Could Voters Opposed to Both Clinton and Trump Team up Using VotePact?

There's a solution to the predicament most of the U.S. will be facing between now and November: Liberals, progressives and others disenchanted with the likely Democratic nominee and conservatives disenchanted with the likely Republican nominee can to pair up and each vote for the candidates they genuinely want.

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have incredibly high negatives. Most people don't agree with, like or trust either. In a political system responsive to the public, an alternative with broad support would emerge if they become the nominees, as seems increasingly likely.
 
Unfortunately, in our system -- which enshrines the dominance of the two establishment parties -- the negatives of each end up perversely being the basis of support for the other. Voters end up being trapped by the very unpopularity of the candidates. The main things holding the system together are fear and hate -- even as the candidates claim to be bringing people together.
 
That is, most people supporting Clinton are not doing so because they view her as upstanding, wise or just. They support her because they fear and despise Trump and his misogyny, racism and temperament.
 
And the same largely goes for Trump. His supporters back him because they detest the establishment of the Republican Party as well as Clinton, who shares so much with that very Republican establishment even as she postures as a newly born progressive.
 
So, voters could end up just cancelling each other out -- one voting for Clinton and one voting for Trump, with neither being happy. But if voters who know and trust each other -- relatives, coworkers, neighbors, debating partners -- team up and vote for their preferred candidates (be they Green, Libertarian, Socialist, Independent, etc.), then they can begin to break out of the prison of the two party system. And if they do this in pairs (forming a VotePact), they can do it without the risk of helping the candidate they want the least.
 
Politicians make such alliances all the time -- witness the recent alliance between Ted Cruz and John Kasich against Trump. But voters need to do this with a level of integrity and honest dialogue that's alien to the political class. It's well past time that the public vote strategically instead of continuing to be the perpetual play thing of the duopoly.
 
Certainly there are schisms in each establishment party. Bernie Sanders has made some of those evident on the Democratic Party side, especially in his forthright critique of the healthcare system, Wall Street domination and increasing economic inequality.
 
And Trump has made some indications on foreign policy which break from perpetual war orthodoxy and embraces some populist rhetoric. How genuine that is however, is questionable. It's possible that it's no more sincere than Clinton's new-found stated opposition to undemocratic corporate-backed deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Husseini is founder of VotePact.org. [This piece is based on a news release from the Institute for Public Accuracy.]

After Sanders -- a Path to Electoral Revolution: How VotePact Cuts the Gordian Knot of the Two Party System

Supporters of Bernie Sanders and others need to be looking for a path to meaningful social and political change in the likely event that he does not win the Democratic Party nomination. 

I believe that my proposal -- VotePact.org -- whereby "disenchanted Democrats" and "disenchanted Republicans" pair up and both vote for the third party or independent candidates of their choice is the best strategy for them. 

Here's why:

Simply backing Hillary Clinton -- no matter how hard you hold your nose -- will not do: Voting for Clinton solidifies the notion that no matter how regressive a figure the Democratic Party nominates, progressives and others will vote for them. This mindset turns voters into serfs. While Clinton stresses what she allegedly has in common with Sanders supporters, her current rhetoric to the contrary, she is entrenched with the establishment in her ties to Wall Street, corporate power and hawkish U.S. foreign policy. There is every indication that a Clinton presidency would be a major boost to corporate and Wall Street control over the U.S. and the world -- as well as a major boost to perpetual U.S. wars into the coming decades with quite certain devastating results. Voters need to have "somewhere to go" or they will continue to be a plaything of the elites. 

Simply voting third party can backfire: Third party candidates have not forthrightly dealt with the real threat that their candidacies, given the way our election system is structured, may in effect help the establishment candidate a voter least likes. That is, if a present day Sanders supporters votes for Green candidate Jill Stein in the general election while they prefer Clinton to the Republican nominee, they could in effect be helping that Republican nominee, the dreaded "spoiler" problem. 

This is a real problem and VotePact solves this problem because it does not change the balance between the establishment Democratic and Republican candidates -- it in effect siphons off votes in pairs. This way, two friends don't cancel out each others votes -- one voting Republican and one voting Democrat. Instead, they build up independent candidates and send a real signal to the establishment by both voting for candidates that more closely reflect their beliefs -- if done enough, it upends the political order. This requires work, the present day Sanders supporters will have to work with a would-be Republican voter they know and trust. But now is the time to do that. They can use their critique of Clinton to do that, instead of going down a path that may lead them to becoming a defacto Clinton apologist. 

Not using VotePact could lead to further schisms, polarization and marginalization: That is, if progressives don't adopt VotePact, there will be greater animosity between them and Clinton supporters, potentially further marginalizing them. If more progressives do adopt VotePact, it could be a path toward millions of people who had never considered voting for third party candidates to do so. That is, as VotePact pair ups happen, they become more likely to spread. If Green and other third party candidates on the other hand continue to follow their past models, they will likely remain in low single digits (though given the nature of this election, a third party candidate could take off). This despite the fact that many people who are not considering voting for them actually agree with them on the issues. In fact, many people who agree with them strongly on some issues end up becoming their greatest opponents, because they view them as a threat to a Republican becoming president. 

