The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer

[Portrait of House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer by Sarah Darley made up of logos of his largest funders.]

Especially with Brett Kavanaugh's accession to the Supreme Court, many are understandably absorbed with the importance of trying to end the Republican majorities in Congress for the midterm elections.

But simply always backing Democrats will likely propel the party further toward the establishment corporate right. If voters are just going to get behind a Democratic candidate no matter what, there's no incentive for them to be progressive in any sense.

Some may point to some new left-leaning candidates coming out of the Democratic Party. But even the most optimistic assessment of these candidates much acknowledge they are far outnumbered by establishment Democratic Party incumbents.

And there's a reason for that: Establishment apparatchiks in the Democratic Party go around the country kneecapping candidates who might, maybe, have some actual progressive tendencies.

Exhibit A is Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Whip in the House of Representatives who was caught on a secret audio recording doing exactly that earlier this year.

Now, noted activist and author Pat Elder is challenging Hoyer. If people of whatever stripe -- Democratic, Green, independent, whatever -- want to challenge the Democratic Party establishment, then strongly backing Elder's campaign is perhaps the shrewdest move they can make right now.

Earlier this year, Lee Fang of The Intercept reported, based on secretly taped audio, how Hoyer works "to crush competitive primaries and steer political resources, money, and other support to hand-picked candidates in key races across the country." 

Michael Moore in his cathartic new movie, "11/9" smartly went beyond the obvious jabs at Trump and featured the audio of Hoyer strongarming a would be progressive Democratic congressman. 

The local Calvert Recorder notes that Elder adeptly has focused on Hoyer’s top donors, "which include Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, health insurance providers such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield and MedStar Health, pharmaceutical manufacturers like Bayer AG, and Exelon, the owner of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant." 

The Recorder notes: "For his part, Hoyer said he agrees; there is too much money in politics. 'Elder is right. We need to get a handle on it,' Hoyer said, adding that he uses his donations to 'try to help' other Democratic candidates vying for seats in Congress.”

Which we know is quite backwards. Job One for Hoyer is to raise corporate cash to knock off progressive Democrats as early as possible, including those who might be serious about getting money out of politics.

Levi Tillemann a former official with the Obama administration’s Energy Department, who secretly recorded Hoyer when he was mounting a run in Colorado, said of Hoyer's work with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: “They squash progressive candidates. They destroy the diversity of ideas in their caucus. They keep ideas like ‘Medicare for All,’ free community college, or impeaching Donald Trump from having a significant role in the national conversation. The issues that resonate most with voters are not the issues that the DCCC is telling candidates to focus on.”

And Elder retorts: "Hoyer's comment is deeply ironic to me. Rep. Hoyer is one of the chief benefactors of the current financial free-for-all in the American electoral process. He is a cash cow, a legal money launderer. Although Rep. Hoyer has been positioning himself as a crusader for transparency, he is only suggesting cosmetic fixes, as he has done all along. ... The deep irony stems from my work with Common Cause in Washington as an intern in 1972. Its founder, John Gardner, told me to follow the money to understand an inherently dysfunctional and corrupt American political process. I was only 16, but I took it to heart." 

And forcing Hoyer to talk about money in politics is likely the lesser of Elder's effects on Hoyer already. Last year, some bemoaned Hoyer effectively backing the Saudi assault on Yemen. After getting the run around from his staff, a group of dedicated peace activists -- including Kathy Kelly and Richard Ochs -- held a protest in Hoyer's office. Elder was there that day. Several of them got arrested. Ochs is now helping run Elder's campaign. Now Hoyer at least rhetorically is backing congressional moves to end critical U.S. government support for the Saudi assault on Yemen.

Elder's challenge to Hoyer not only pushes back against corporate domination, but also tangibly for peace and against militarism around the world, from Korea to Israel to Nicaragua.

And when I say challenge, I mean virtually alone. You see, in the race for Maryland's 5th congressional district, where I live as well, the Republican (William A. Devine III) and Libertarian (Jacob Pulcher) can hardly be said to be running. They haven't even filled out their candidate profiles as requested by the Baltimore Sun. Elder of course has, as has Hoyer

This provides a serious opening. If Elder can get into double digits, or if he pulls off a total miracle, then it cuts Hoyer down to size and can help provide an opening for progressives to challenge him and the corporate military dominance he represents. And it provides a model for other Green and other campaigns.

