make it. But we have to try."

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Final Summary on Term Limits

Since we're getting close to the end of early voting in MoCo and close to election day (Nov. 8), I thought it might be useful, at least to me, to make some points about term limits, Question B on our ballot. I'll mix facts and opinions and make it clear which is which: 

(1) The current County Council Members have, in my opinion, make some very poor decisions in the last couple of years. This has made it much easier for those who support term limits to gather petition signatures, and possible to win on election day. I write this despite the fact that some ignorant people have said since the Council appointed me to a position I must slavishly do their bidding and I might even be getting paid by them to write that term limits are a bad idea. 

(2) It is a provable fact that term limits will not help at all for those who feel the Council has made some poor decisions. Those who say such things as that I-270 is crowded, the Council adopted a large property tax increase, and the Council adopted higher salaries may be right -- but it should be noted that no increase in Council salaries can take place until after an election, so where were the anti-salary increase people when the last election was held in 2014? What is a provable fact is that term limits have nothing to do with these issues and won't solve a single one of them. The proponents of term limits haven't even tried to present facts to support their claims, since there are no facts or evidence that support their position. 

(3) It's also a provable fact that term limits will not solve a single problem anyone has with our County Council. I have what is now an 89 page research paper (I update it when I see new facts) that summarizes all the research on this subject. Every book and article agrees -- after extensive research of what has happened in the 15 states, 9 large cities, and many counties that have adopted term limits -- that term limits do not lead to "new ideas," do not result in lower but rather higher spending and taxes, lower voter turnout, give much more power to paid lobbyists, and fewer women and minorities are elected. There are many effective ways to deal with Council actions with which you disagree. Term limits is not one of them. 

(4) Although the proponents of term limits will claim victory if they win the upcoming election, their claim will be false. Four of the 5 Council Members who may become term limited, plus the Council Executive, are not running for reelection in 2018 even if term limits are defeated. So the proponents of term limits are wasting their time and the voters' time.. 

(5) The only logical thing for MoCo voters to do about this issue is to defeat Question B on the ballot next week, and then work on other issues such as a firm Charter cap on tax and salary increases, and restructuring of the Council so we don't have 3 of the at-large members all from the same part of the Council. The Charter Review Commission is available to receive these suggestions. 

(6) Of course, the real solution to all the issues that have been raised is for voters to become better educated, vote for Council members whose views you like and vote against those you feel are not representing you well, regardless of how long or short a time they have been in office.

Steve Roberts - A Great Political Explainer

Not Just Cokie Roberts' Husband

My wife and I heard Steve Roberts give a talk analyzing the current presidential election, updating the talk we heard him give a couple of months ago.

He is terrific. He talked about the Trump phenomenon, based mainly on his being a good entertainer who is very comfortable with television. He talked about Hillary, extremely capable and prepared to be president, unlike Trump, but having trouble as a campaigner. And he went on for almost 2 hours, also answering every single question from the audience.

His conclusion: Hillary Clinton is likely to win the  presidency, but everyone was wrong about Trump not being able to get the Republican nomination so they could be wrong again about who will win the election on November 8.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Leonard Teitelbaum and Millie Topper

My wife and I went to two funeral in the last couple of weeks, both for very nice and capable people.

Millie Topper was a real character, one of the most activist Democrats in our county. She was an enthusiastic volunteer for candidates and her party. Most importantly, she cared about other people and their lives. Ben Kramer gave the main eulogy at her funeral and he played a phone message that Millie had left on his phone, wishing him and Cindy a happy Jewish New Year and many more. That's the kind of person Millie was.

Len Teitelbaum was a former member of the Maryland State Senate and House of Delegates. He was always a gentleman who had hundreds of friends. When I interviewed him and asked what he considered his greatest accomplishment, he mentioned creation of a Holocaust museum in Baltimore and then a funny story. One time when he was in Annapolis, he was asked to have dinner with a group of Republican legislators. They had a great time together, and the next day the Republicans introduced a motion in the legislature to make Len Teitelbaum a Republican for a day. That showed how everyone liked Len.

These are the types of MoCo political people of which we can all be proud.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Red Mass

This morning my wife and I attended the Red Mass. That's a Catholic Mass in DC that is held the Sunday before the Supreme Court starts its session each year. (What about separation of Church and State? Who knows?) 

Some may remember an episode of The West Wing titled Red Mass.

It's presided over by Cardinal Wuerl of DC and we were sitting on the aisle so we were close, as they passed by, to Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, plus Attorney General Loretta Lynch. I think they're all, except Breyer, Catholic but I don't know about Lynch. Cardinal Wuerl was at Leisure World on Barbara's and my 100th weekly anniversary, and today was our 300 week anniversary. When he greeted us after the Red Mass we told him that, and he immediately gave us another blessing.

Fiorello! - "Little Tin Box"

Last night my wife and I saw Fiorello! (the exclamation is part of the title.) It was the first musical I saw, in the 1960s, It's great as a musical, a love story, and a cynical view of politics. The best song is an answer to the question, the gist of which is how did you manage on a small city salary to buy a yacht. The answer: I save my pennies in a "Little Tin Box."