There is a great imperative to use elections creatively: Whoever the Republican nominee is, there will likely be mass discontent on the Republican side. Would-be Republican voters will be searching for an alternative to being surfs themselves. The political establishment is banking on keeping voters locked into the two parties. They do this by feeding off of fear and hate. Progressives are endlessly told to hate the Republicans and conservatives and constantly told to hate Democrats. The negatives of Clinton and any likely Republican nominee show that people are going to be trapped into voting against candidates, not for them. 

In this context, it is critical for Sanders supporters and other progressives and leftists to reach out to would be Republican voters they know -- in their family, workplace, school, etc. VotePact is not just a voting strategy, it's a method of political outreach -- to the people you might disagree with most. Such political outreach, if the U.S. is going to genuinely become a better country, can be revolutionary in the most personal sense and is desperately needed. This leads to the would-be Democratic voter and would-be Republican voter together actually voting for third party or independent candidates they can meaningfully identify with. 

VotePact helps movements: Many say there's too much emphasis on elections. Fine. The objective condition is that the presidential election is happening and the mass of the public is engaged in that at some level. This is obviously not to say other forms of activism stop, but rather: Instead of cursing how the election is a distraction, how do we use it to reach people with a serious critique of establishment politics? How to we build towards a politics that can seriously challenge elites and their oligarchical instruments of economic repression and continuous wars? How do we get past an establishment with Clinton posing as progressive and then colluding with establishment Republicans against the interests of the majority? Part of the answer is we talk to would-be Republican voters in our lives -- including the possibility of both dealing a blow to establishment politics by using VotePact.org.  

The Invisibility of U.S. Oligarchs: The Case of Penny Pritzker

Other countries, not the U.S., have oligarchs apparently. 

Billionaire and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker came and went to the National Press Club with hardly a tough question on Monday -- see video and PDF

I'd submitted several questions, but first a word on the choreography of the event: Virtually every "news maker" event I recall seeing at the Press Club had the speaker at the head table which is on a stage a few feet up, speaking at a podium. This event, it was just her and the moderator, Press Club President Thomas Burr on two cushy chairs on the stage, with the "head table" below them. Whether this was to elevate the two of them, save her the trouble of having prepared remarks, a new thing, an attempt to cast the billionaire in a more casual light -- inspired by Davos type events -- I don't know. But it was weird. 

Speaking of choreography, on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue around the same time, several hundred people were arrested at the Capitol Building as part of the "Democracy Spring" and "Democracy Awakening" actions. It seemed odd to me, protests happening, with "arrests" as part of a very planned action, aimed in part against money in politics, while the very personification of big business advocacy in government received virtually no scrutiny. 

It's not just her job, or that she and her family is incredibly rich. It's that Pritzker enriched herself by crashing a bank with sub-prime loans, causing 1,400 people to lose their savings. In addition, a relation of hers was mentioned in the Panama Papers. So while so many were breathlessly reporting on associates of official bad guys like Putin being mentioned in the Panama Papers, hardly a soul noted the Pritzker connection. Finally, and perhaps most incredibly, Forbes several years ago did an investigation in to the Pritzker family and found that they set up shell companies decades ago in ways that would be illegal now. It's in a sense not just oligarchy, it's aristocracy. A newly rich person can't do what they've done, according to Forbes. [See a summery off each of these issues, based on investigations by Tim Anderson, Dennis Bernstein, Stephane Fitch and McClatchy.]

And off shore shell companies were in the news of late. Oxfam just released a report claiming: "Tax dodging by multinational corporations costs the U.S. approximately $111 billion each year and saps an estimated $100 billion every year from poor countries" [PDF]. A prior report from the Tax Justice Network would seem to indicate that this was a severe under estimate. That found that as of 2010, the super-rich are hiding at least $21 trillion in accounts outside their home countries [PDF]. 

I'd at least expected a mild question about off shore activity -- and figured she'd talk about how the Obama administration is allegedly now making moves to stop tax inversions
 
But there was nothing about any of this. At the news maker event, I wrote a question on a card on the nub of the issues at play, was something like this: "A relation of yours -- Liesel Pritzker Simmons -- is mentioned in the recently released Panama Papers. Do you have comment on the extent of off shore shell companies -- especially given your family uses them through grandfather clauses in ways that would not be legal for anyone new now?"

That didn't get asked, nor did several I'd submitted in an email prior to the to the Press Club president by email:  

The Pope -- and Bernie Sanders -- talk about a "moral economy" -- that it's inherently unjust if a very few individuals and families have enormous wealth while billions on the planet have virtually nothing. Your family of course is enormously wealthy -- What do you think of that? (for overview, "Panama Papers: Pritzkers, American Oligarchs".) 

You have been charged with crashing Superior Bank in Chicago with a subprime mortgage scheme, resulting in 1,400 people losing their savings. How do you respond to these charges? ("Obama's Subprime Conflit" and Bloomberg "Pritzker’s Superior Bank Subprime Losses Blemish Resume") 

Do you argue that your massive fundraising efforts for Obama in 2008 and 2012 had nothing to do with him appointing you as Sec of Commerce? (See from Public Campaign "Penny Pritzker, Not Just an Obama Donor.") 