Elder's running a grassroots campaign, very effectively wielding his information-laden website and emails lists, going door-to-door, getting yard signs out there, going to community events and leafleting at metro stations. 

I first remember meeting Elder because of his longtime activism against militarism with DAWN -- DC Antiwar Network. He now lives in St. Mary's City and is director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, an organization that confronts militarism in schools that he runs out of his living room -- and has gotten laws passed on the issue. He’s the author of Military Recruiting in the United States. And he's a practical guy, he started a real estate title abstract firm, built houses, taught at the Islamic Education Center. For just a sampling of his activism, check out his appearance earlier this year on Democracy Now: "Inside the U.S. Military Recruitment Program That Trained Nikolas Cruz to Be 'A Very Good Shot'."

When, as part of his activism, Elder was the target of government spying, the Washington Post ran a piece about it, but they've been mum about his congressional run. (Meanwhile, the media watch group FAIR notes the Post has trashed the Sanders-aligned Democrat Ben Jealous in the Maryland governor's race.)

Steny Hoyer is the Democratic Party Whip in the House. As such, he ensures Democrats in Congress stay in their corporate-military cages. If allegedly progressive Democrats don't back a serious challenge to him, it's a sign they actually love those cages. 

Rather, it's past time for people to take the reins themselves and to drive the money changers out of the temple of our democracy. 

Young and Professional Kavanaugh: "It's All Part of the Same Scummy Guy"

I don't often think fondly of Christopher Hitchens, but an insight of my ex-friend did brighten my eyes the last week.  

Specifically, after I sent out a series of news releases effectively arguing that then-president Bill Clinton should be impeached "for the right reasons" -- specifically, illegal bombings, Hitchens objected. He argued that the distinction between Clinton's personal and professional actions was a false one, that "it's all part of the same scummy guy."

As some argue that Kavanaugh shouldn't be judged on actions he committed when he was 17, are they pretending they are ignorant of his professional record, of his pattern of lying under oath even before Ford came forward?

Are we to act as though Kavanaugh's apparent attempted rape of Christine Blasey Ford has no relation to his backing torture?

Are we supposed to pretend that there's no connection between being a privileged hoodlum and flacking for corrupt presidents and corporations?

Are we supposed to just go along as though there's no relationship between putting misogynistic crap on your high school yearbook and expecting to get away with it and brazenly lying about it under oath decades later?  

Should we really pretend that having a high school cabal who clearly seem to use their sense of privilege (Kavanaugh's mother was a judge) to get away with whatever they want to do doesn't relate to cliquish associations like the Federalist Society, using the law to further the interests of elites?

The problem is that the power of privilege is used to cause silence among those who are not part of it.

Where are those "values voters" I hear about? 

I've heard feminists say to the point of cliché that rape "isn't about sex, it's about power". I've seen a few articles pointing out the "power of sexual violence" exposed by Ford's testimony, but virtually no utterance connecting that violence and will to power to Kavanaugh's professional work.

Kavanaugh didn't just apparently try to rape Ford years ago, he shamelessly lied about it now, openly falsifying what terms he used meant -- as he lied under oath about other things regarding is professional work to the Senate Judiciary Committee. With Barely. Anyone. Raising. Their. Voice. At. Him

Kavanaugh -- like Oliver North and Clarence Thomas before him -- was able to use a faux anger to bully punching bag Democrats who seemed more concerned about appearing judicious than winning. Many ask if Kavanaugh has the temperament to be a judge, almost to preclude more substantial arguments against him. The unasked question is if the Democrats have the temperament to be effective. 

Who showed fire in their belly and articulated Kavanaugh's lying under oath? Who went for the jugular? Sen. Dick Durbin came close to doing so about Kavanaugh failing to call for an FBI investigation -- and then a (pathetic) FBI investigation happened. That should be a lesson. 

Kavanaugh, when he was working for Ken Starr, suggested that Clinton be asked “If Monica Lewinsky says you inserted a cigar into her vagina while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?”

Where was the senator asking "If someone says 'boofing' means anal sex and not flatulence as you claim and 'Devil's Triangle isn't a drinking game as you claim under oath, but a reference to sex between two males and a female, would they be lying?" or "Amnesty International has recommended that your nomination be slowed since you could be involved in violations of international law. So, are you a war criminal?"

Such a senator was not to be found. Some senators laid the basis for showing Kavanaugh lied under oath. And perhaps they expect that he will be impeached once they get a majority. But who knows what happens between now and then. 

In terms of making the case to the public in a way that could not be ignored, they at best fell short. The best a few senators could bring themselves to do was mumble something about perjury when what was needed was to do down the litany. 

By contrast, it would appear Kavanaugh, who was charged with getting right-wing judges through congress during the Bush administration, rolled out his own nomination by inoculating himself against the weakness he knew he had: Stressing his credentials as a girl's basketball coaching, loving dad to his daughters and mentor to females in the legal profession. 

And then he and Republican senators put on their act of moral outrage that should have come from the critics of Kavanaugh. Perhaps there was some of the genuine anger in the streets in protests against Kavanaugh -- that seem to have come too little too late -- but at best rarely from the committee hearing room. 

And those optics largely prevailed -- all part of the same scummy system. 

Craig Newmark on Open Source Social Media Platform: "Don't know if there is a need for that" @craignewmark

Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist spoke at the National Press Club yesterday, largely about spending $20 million to back The Markup. 

Only one of my several questions got in without getting mangled: 

Question: "Do you think there should be an open source social media platform?"

Craig Newmark: "Boy, I don't know if there is a need for that. Just reflexively almost, I supports open source almost automatically. The idea is that some people have tried to do that -- I think one of them recently shut down because of lack of interest. I do think as more and more of the ethics of our social media platforms, as more and more of that is explored, I think things are going to get better for all of us. One of the big problems for example is the lack of informed consent. A social media platform should clearly tell you what it is collecting, who they will share it with and so on. And those things are happening. I am involved with the Center for Humane Technology which is doing that kind of thing, and for that matter, there is the European GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation], which goes ways in that direction, requiring platforms to tell you, hey, here is what we are going to tell about you and here is what we are going to show about you. Different countries have different flavors. Some opt in, some opt out. And that's a controversial topic because implementing that is going to be hard for some people but I can see all of those areas improving. And I am committed."

Here's the video, that question is at about 45 min.

(Other questions I submitted included if Russiagate possibly threatens humanity (totally garbled so the point was unclear) and couple of questions on possible nationalization or democratic control over internet corporations (dumbed down to "do you favor regulation"). Newmark  repeatedly said he doesn't think any good regulation will come from DC, kept mentioning Sacramento, was kind of a running gag in his talk.)

McCain as Confederate

The day after John McCain died, I happened to visit a memorial to Confederate prisoners of war at Point Lookout, Maryland. Flying a Confederate flag overhead, the monument seemly ironically features a quote at the base from Maya Angelou. 

I realized there the way I felt about the soldiers commemorated there was decidedly similar how I felt about John McCain the POW in Vietnam: They both fought for a cause that was unjust and ended up enduring real suffering.

We can feel some measure of compassion for human agony regardless of the morality of the person living it. Celebrations of anguish, whether of John McCain's death or Usamah Bin Ladin's killing leave me simply sad. 

Of course, celebrations over the assassination of Bin Ladin were commonplace in the U.S. and McCain's death has prompted a virtual media and political deification of a serial war criminal. In a sense, he represents the latest example of Trumpwashing -- that is, the laudatory echo chamber around McCain is fueled in large part by an at least implicit put down of the current psudo isolationist president who, for better or worse, got multiple military draft deferments.  

Of course, the greatest discrepancy, rarely hinted at, is how humanized someone like McCain is and how rarely victims of the wars he pushed are. Does the average American know the name of a single civilian Vietnamese or Iraqi victim of the U.S. military? 

But we have reams of selective information about McCain, endlessly depicted, like clichés of Confederate commanders, as a great war hero, full of nobility and honor. 