The name of Liesel Pritzker Simmons appears in the recently released Panama Papers, a relative who sued much of the rest of the family for allegedly trying to cheat her. But what's perhaps notable about your family, as Forbes has written, is that you set up shell companies decades ago and thus can do things because of grandfather clauses that are not legal any more. Is that moral?

Forbes -- which estimates your net worth at 2.3 billion -- had specific questions for you for --

* 'Tell us from the very, very beginning: What led to your being paid $53.6 million in “consultant” income by your family’s offshore trusts in 2012?

* 'Did your family’s carve-up finally produce significant tax payments?

* 'Why are you your own biggest debtor?

* 'Why is even your house in an LLC?

* 'How do you rack up $250,000 on an American Express card?'

--

On trade issues and the TPP -- how do you respond to --

Zahara Heckscher, a breast cancer patient and writer: “If ratified, the TPP would lock in monopolies for certain new medicines, biological medicines that help people like me stay alive. Monopolies allow drug companies to increase prices dramatically, and high prices decrease access."

Lori Wallach of Public Citizen: "The aggregate U.S. goods trade deficit with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners is more than five times as high as before the deals went into effect, while the aggregate trade deficit with non-FTA countries has actually fallen." 

Manuel Pérez-Rocha of the Institute for Policy Studies -- who has argued that NAFTA has pushed many Mexicans to migrate to the US since it has become an "engine of poverty in Mexico" since it has gutted family farming in Mexico, as wells as mom and pop stores, and indigenous industry. 

The questions that did get asked were fairly pedestrian and quite friendly: "Can you give us your perspective on the trade and trade agreements, in particular, and any fears about possible trade wars that have been talked about? ... What is the Commerce Department doing with the U.S. and international partners to combat the cyber threat to the United States businesses? ... Intellectual property of U.S. businesses in many forms; music, movies, have been stolen and stolen frequently. How much does this cost American businesses? [Prizker: 'I don’t have the exact number in front of me.'] ... Do you believe that China is manipulating its currency to gain a trade advantage, and do you see any other countries doing that?" The toughest question was probably "We've added nearly $10 trillion to the U.S. debt in the last seven, eight years. Is this a ticking time bomb for the U.S. and the global economy?" See video and PDF

The last question was: "I understand you are a marathon runner. I would like to know, and our audience, I think, would like to know, what is the secret for training for a marathon?" 

It turned out Pritzker didn't have to run from much in her appearance at the Press Club. 

How Libertarians and Socialists Can Work Together

Andrew Stewart interviewed me about the election and how to people can make a much more meaningful impact by using VotePact. He writes about how he -- from the left -- can join with someone from the right to unite against the establishment that seeks to divide them: 

Take as example myself and Pat Ford over at The Coalition Radio Show. We are basically on the same page with every imaginable social issue (LGBTQQI rights, abortion, sex workers, drug decriminalization) but have a respectful disagreement on economic issues, Pat is a Libertarian and I am a Socialist/Communist of the unaffiliated variety. Even if we disagree on those issues, which have a great level of difference, we both loathe the Democrats and the Republicans in this state and the wider nation. So we both have said we want to form a Vote Pact. I am going to vote for my Green Party candidate and Pat will vote for his Libertarian Party candidate. This is not to say that either of our votes are going to push our third party candidates to victory this year. But the loss of votes for the duopoly is far more threatening in the long run than trying to reform the Democrats and Republicans from within, a strategy that has failed again and again for literally decades.

Please read his writing and listen to our discussion here.

Two Trump Quotes May Show What Did and Will Happen

In Donald Trump's remarks following his win of a plurality of votes in Florida, North Carolina and Illinois on Tuesday, he made two particularly critical statements that may help us understand what did happen and what will happen in this election. 

Properly understanding these remarks I think highlights the need to address perpetual war -- and foreshadows the compulsion of the establishment to merely use populist rhetoric, highlighting the need to form genuine populist alternatives. 

What did happen: Trump addressed foreign policy as well as other issues -- while Bernie Sanders didn't meaningfully address foreign policy and largely limited himself to a one issue campaign.
 
First Trump quote: “And Paris was a disaster. There have been many disasters, but it was Paris. This whole run took on a whole new meaning -- not just borders, not just good trade deals. ... And the meaning was very simple: we need protection in our country, and that’s going to happen. And all of a sudden the poll numbers shot up.”

Trump has a point here -- Paris and San Bernardino attacks gave his campaign a different dynamic. Meanwhile, Sanders didn't meaningfully respond after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, even thought he had tremendous opportunity to do so. Most notably, there was a Democratic debate on CBS the day after the Paris attack. As I wrote at the time

So, at the CBS debate the day after the Paris attacks, Sanders didn't even want to talk about foreign policy. It was tragic really. He could have laid into U.S. foreign policy, he could have said that by arming the Saudis we've fostered problems, it would have jolted the campaign and the public could have been engaged in foreign policy in a meaningful way.