But unlike Confederates who faced a Union army on a level playing field, he dropped bombs from thousands of feet in the air on an impoverished country struggling for its own independence. The U.S. establishment virtually invented the South in Vietnam, backing a war that could seem like a civil war -- with the effect of bleeding the nation. 

Pushing aggressive wars, some portrayed as civil wars, would be a pattern McCain would back as a congressman and senator in the coming decades: Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen -- country after country ripped apart, all with predictable carnage.

Not only can we say that McCain backed criminal military enterprise after enterprise, but he fabricated with incredible gall. For example, saying on CNN before the invasion of Iraq “I believe that success will be fairly easy" and then, in 2007, telling MSNBC “I knew it was probably going to be long and hard and tough. And those that voted for it and thought that somehow it was going to be some kind of an easy task, then I’m sorry they were mistaken. Maybe they didn’t know what they were voting for.”

Neo-confederates claiming that the Civil War was about states rights and not slavery have got nothing on McCain.

McCain notably never backed away from calling his Vietnamese captors "gooks" and into the 1980s voted against sanctions on apartheid South Africa and against making Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. 

James W. Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, states that while monuments to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson abounded in the U.S., only recently was a statue to James Longstreet dedicated at Gettysburg, though he was second in the Confederate command there. Loewen notes: Longstreet would embrace equality for African Americans.

Similarly, U.S. military veterans who fought in Vietnam and who spoke out against U.S. militarism have either backtracked from a serious critique of it -- like John Kerry -- or been remarkably marginalized by the political and media establishment.

And it is the marginalization of such principled veterans, the victims and consistent critics of those wars that helps keep the wars going. 

Perhaps the largest irony is that McCain is being lauded for his alleged bravery and straight talk while those in that discussion are being cowardly and dishonest about the reality of the U.S.'s wars. 

The quote from Maya Angelou? "History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again." Indeed.

Elizabeth Warren's Anti Corruption Specificity Evaporates When Foreign Policy is Raised

On Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren addressed the National Press Club, outlining with great specificity a host of proposals on issues including eliminating financial conflicts, close the revolving door between business and government and, perhaps most notably, reforming corporate structures.

Warren gave a blistering attack on corporate power run amok, giving example after example, like Congressman Billy Tauzin doing the pharmaceutical lobby's bidding by preventing a bill for expanded Medicare coverage from allowing the program to negotiate lower drug prices. Noted Warren: "In December of 2003, the very same month the bill was signed into law, PhRMA -- the drug companies’ biggest lobbying group -- dangled the possibility that Billy could be their next CEO.

"In February of 2004, Congressman Tauzin announced that he wouldn’t seek re-election. Ten months later, he became CEO of PhRMA -- at an annual salary of $2 million. Big Pharma certainly knows how to say 'thank you for your service.'"

But I found that Warren's tenacity when ripping things like corporate lobbyists' "pre-bribes"  suddenly evaporated when dealing with issues like the enormous military budget and Israeli assaults on Palestinian children.

The Press Club moderator, Angela Greiling Keane, early in the news conference asked about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's keeping press out of town hall meetings, pairing that with Trump's outright attacks on media

Husseini: Sam Husseini with The Nation and the Institute for Public Accuracy. Cortez, who was mentioned earlier, and other likely incoming congressional members next year propose slashing the military budget to help pay for human and environmental needs. Do you agree? And if I could, a second question: would you consider introducing and sponsoring [a version of] Betty McCollum's bill on Palestinians children's rights in the Senate?

Warren: I now sit on Armed Services and I have been in the middle of the sausage making factory on that one. And that has pushed me even more strongly in the direction of systemic reforms. I want to be able to have those debates. I want to be able to get them out in the open and talk about these poor issues that affect our government, affect our people. I want to be able to debate them on the floor of the senate. I want to be able to do amendments on them. Right now the whole of big money over our government stops much of that. It chokes off much of the debate we should have. So I am going to give you a system-wide answer because I think that's what matters here. This is not about one particular proposal, this is all the way across. How is it that we get the voices of the people heard in government instead of over and over the voices of the wealthy and the well connected. The voices of those with higher armies of lobbyists. So for me that's what this is about.

But part of the power that the wealthy and well connected have is getting direct responses to their specific concerns. Political funders are unlikely impressed with broad "system-wide answers". 

In a sense, her non-response to very direct questions rather highlighted the problem she is presumably addressing. 

And we've been here before. 

Bernie Sanders, in his 2016 presidential run, was remarkably vague or even outright repressive regarding foreign policy, especially early on. This reach almost comical proportions when during a debate on CBS just after the November 2015 bombing in Paris, he tried to avoid substantially addressing the issue, wanting instead to fall back on income inequality. Certainly, Sanders was arguably treated very unfairly by the Democratic Party and media establishment, but he was greatly diminished by not having serious foreign policy answers. 

Warren and other "progressive" candidates may be set to repeat that. Sanders did address foreign policy more at the end of the campaign and since, but his answers are still problematic at times and at best it was all too little too late. 

One question is, realistically, what are Warren's goals here? It could well be a good faith effort by someone committed to changing the world for the better. But then, why the selectivity?

If it was enactment of these policies, then the strongest way to do that might have been to find a rogue Republican to pair up with on at least some aspects of her proposals so as to avoid charges being purely politically motivated. When questioned by a New York Post reporter at the news conference, Warren couldn't name a Republican whom she might work with. This would especially be the case since Trump -- like Obama before him -- ran against the establishment

Is it to make her a leading contender for the Democratic nomination? If so, the hope would be that she's not simply playing the role of what Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report calls "sheepdogging" -- that is, the presidential run or promise of a run by a Sanders or Warren as simply a tool the Democratic Party establishment uses to keep enough of the public "on the reservation". 

Said Warren of her own financial reform proposals: "Inside Washington, some of these proposals will be very unpopular, even with some of my friends. Outside Washington, I expect that most people will see these ideas as no-brainers and be shocked they’re not already the law.

Why doesn't the same principle apply to funding perpetual wars and massive human rights abuses against children? 

The Trump-Media Logrolling

Today, hundreds of newspapers, at the initiative of the Boston Globe, are purporting to stand up for a free press against Trump's rhetoric.

Today also marks exactly one month since I was dragged out of the July 16 Trump-Putin news conference in Helsinki and locked up until the middle of the night. 

As laid in my cell, I chuckled at the notion that the city was full of billboards proclaiming Finland was the "land of free press".

So, I've grown an especially high sensitivity to both goonish behavior toward journalists trying to ask tough questions -- and to those professing they are defending a free press when they are actually engaging in a marketing campaign. 

As some have noted, the editorials today will likely help Trump whip up support among his base against a monolithic media. But, just as clearly, the establishment media can draw attention away from their own failures, corruptions and falsehoods simply by focusing on some of Trump's.

Big media outlets need not actually report news that affects your life and point to serious solutions for social ills. They can just bad mouth Trump. And Trump need not deliver on campaign promises that tapped into populist and isolationist tendencies in the U.S. public that have grown in reaction to years of elite rule. He need only deride the major media.

They are at worst frenemies. More likely, at times, Trump and the establishment media log roll with each other. The major media built up Trump. Trump's attacks effectively elevate a select few media celebrities. 

My case is a small but telling one. Major media outlets were more likely to disinform about the manhandling I received in my attempt to ask about U.S., Russian and Israeli nuclear threats to humanity -- I'll soon give a detailed rebuttal to the torrent of falsehoods, some of which I've already noted on social media -- than to crusade against it. 

Other obvious cases: None of the newspaper editorials I've seen published today mention the likely prosecution of Wikileaks. If there were solidarity among media, the prospect of Julian Assange being imprisoned for publishing U.S. government documents should be front and center today. 

Neither did I see a mention of RT or, as of this week, Al Jazeera, being compelled to register as foreign agents. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert has openly refused to take questions from reporters working for Russian outlets. Virtual silence -- in part because Russia is widely depicted as the great enemy, letting U.S. government policy around the world off the hook.  

The above are actual policies that the Trump administration has pursued targeting media -- not rhetoric that dominates so much establishment coverage of Trump. 

Then there's the threat of social media. 

My day job is with the Institute for Public Accuracy. Yesterday, I put out a news release titled "Following Assassination Attempt, Facebook Pulled Venezuela Content." Tech giants can decide -- possibly in coordination with the U.S. government -- to pull the plug on content at a time and manner of their choosing. 