But he didn't.

The most he could do is criticize the invasion of Iraq, which is valid -- no one who voted for the Iraq war is qualified for any title other than inmate -- but 13 years later, totally inadequate. Whatever you have to say about economy (and even here I think Sanders could be better) will ultimately be trumped by the fact that you can't articulate a path out of perpetual war. If you don't show you've got a path out of perpetual war, the people will pick someone who they figure knows how to do perpetual war.

The conventional wisdom is that foreign policy doesn't matter. That may be true in terms of specific policies, but not in terms of a deep understanding of the U.S.'s place in the world. A president must help define that. Sanders failed. People are right to complain about the disparities in media coverage, but part of this has been self inflected by Sanders. 

Trump has been contradictory, but has generally outlined a tough but non-interventionist, "America First" foreign policy. In fact, Trump has even discussed the trillions of dollars spent on wars that should go to infrastructure -- another thing Sanders failed to do. Of course, we don't know what Trump would actually do were he to become president, I'm merely noting what he appeals to -- which brings us to the second point. 

What may well happen: Economic Inequality may well fade as an issue in a meaningful way. This ironically could erode Trump's base. 

Second Trump quote: "We don't win at trade, we're going to win at trade. We're going to make our country rich again, we're going to make our country great again. We need the rich in order to make the great, I'm sorry to tell you."

Marcy Wheeler tweeted in response the night of Trump's victory speech: "3/15/16: When inequality ended being campaign issue." 

Both Trump and Hillary Clinton will feel drawn to increasingly focus on each other and could jettison their populist rhetoric. It's clearly phony in her case, and clearly could be in his. 

This ironically creates an opening. While establishment candidate Michael Bloomberg has ruled out running, there is space now for an anti establishment campaign that can authentically be called populist. Trump has benefited from the populist orientation of the country, but he didn't create it and he doesn't define it. He does not own the votes of poor working class whites. He has benefited from them, but -- positioning himself to take his base for granted could be vulnerable. 

Indeed, as seems likely, if Clinton and Trump start ripping into each others hypocrisies, an opening may develop for a campaign from the radical center to draw in Sanders supporters and others from the left -- and Trump supporters and others from the right. The later would be people who are draw to populism, but don't want to be tainted by xenophobia, racism and misogyny. The Libertarian and Green parties may be the vehicle for such and effort, or they may continue to approach the electoral process from the margins, continuing to relegate themselves to low single digits. 

Central to this is the spoiler argument. As I outline at VotePact.org/about -- the imperative is to develop a campaign that draws support from both the anti-establishment left and right. Doing so in effect siphons off votes in pairs from the establishment Democrat and psudo-anti-establishment Trump campaigns. At the very minimum, such an effort gives voters leverage. Absent such efforts, Wheeler's comment about inequality ceasing to be a campaign issue will likely prove tragically prescient. 

News Release and Video of USAID Action on Slain Honduran Activist Cáceres

Here's video I took and news release I got over the transom after going to the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center where I saw the action. 


Contact: Jake Dacks
Email: dcforberta@gmail.com

March 14, 2016

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ACTIVISTS DEMAND USAID BREAK TIES WITH HONDURAN DAM PROJECT

DENOUNCE POLITICAL ASSASSINATION OF HONDURAN INDIGENOUS ACTIVIST BERTA CACERES

Washington, DC – Concerned DC residents unfurled banners inside the Ronald Reagan International Trade Building today, in front of the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) information office, calling for USAID to break ties to the controversial Agua Zarca dam project being built in Honduras.

On Thursday, March 3, world-renowned Honduran indigenous environmentalist Berta Cáceres, who led her Lenca peoples against the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River, was assassinated in her home. Berta had received the Goldman award in 2015 – the highest award for environmental activism – in the very same Ronald Reagan building in April of last year.

The two DC residents, Jake Dacks and Nico Udu-gama, scaled an art installation in the atrium of the building and unfurled two banners which read: “USAID stop funding murder in Honduras” and “Berta Cáceres, Presente!”. They read demands of Berta’s indigenous organization, COPINH (the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras), which included an end to USAID’s collaboration with the DESA-Agua Zarca Hydroelectric company, which has been denounced for years by Honduran social movements for their use of paramilitary violence to kill, threaten and displace the Lenca people in order to build dams along the river.

“We stand in solidarity with our dear comrade Berta and the Lenca people and all Hondurans who are valiantly resisting displacement in their territory,” said activist Jake Dacks. “If USAID is serious about involving communities in development, they will listen to the Lenca people and stop working the DESA-Agua Zarca hydroelectric project immediately.”

After the 2009 coup in Honduras, the US State Department continued to fund projects through its development arm, USAID, despite the bloody repression of Honduran social movements who denounced the land and mining concessions given to Honduran and transnational companies without consulting the communities. The United States continues to train Honduran police and military through institutions like the School of the Americas, despite their proven track record of silencing dissent.