You would think newspaper people might be keen to highlight the threat that such massive corporations thus pose, not least of all because they have eaten up their ad revenue (the Boston Globe page on the effort is actually behind a paywall.) 

The sad truth is that this is what much of the media have long done: Counter to the lofty rhetoric of many of today's editorials, the promise of an independent and truth-seeking press has frequently been subservient to propaganda, pushing for war or narrow economic and other interests. 

The other major story of the day -- quite related to this -- is that of Trump pulling former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance. NPR tells me this is an attempt to "silence a critic". But Brennan has an op-ed in today's New York Times and is frequently on major media. He oversaw criminal policies during the Obama administration, including drone assassinations. If anything, this has elevated Brennan's major media status. 

Those who have been truly silenced in the "Trump era" are those who were critical of the seemingly perpetual U.S. government war machine since the invasion of Iraq. 

Trump attacks on the establishment media -- like many media attacks on him -- are frequently devoid of substance. But recently one of his rhetorically tweets stated that media "cause wars". I would say "push for war", but that's quibbling. 

Trump is technically right on that point, but it's totally disingenuous coming from him. He's actually been the beneficiary of the media compulsion he claims to deride. When he exalts U.S. bombing strikes in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere, CNN calls him "presidential". 

Many consider "Russiagate" critical to scrutinizing the Trump administration, but the two reporters, apparently picked by the White House, during the Helsinki news conference focused on "Russiagate" -- which eventually led to Brennan and others attacking Trump as "treasonous". Meanwhile, much more meaningful collusion that can be termed Israelgate is being ignored as the U.S. and Israeli governments attempt to further mold the Mideast. 

The need for genuinely free sources of information is greater than ever. It is unclear to me if traditional newspapers can be part of the equation. Quite likely, the institutions desperately needed to carry out that critical mission are yet to be born. 


Sam Husseini is an independent journalist who contributes to The Nation, CounterPunch, Truthdig, Consortium News, CommonDreams and other outlets. He is also senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy and founder of VotePact.org

Anthony Bourdain: The Last Gasp of CNN’s Original Vision

CNN began with the slogan, articulated by its founder Ted Turner: “The news is the star.”

That has long since ceased to be a reflection of what CNN does. Despite promoting itself with its dubious “facts first” slogan, the network endlessly touts its celebrity pundits and anchors: Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, Christiane Amanpour, Fareed Zakaria, et al. The view of the world that they depict is what the viewer needs to understand—not the world itself.

Anthony Bourdain didn’t join CNN until 2013, didn’t do “news” per se, and his own personality was certainly a major part of his show, Parts Unknown, but the lens was largely on the places Bourdain went, whether Armenia or West Virginia, and the people he met there. This work was more mini-doc than anything else typically found on CNN.

At his best, to Bourdain, the world was the star. The people, the cultures, the varied beliefs, the booze, the music, the rivers, the cities, the ethnic groups, what they share and their tensions. He’d often at least indicate class distinctions in his shows, at times gender dynamics as well. He spoke up in defense of the many immigrants in the restaurant industry, and was an ally of the #MeToo movement.

See full piece by Sam Husseini at FAIR: "Anthony Bourdain: The Last Gasp of CNN’s Original Vision." 

The Immigration Con: How the Duopoly Makes the Public Forget about Roots Causes of War and Economics

Many are focusing on the travel ban, largely targeting Muslim countries, and the separation and detention of asylum seekers separated from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border. The the U.S. media and political establishment has put the issue of immigration front and center, causing all manner of political venting and pro and anti Trump venom to spew forth.

A silver lining seems to be that it has helped raise issues that -- unlike the Russiagate story much of the establishment media has obsessed over -- at least have some currency with the general public.

But the manner in which immigration issues have been focused on has obscured the root causes of those issues. Desperate migration is ultimately caused by economics, like so-called trade deals, corrupt Central American governments, often U.S.-backed, U.S.-backed coups and other policies.

And refugees desperately flee countries like Syria largely because of prolonged U.S.-backed wars.