COPINH continues to demand that the material and intellectual authors of Berta Cáceres murder be brought to justice.

The two activists were detained by Federal Protective Services and then turned over to Metropolitan Polce. For more information, visit www.bertacaceres.org

###

Russia expert Stephen Cohen on Trump

Stephen Cohen was on the John Batchelor Show on Feb. 16. At around 38:00 -- audio at TheNation.

Cohen is professor emeritus at New York University and Princeton University. His books include Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War.

Cohen: 'In my lifetime, in such moments of dire international crisis, I do not ever remember a presidential campaign or season where the candidates, on their own or because they were forced to by moderators or by the public or the media, won’t tell us what they think other than a bumper sticker like “I hate Putin and I won’t talk to him,” things like that, tell us what they would do if they were president today or tomorrow. Of the Republicans, since Rand Paul left the race, all of them simply say “we’ll punch Putin in the nose and that will solve the problem.” Only Donald Trump, also in bumper stickers, has said something different. He said:

1) 'He doesn’t accept all of these criminal allegations against Putin because there’s no proof, they’re just allegations, and in America we have due process.

2) 'He keeps saying that he’s a man who knows how to make a deal with Putin. So I interpret this for Donald Trump, who never uses the word, to mean “diplomacy.” That he would do diplomacy.

'Now what there’s been since the beginning of the New Cold War is a complete collapse of American diplomacy, or the militarization of American diplomacy towards Russia. Kerry is struggling, as we have already spoken, to demilitarize American diplomacy and to restore real negotiations. Trump in his odd way — “I’m the greatest deal maker in the world, I can make a deal with anybody, Putin doesn’t bother me, I’ll sit down and make him an offer he can’t refuse, and will make a deal and things will be okay.”

'Alright, he probably doesn’t know exactly what he means. But I would prefer a president who tells me not that “I’m going to send more troops to Russia’s borders in order to provoke them into a war,” but a president who tell me “I’m going to sit down and discuss this with you and see if we can work it out.”'

Nuclear Annihilation of a Radical Message on Israel: The Case of Concepcion Picciotto

There were some lovely, moving moments in the memorial service of Concepcion Picciotto at Luther's Place Church on Saturday. 

Concepcion is known -- with William Thomas, who died a few years ago -- for leading what is apparently the longest protest in U.S. history: Against nuclear weapons in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House. She died last month. 

As WTOP -- the local news station -- noted today: "Picciotto’s nuke vigil became a permanent fixture across from the White House for five consecutive presidents, including President Barack Obama, but not one of the presidents ever spoke to her."

Tom Siemer, with trembling hands holding the microphone, sobbed "I built nuclear weapons for 23 years" and then that Concepcion "was so unselfish" -- as she literally died to the end for peace, with failing health, virtually homeless, continuing the vigil. She was almost like a protester who immolates oneself, but in slow motion. 

At the memorial service, the speakers included former CIA man Ray McGovern who noted the Washington Post's apparent proclivity for questioning Concepcion's sanity, and asked who was the mad one here given the Post's apparent view that her desire to prevent nuclear war was at best quaint. Her lawyer, who spoke first and long, did some of the same, but seemed at one point to frame the nuclear threat stemming from the doctrine of MAD, mutually assured destruction, as a simple relic of the Cold War. He almost echoed a patronizing tone that one might hear from the Post, referring to his arguments with her, barely disguising an eyeroll. 

There were glimmers of Concepcion's radicalness certainly during the service -- she wasn't outright cooped into a banal liberal symbol as Martin Luther King often has been, but, critically, the word "Israel" was not uttered at the memorial in the church. This was incredible since it was hard to go three minutes talking with Concepcion without her talking about Israel -- either its crimes or the incredible threat posed by its unacknowledged nuclear weapons. Her work stressed things that so few do: Israel is perhaps the greatest threat because it has a massive nuclear arsenal, refuses to sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, uses violence with incredible impunity and it is an expansionist settler colonial state. 

And Concepcion was not -- as some, including Caitlin Gibson of the Washington Post have referred to her as -- an anti nuclear "proliferation" activist. She was for disarmament. Concepcion was clear: "Live by the bomb, die by the bomb." Her point was the U.S. and other nuclear powers live by the bomb and must stop. She was about disarming the current nuclear weapons states; not simply preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons to more states. After all, it is largely the policy of the U.S. government that current nuclear weapons states should maintain them and others should be denied them. The U.S. government occasionally does wage or threaten wars over this issue -- or perhaps I should say, using this pretext. 

Concepcion focusing on Israel was at times even jarring even to me -- a Palestinian American -- when I'd talk to her. Don't take my word for it, look up some videos of her. She doesn't go long before mentioning Israel. And if you think it through, for very good reason. 

The word "Israel" was finally uttered from the microphone -- after a hundred or so people left the church and went to the site of her long-standing protest in front of the White House, setup there photo-op style by Medea Benjamin of CodePink. 

It was left to Simin Royanian, an Iranian-American activist and analyst to utter the word when finally granted the mic. She noted Concepcion's staunch opposition to Israel's Zionism and said she was always supportive of Palestinian and other liberation movements in the Mideast. 

Perhaps it's thus with all prophets -- the moment they die, many around them push aside their central statements that seem inconvenient but were actually the center-line to their dedication and integrity. 

But, no, Concepcion was largely ignored in life. John Steinbach, longtime antinuclear peace activist and co-coordinator of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee told me: "Concepcion wasn't taken serious by a lot of groups. I can't tell you the number of times I tried to get mainstream peace groups that had protests in Lafayette Square to include or invite or at least acknowledge her vigil which was right there. It never happened." In contrast, Steinbach notes: "The Japanese [nuclear bomb] survivors loved and respected her and always wanted to spend time with her." 

The memorial service did feature a Japanese representative reading a statement from the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee. Unfortunately, it also offered a fair number of clichés -- "We Shall Overcome" and a lengthy homily presuming to praise the prophetic voice while ignoring much of the substance of it, instead repeatedly invoking the song "Turn, Turn, Turn". 

But there was nothing cliché about Concepcion. 

She had a pointed, high pitched, Spanish accented voice and would utter totally political incorrect statements. "Don't Be a Lemming -- Save Yourself -- Renounce Genocidal Weapons" read her sign. "Silence is a war crime." She'd be good at staying on message as they say, repeating what her signs would say. "Bush is war criminal" she'd repeat. 

And she held signs on Israel up high and unapologetic: "Judaism YES / Zionism NO" and "Disarm IsraHell -- 200 Illegal Nucs -- Save the World -- Save the Children" and "Stop Funding Israeli Terrorism."

Great stuff. 

But she did make political statements on Israel that I would never make; and I didn't delved into her personal struggles with other activists, which were apparently contentious at times. One sign she'd hold up was "One Nation Under Israel" (which featured a U.S. flag with a star from the Israeli flag on it) and another: "Terrorists Are Us -- 'Holocaust:' A Word Used by Zionists to perpetrate Crimes Against Humanity" (with a swastika scrawled in) -- which featured the website of Neturei Karta - Orthodox Jews United Against Zionism

The Nazi "Holocaust" isn't just a "word" that's been used for murderous purposes of course, but also an actual historical fact. But she didn't write that it was "just" that, though many may have read it that way. Nor do I subscribe to the view that the U.S. is "Under Israel". In fact, I don't much see nations any more. I mostly see forces: imperialism, colonialism, corporate capitalism, white supremacy and misogyny asserting their power and how other forces resist and are complicit with them. 

But I've not seen any of Concepcion's signs on Israel any more at the memorial, which is continuing and seems to be sanitizing itself. As I write, the vigil does have one sign about an upcoming protest against AIPAC -- so it's apparently still alright to criticize rightwing Zionist groups -- and perhaps unintentionally pump them up -- but not the more liberal varieties. This type of framing divorces the centrality of Israel's nuclear weapons, which the U.S. government has rendered it forbidden to speak of, from the anti-nuclear work on the vigil. 

Really, did you catch that? It's illegal for U.S. officials to talk about Israel's nuclear arsenal. As Grant Smith has found: "Under two known gag orders -- punishable by imprisonment -- U.S. security-cleared government agency employees and contractors may not disclose that Israel has a nuclear weapons program." So perhaps score one for the "One Nation Under Israel" camp. 

But ignoring Israel's nuclear weapons has the ironic effect of the naive viewer wondering "why pick on Israel?" -- since the Israeli nuclear arsenal -- which was the brainchild of liberal Zionists Ben Gurion and Shimon Peres -- is sidelined instead of being front and center. 

Concepcion was certainly difficult, at least for me, to talk with. I tried helping her find housing at one point, which might have lead to connections that might have helped, it was hard to tell at times, but she was undoubtedly a handful -- only housing around the White House would do of course. As if that were selfish of her. I end up wishing I were more patient in trying to help her; God knows she was patient with us. 

Still, I wished that the protest would be more understandable, it certainly came off as eccentric at times. But I think that can be fixed without it being effectively sanitized, which seems where it is headed. 

Front and center are now typical banal signs, which were back bench material for Concepcion: "War Is Not the Answer". Really? I've got news for you: War often is the answer. War can be exactly the answer if the question is how to effectively dominate the planet, which it often is to many. 

The memorial service put on for Concepcion featured a rendition of "Ain't Gonna Study War No More." I disagree. We actually haven't studied war nearly enough. The "peace movement" needs to get over itself and talk about war: the death, destruction, flying limbs and stench of it in precise terms if it has any interest in actually changing things and not just feeling superior to those dreaded Republicans. 

Fast disappearing from the vigil is what was central to Concepcion: by embracing a radical humanity, discerning the taboos of the establishment, she rightly raged against them. At the current rate, I fully expect "Free Tibet" signs to pop up at the vigil. 

In my chatting with her occasionally over the years, I think Concepcion pointed to a central truth -- that colonialism and Zionism were central forces threatening the planet. And that central truth is continually obscured by people talking about neo-conservatives or liberal interventionists instead of seeing an entire neo-colonial project at work, or perhaps not so "neo" at times -- just plain colonial. And one should be clear: She didn't really single out Israel as some do -- she'd talk about unmentionable U.S. "terrorism" and "war crimes" as easily as Israeli. 

If she seemed to become overly persistent on imperialism and Zionism and Israel's unacknowledged threat to humanity, I think it was a reaction not just to those threats and officialdom and not just to corporate media -- but also "progressive" activists' silence on central questions of nuclear armed Zionism. 

Unfortunately, her own memorial service became a monument to that silence. 

Talking VotePact on "Watching the Hawks"

Talking about VotePact.org with Tyrel Ventura and Tabetha Wallace on RT's "Watching the Hawks" -- Feb 25. Great interview -- would have loved to learn more from Tyrel about the dynamics around his dad's -- Jesse Ventura's -- success at breaking out of the two party system. 


Tabetha Wallace: Gridlock is the name of the game in Washington and I don’t mean traffic. I mean congress. And if you’re a concerned citizen you may not take notice anymore. That’s because the process of moving through effective legislation didn’t come to a sudden screeching halt or a stumble with a deafening thud. Congress has been deadlocked for a decade or more, which for some people constitutes their entire young adult life. Enter from stage left and stage right the candidates for the Republican and Democratic parties and the race to the White House 2016. The GOP has been trying to push establishment candidates like Rubio and Bush but Cruz and of course Trump are dominating. The Dems thought that Hillary was a lock and then came Bernie with a successful message of social justice and an aggressive stance against Wall Street. The establishment just can’t seem to get it’s sway this time. But will that really matter in the end? Let’s say Hillary gets through against one of the GOP candidates. Are hardcore Republicans really going to vote for Hillary? Even if their only option is Trump? And will Bernie supporters really lead the fold to vote for a Trump, a Cruz or a Rubio? No, probably not. And thus: voter deadlock. So it there a solution? Well our next guest Sam Husseini seems to think so. His new organization VotePact has come up with an interesting strategy for Democrats or Republicans to team up and take votes away from the establishment by supporting third parties in pairs.

Welcome Sam.

Sam Husseini: Good to be with you 

Tyrel Ventura: Always a pleasure. Thank you for coming on today.

Sam: Great to be on the show.

Tyrel: Yeah so you know, we were just talking about the gridlock in our democracy. We see it in congress, we see it all over, even on the local level. You see this right-left gridlock. You know? What is the reason behind this and is there any reason to suspect that we are going to be able to move beyond this gridlock in congress, senate with this system of democracy and the way we vote as it is today?

Sam: It’s not a total gridlock you know, the establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans collude on a bunch of issues. They are trying to get their trade bills through, keep their wars going so on and so forth. So when it suits them they can (laughter).. But you’re right that by and large there are people that are basically boxed in to both parties. People leftist, you know, feel they have to keep voting for the Democrats no matter how establishment they become no matter how corporate they become no matter how corrupt they become. same thing on the other side, bunch of libertarians other folks who want to see another way out but can’t. You can vote for a third party but then you’re quote-unquote throwing your vote away. You’re afraid of doing that because you’re afraid you’ll help the guys you hate most.

Tabetha: Right.

Sam: So you become a prisoner. You gotta keep voting for the Republicans you gotta keep voting for the Democrats no matter if they stop listening to. Solution to VotePact. Team up. Find somebody in your life, ideally. Your brother, your wife, your brother-in-law who annoys you over the Thanksgiving day table. But you trust them as a person, you trust them with your kids they take care of your kids, whatever. Your debate partner, your coworker, whatever -- and say ‘Okay we’re both going to use our personal bond to vote for the third parties that we most want.' Now it can end up that they vote, you know, one votes for the Socialist or the Green and the other votes for Libertarian or Constitution party. That’s all well and good. But this could, conceivably be a path for literal electoral victory. If you can get a ticket that appeals to what I call 'radical center.’

Tyrel: Radical center, interesting term.

Tabetha: I like ‘radical center’ that seems like a good place to be, actually.

Sam: Against the Wall Street bailouts, corporate trade deals, for civil liberties --

Tyrel: Most of America I think if you look at the polls and stuff, most people are fiscally conservative, socially liberal. Generally by and large they are kind of in that middle area. We can pull ideas from …

Tabetha: Yeah, more people now as they are looking, the center is a little further left than it was

Sam: Certainly among young people

Tabetha: Yes, which is the biggest chunk of the voting block which they finally figured out which I’m very, very glad. I’m very glad that my slightly younger brothers and sisters have gone ‘Oh wait a minute, there’s a lot of us and we don’t like this and we can do something about it’ and that’s really powerful. But I wonder if part of what you’re seeing is this gridlock in democracy and part of the pushback against it, the fall out that we’re seeing … the two party system is from the gridlock  in Congress. Is it just that or I mean is that the main thing because it seems to me watching years of our legislative body just sit there and do nothing has had such an impact on us.

Sam: The repetition in terms of gridlock does two things it makes people fed up with the establishment as a whole but in a way by focusing in a few narrow issues it compels people to be more on their side digging in their heels and hating the other side more. So you see, focusing on issues likes refugees or immigration where there is a difference in left and right. What I think is really interesting about those issues is that they are in a way symptomatic of other issues. Refugees from Syria wouldn’t be coming over getting out of there in desperation if there weren’t a perpetual war policy. Immigration is largely a result of drug war and corporate trade policy. Now all those deeper issues are things that the left and the right, the principal left and right as we would call them, agree on. But they end up bickering over the symptomatic issues of refugees and immigration. Now those are real issues I’m not diminishing them but they are in effect a result of other things.

Tyrel: You gotta take a step back and look bigger and say what is the bigger policy we need to be looking at? That seems to get like as you said the earlier - that sails through - bigger policy that effects that trickle down of things like immigration and things like that sails through without a problem.

Tabetha Wallace- Emotional issues. People seem to have gotten very emotional. Millennial are always accused of being too emotional. Like have you seen Capitol Hill? It’s temper tantrums and crying and even without John Boehner it’s temper tantrums and everything’s very like ‘they don’t want to talk to me, oh what’s going on?.'

Tyrel: What’s interesting is that you talked about kind of corralling the disenfranchised voters saying hey go to your family member or your friend say how do we vote for a third party or something like that you know. Will that strategy work and with I mean do you believe you can create this powerful enough voting block to break the two party system.

Sam: I think it can. People have to work it out and dialogue it out and really be serious about it. They have to trust the person that they’re dealing with. And in a way, we have the politics of hatred. MSNBC is telling all the Democrats hate the Republicans and Fox does the other way around. So this is building a bridge so that people can talk to each other and get stuff on the table. And you see, I mean, even in this election it’s Sander and Trump and they agree on some stuff. In past elections it was Kucinich and Ron Paul. They agreed on stuff. I mean imagine if you had a ticket of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich saying we are gonna run on the stuff that we agree on and that’s what we’re gonna implement. And don’t talk too much about the other stuff that we don’t agree on. But that’s a hell of a lot. That’s a hell of a lot.

Tyrel: Other people could get behind that if we didn’t have that kind of left-right paradigmers. My dad called it, when he was running and he was in office he always   it’s like professional wrestling. On T.V. they fight with each other but behind the scenes they all get in favor of some people and are all hand-in-hand.

Tabetha: Of course.

Tyrel: Yeah it’s pretty interesting stuff. Especially when you get to third parties.

Tabetha: Yeah. And I think part of the thing about third parties that is so interesting is that you’re organization is trying to sway voters away from democrats and Republicans ultimately or the two big --

Sam: Well to at least, you know, not be prisoners. To vote their actual preferences instead of feeling like they have in effect been browbeaten into putting aside all their hopes, desires, their dreams because 'I just gotta vote against the other guys I don’t want.'

Tabetha: Right. So let me ask you a question because I think what I’ve seen and what you’ve seen in your personal experience is that the problem isn’t necessarily the party problem and getting a third candidate it’s that the media obsess over those two things and what happens is when you have a third party candidate, someone like you know Jill Stein, the green party Gary Johnson of the libertarian party, ugh some Ventura guy might have ran a while ago. (Laughter)  When you have those people they are not included in the polls. They’re not included in the conversation and they’re just left out. So how do you make that next step when the media has such a Trump-esque wall in front of you to keep you from even knowing about them?

Sam: The media is an absolute wall but I put a little bit of responsibility on the third parties themselves. They don’t have a strategy for breaking out of that saying they want to get into the debates. And then they have their alternative debates and they end up agreeing on a lot of stuff on their own. So I’m saying.. A lot of policy issues. Why not join together? But part of the strategy would be getting endorsements in pairs. So you imagine a ticket like this getting endorsements of the old union official and a small business man coming together. Over and over again people coming together in pairs to this campaign. The strategy implies a media strategy that I think would generate serious news stories.

Tyrel: I wanna bring up one thing, this is interesting we are talking about voting and all that. Look the electoral college in today’s day and age, is I believe, pretty unfair and out of date. Especially for third parties because if you look at like DC. Put it in a two-party perspective. DC primarily votes, has three electoral votes, primarily votes Democrat every time. So if you have a Republican in DC generally your vote is kinda of just disappears every presidential election because of the electoral college. How do we? Is it time to drop the electoral college and do a legit popular vote or develop a new system so that way people in red and blue states or states that predominantly go red or blue. Well we have about a minute lets try to sum that up.

Tabetha: So fixing it on a structural level.

Sam: Sure, there are all types of structural proposals that should happen. The electoral college, instill run-off voting, proportional representation all kinds of things. But you’re in effect asking the political establishment to please dismember itself.

Tabetha: Yes!

Sam: And they’re not going to do that. And the beauty of VotePact is saying we don’t need anything else. We can come together as people and using the votes that we have to implode the system as it is. So it doesn’t require their cooperation.

Tabetha: I get it. Thank you so much, thank you.

Tyrel: I like that, come together and change the system Sam Husseini thank you very much for joining us and educating us.

Sam: My pleasure.