In virtually all these instances, there is left-right opposition to the establishment policy that is often at the root of the problem. The establishment of the Republican and Democratic party have rammed through trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA and global pro-corporate policies. The U.S. government -- with both Obama and Trump administrations -- has backed coups like Honduras in 2009 or rigged elections like in 2017.

Corporate deals and coups and such give rise to governments unresponsive to their citizens, enacting economic policies that have impoverished most of the people of these countries. It's a testament to the long term effects of U.S. interventions that regions like Central America, which have been the focus of so much U.S. government attention over the decades, are in such dismal condition.

Such circumstances breed gangs, which means a lack of safety, causing desperate migration. Parts of grassroots economies, like small farmers growing corn, have been decimated because deals like NAFTA allow for dumping of U.S. agribusiness corn. Drug cartels rise as a way to make money for some -- and to fulfill a demand for narcotics in the U.S., an escape for USians form their own economic plights and often nihilistic lives. Meanwhile, transpartisan efforts at drug legalization and pushed to the background.

Similarly, many leftists and some rightwingers, like Ron Paul, oppose constant U.S. interventions in the Mideast as well. The invasion of Iraq lead to the rise of ISIS, the destablization of Syria, Libya and other countries. The U.S. establishment and its allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel have effectively sought to prolong the war in Syria and to destabilize other counties in the region for their geostrategic designs.

The rank and file bases of the Democratic and Republican parties are largely against NAFTA, CAFTA, etc. -- while the elites in both parties are for them, so they get done. Clinton and Obama were duplicitously for them (pretending that side deals on labor and environment will do much and thus to distract from their pushing corporate agenda). Trump rants and raves about much, but hasn't put forward a serious crit of them.

So, the bases of the two parties end up fuming at each other over status of migrants from Central America and travelers from largely Muslim countries. They become further entrenched into either establishment party structure while the people running those structures continue to perpetuate policies that the bases agree with each other about.

Wars cause refugees. Then, the left and right scream at each other over the refugees, forgetting how the establishment continues the wars that the left and right are significantly opposed to.

All this has the effect of further entrenching people in their partisan boxes. Progressives with problems with the Democratic Party do their duty to fight against the Trumpsters and vice versa.

So, you get more war and more pro-corporate policies.

The manner of these debates tears people apart just enough to prevent dialogue. Sarah Sanders is told to leave a restaurant, but pundits on CNN urge the public not to be out in the streets arguing. Voting is the one and only path to making your voice heard. Shut up and get in line.

The debates rarely question national myths. Quite the contrary, they are an opportunity for "both sides" to appear to more loudly vocalize how they embody the goodness inherent in the U.S. "We need to reclaim our values... We're a good nation, we're a good people. And we should be setting a standard on this planet of what humanity should be about," says Sen. Cory Booker after the Supreme Court upholds President Trump's travel ban.

What "humanity should be about". This from a member of a Democratic Party establishment that has fueled polarization with the other nation on the planet with thousands of nuclear warheads. From a party establishment that has dismissed apparent progress toward finally ending the bloody Korean War. Just this week, Senators from both sides of the aisle voted to allocate more and more money for wars. The recent increases in the Pentagon budget are more than the entire military budget of the great threat, Russia.

But pay no attention to that. National piety is upheld. The U.S. is so wonderful, the immigrants want in. That proves it. Never mind U.S. government policies helped impoverish them. Never mind U.S. government wars destroyed the countries of millions of refugees. Never mind what you think might be wrong with the country, just be grateful you're here.

U.S. benevolence is to be proven by taking in a nominal number of refugees to some self-proclaimed liberals. So-called conservatives preserved the dignity of the nation not by insisting that the rule of law be applied to high officials, but that we should have zero tolerance for helping some desperate souls.

They diminishing economic state of USians emanating from economic inequality is largely off the agenda of both parties. They entrench the partisan divide, but in a way that obscures deeper issues. Party on.


Sam Husseini is founder of VotePact.org, which encourages intelligent left-right cooperation. 

Sam Hussein CV

Writer and artist living in Maryland, near Washington, D.C. 

1997 to Present: Communications Director, Institute for Public Accuracy
Assembled thousands of news releases that resulted in tens of thousands of interviews on a wide array of policy areas on a variety of major and independent media outlets. News releases included some of the most critical examination of claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Regularly attended new conferences at the National Press Club and other venues in D.C., questioning numerous officials including NATO spokesperson Jamie Shea, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, journalists Dan Rather and Judith Miller and former head of Saudi intelligence Amb. Turki bin Faisal al-Saud. The questioning of the former lead to a suspension by the executive director of the National Press Club, which was overturned by the Ethics Committee

Had op-eds published in various publications including the Washington Post and USA Today. Appeared on various media including ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CNN, Al Jazeera, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and C-SPAN's "Washington Journal." 

Artist 
For visual art work and writing, see: BeThatEmpty.org

Summer 2007: Consultant to The Real News Network

2006 to 2011: Founded Washington Stakeout
Questioned officials as they exit Sunday morning news talk shows, including politicos Paul RyanHeath Shuler and Mike Simpson and Colin Powell. In addition to individual segments, produced complied video: "The Absurd U.S. Stance on Israel's Nukes: A Video Sampling of Denial" which included questioning of then-Congressman Mike Pence and DNI John Negroponte. 

2000 to Present: Founded VotePact.org
Encouraged "disenchanted Democrats" and "disenchanted Republicans" to actually vote for their prefered candidates by pairing up.

2000 to 2003: Chaired the local board of Pacifica station WPFW
Played a role in preventing the total implosion and/or hijacking of the largest independent media network in the U.S., ensuring the WPFW board push for reform of national board. 

1996 to 1997: Media Director, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Oversaw the ADC’s media strategy. Broke ground in terms of policy positions, making the ADC publicly critical of the sanctions against Iraq as well as both Israeli policies and increasingly authoritarian tendencies of the Palestinian Authority. Did interviews on scores of TV and radio stations. Had op-eds published in Newsday, Knight-Ridder wire and numerous other outlets. Did outreach to Arab-American community. 

1990 to 1996: Worked at Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting 
Starting as a volunteer, worked in a number of roles at the media watch group. Research and wrote for magazine, Extra! while doing other freelance work. Worked to increase distribution for FAIR’s syndicated radio program, CounterSpin. Also acted as activism coordinator for a period. 

1988 to 1989: Math teacher - Homeless shelter manager
Did substitute stints in the New York City public school system, lasting from a day to several months, mostly at the junior high level. Also managed a homeless shelter, Arthur Sheehan House in Brooklyn (Catholic Worker), and worked to fend off nonprofit that was granted ownership as a trustee from selling the property. 

1987 to 1988: Programmer, Moody’s Investors Service - Art student
Did SQL and C programming in a corporate environment. During this period also studied art at Hunter College and the School of Visual Arts.

1987: Graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University
Receiving a double major in Applied Math (Computer Science specialty) and Logic and Computation (from Department of Philosophy).

Select media appearances: 



2001: Two days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, argued against war on "The O'Reilly Factor" -- segment ended with microphone being cut. (Fox News Channel)

Selected writings: 

2018: 

2017: 
"Questioning Pelosi and Schumer" (about impeachment and Israel's nuclear arsenal) CounterPunch


2014:

2009: 
"Obama Photo Op with Helen Thomas" Palestine Chronicle 

2008: 

2006: 

2005: 
"A Statement from Mother Nature" (in the aftermath of Katrina) CounterPunch 

2004: 

2003
"Compass Roses" CounterPunch 
"Follow the Policy" (about Iraq) CounterPunch

2000:
"A New Way To Vote -- As A Duet" {about VotePact) CommonDreams 

1999:
Twisted Policy on Iraq” Washington Post
"'One America' -- To What Ends?" Poverty & Race  

1998:
"The Dogs of War" Newsday 
FAIR's magazine Extra! 
"Brookings: The Establishment’s Think Tank" FAIR's magazine Extra! 

1997:
"Israeli Espionage Against the U.S." [ADC research document]  

1996:
"Profile in Unfairness: What Happened to TWA 800 Is No Reason to Endanger Passengers' Civil Rights" Washington Post  

1994:

1993: 
"Media Not Doing Justice To Mideast Peace" FAIR's magazine Extra! 
"Hillary & Bill & Harry & Louise" The Nation

1992: