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.
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.
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.
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.
At first I thought it ironic that Saturday's Republican debate happened in the "Peace Center" in Greenville, South Carolina. [video and transcript]
But perhaps that had a positive effect.
Actually, no. For the discerning listener, Donald Trump has been critical of U.S. militarism for some time. On Russia, on Syria, on Iraq and on North Korea.
People say that Trump is loud. But I don't think he's been loud enough.
Last night, he finally screamed an anti war stance to the boos of Bush's and Rubio's and Kasich's one percent donors. It's only half of what needed to be said, but it was a measure of reality that's desperately needed.
Trump: "You fight ISIS first. Right now you have Russia, you have Iran, you have them with Assad and you have them with Syria. You have to knock out ISIS. ... You can’t fight two wars at one time." But of course, to some of the U.S. establishment, two wars is slacking, they want more than two wars. Trump continued: "We shoulda never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none. ... The World Trade Center came down (BOOING) during the reign. He [G. W. Bush] kept us safe?"
And, if anyone noticed, even as the auditorium packed of monied interests booed Trump, the tracker at the bottom of the screen went up for him.
Trump's truth telling was met with more ridiculousness and lies.
Jeb Bush described Trumps attacks as "blood sport" which, given the subject matter at hand -- his brother's appetite for illegal war and failure in his responsibility to protect the U.S. public -- was, to put it mildly, ironic. And then Bush appealed to the values of his family, which, evidence would show, includes hands quite drenched in blood.
John Kasich's reaction on Iraq WMDs was to appeal to Colin Powell's credibility, which has been a late night TV joke for over a decade. He also claimed the U.S. got into a civil war, which is wrong -- the U.S. government helped foster the sectarian violence. And no, Kasich, the borders of the Mideast were not "drawn after World War I by Westerners that didn’t understand what was happening there" -- they were drawn by Westerners who wanted to divide and rule -- as is the actual goal of Western interventions to this day.
Marco Rubio was perhaps the most priceless -- "Saddam Hussein was in violation of UN resolutions, in open violation, and the world wouldn’t do anything about it." That's a total lie. Iraq had disarmed and the U.S. did everything it could to prevent the UN from verifying that disarmament so that the draconian sanctions would continue on Iraq indefinitely and they could have their regime change war, see my time line: accuracy.org/iraq.
The worthies at the Weekly Standard now write: "Interviewers should press Trump on this: What evidence does Trump have that George W. Bush and his top advisers knowingly lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? How many other government officials does Trump believe were in on the deception? What does Trump believe would have been the point of such a lie, since the truth would soon come out?"
Trump is being Buchanan 2.0 -- that there's some real bad that comes with that and there's some real good that comes with that. And quite arguably in a post 9/11 world, the good is more important than it was in 1992.
The point is that what Trump is appealing to is an electorate that is sick of deceit and perpetual wars and there's a lot of good that comes with that. It should be an opportunity for anyone claiming to care about peace -- and not a cause to mock the people supporting him as I've seen many "progressives" do.
But, for the Democrats, the import now is this: What's it going to look like if Trump is the Republican nominee? If Clinton is the Democratic nominee, Trump -- with very good reason -- will tie the stench of perpetual wars and the lies that accompany them around her neck. She will make the 2004 John "I-was-for-the-war-before-I-was-against-it" Kerry look like a stirring exemplar of gracefully articulated principles.
The previous day (2/5/16), when asked at a CNN "Town Hall" meeting if there was still a "right wing conspiracy," she said: "Yes. It has gotten even better funded. You know, they brought in some new multi-billionaires to pump the money in. And, look, these guys play for keeps. They want to control our country. Senator Sanders and I agree on that completely. They want to rig the economy so they continue to get richer and richer, they could care less about income inequality. They salve their consciences by giving big money to philanthropy, and, you know, getting great pictures of them standing in front of whatever charity they donated to. But make no mistake, they want to destroy unions. They want to go after any economic interests that they don't believe they can control. They want to destroy our balance of power. They want to go after our political system and fill it with people who will do their bidding."
And Monday night ended with Ted Cruz and Sanders giving victory speeches, both of which attacked the establishment and major media:
To perhaps the biggest cheers of the night, Sanders said: "I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and by the way, to the media establishment."
Similarly, Cruz: "Iowa has sent notice that the Republican nominee for the next president of the United States will not be chosen by the media. Will not be chosen by the Washington establishment."
If the establishment gets their way, the two insurrections will demonize each other and peter out instead of finding ways to build up.
And the parting on the leftIs now the parting on the rightAnd the beards have all grown longer overnightAnd I’ll tip my hat to the new constitutionTake a bow for the new revolutionSmile and grin at the changes all around
I was nearly moved to tears this week hearing WTMD in Baltimore, which barely gets into Washington, D.C., play Richie Havens’ rendition of The Who's “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” It was a good week to hear that as Nature herself seemingly attempted to intercede and ground Washington, D.C. to a halt.
But officialdom knows no rest — and has built and used over and over the edifice of the two party system that virtually assures non-choice. That’s exactly the problem attempted to solve with VotePact.org — whereby populists from the left and right join together in voting.
The establishment onslaught was made clear in a number of recent events and statements, perhaps most vividly in a piece by the Washington Post in which Dana Milbank writes “I adore Bernie Sanders” while the point of the piece is “Democrats would be insane to nominate Bernie Sanders.”
I should clarify at the top, before showing how rotten this thinking is: I’ve been a critic of Sanders. I think his main problem is a lack of radicalness, especially on foreign policy.
But the logic that is being employed by Milbank and others is that as a “strategic” matter, one shouldn’t vote for Sanders because he won’t win in the general election. Milbank notes that the polls don’t bear that out, but argues that when the Republican propaganda machine gets through with Sanders he will be unelectable.
One of the main things that this ignores is that if indeed Sanders becomes unelectable, the culprit will not be simply Republicans, but the establishment media which has shifted from largely ignoring to largely deriding Sanders, including the Post itself. And Milbank does not take it upon himself to debunk the notion that Sanders will raise taxes to pay for healthcare and save millions of people a ton of money in the process by stopping their hemorrhaging of dollars to the health insurance giants, Milbank simply says that mythology will win out — so you’d have to be nuts to vote for Sanders. Resistance, even of the limited Sanders flavor, is futile.
But beyond that, what Milbank is explicitly arguing for is, at its heart, a renunciation of the slightest pretense of democratic process that has long been implicit in electoral thinking: The Democrats and Republicans must field the most establishment candidate so that they win in the general election. It’s the pundification of the populace.
A corollary to this line of thinking — which has, implicitly or explicitly, dominated political thinking in the U.S. — is that one should not vote for a third party candidate in the general election. Doing so is “throwing your vote away” and is “nonstrategic.”
So you, dear voter, are a fool by this establishment logic if you voice your views in the primaries and you’re a fool if you voice your preferences in the general election!
While such establishment logic may be very strategic for the status quo, it is not “strategic” at all from the voter’s point of view because the end result of this course of action is to further and further mute the power of the anti-establishment voter — which now seems to constitute a working majority of the public. The establishment of each party becomes stronger and stronger, even as it becomes less and less popular, and dissent from the establishment becomes weaker and weaker because it always has to cave in no matter how huge it gets.
Unfortunately, Noam Chomsky plays a part in this farce, since he granted an interview to Al Jazeera which apparently put out a rather skewed bit of his election analysis that some other mainstream and social media ate up — and did so several days before releasing the full video on Friday. As Ben Norton notes: “Essentially the only time Chomsky gets a mainstream platform in the media is when he is talking about partisan politics.”
When I emailed Chomsky about reports that — in the words of the seemingly ecstatic Politico headline: “Chomsky: I’d ‘absolutely’ vote for Hillary Clinton,” Chomsky stated “I never said I’d rather vote for Clinton” and indicated that he’d rather vote Green. Of course, Chomsky lives in Massachusetts, which is not a “swing state.”
But at one level, of course, Chomsky must know the media will use his statements as they do, which is to corral progressive Democratic voters to pull the lever for Clinton where Clinton needs it, part of the “sheepdogging” role Sanders plays as put forward by Bruce Dixon.
But even Sanders — flawed as he is — is in fight mode, yet Chomsky has allowed himself to broadcast the progressive terms of surrender already, which are virtually unconditional. While the media somewhat skew Chomsky’s words, the underlying capitulation is plain — though he did in my exchange with him tacitly accept the logic of VotePact.
Contrast this effective waving of a white flag with what billionaire Michael Bloomberg did this week. The New York Times reported on Jan. 23: “Bloomberg has instructed advisers to draw up plans for a potential independent campaign in this year’s presidential race. His advisers and associates said he was galled by Donald J. Trump’s dominance of the Republican field, and troubled by Hillary Clinton’s stumbles and the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the Democratic side.”
Thus, if the anti-establishment wings, limited as they are, on the Republican and Democratic side gain the nominations, the media mogul Bloomberg will attempt to unite the establishment.
Or at least threaten to. It’s quite possible that Bloomberg is just threatening this in order to scare primary voters into voting for Clinton.
In either case, what Bloomberg is actually doing the perverse inverse of what I have been advocating with VotePact.
The idea behind VotePact is that a populist, anti-establishment center can rise. It would draw support from both principled progressives and conscientious conservatives.
That is, VotePact is an electoral strategy — a voting manifestation of the overdue populist anger. The commonalities between the left and right are continually treated like aberrations, but they now compose a great many political issues, from anti war to anti Wall Street to anti corporate trade deals to anti surveillance. Certainly left and right use different language and reasoning to come to some of those conclusions and their affirmative solutions often vary, but they could, with hard work, come to sensible consensus if they engaged in honest dialogue without demonization and were somewhat freed of the perennial manipulation of the establishment.
As events show, the emergence of an anti-establishment center is more desperately needed than ever: There are massive rallies for Sanders. And for Trump. Much of the public wants an end to the Democratic and Republican establishment regime.
Many thoughtful people are itching for a debate between Sanders and Trump. I’d like a dialogue. They could talk about both things that they agree and disagree about. Indeed, real media would now be facilitating a dialogue between their supporters.
But the current electoral and media logic pushes away such a dialogue and pushes voters — and ultimately candidates — toward the establishment center.
It’s past time that structures give rise to anti-establishment center candidates that skillfully appeal to both the left and right.
Chomsky in my exchange with him did accept the notion of VotePact, especially its potential as an organizing tool — that is, it encourages those on the left to dialogue and cooperate with those on the right, who are also against the establishment — that is, fellow populists of various orientations. He regards the potential number of people who would embrace that approach as very small and I think he’s very wrong on that; especially if “notables” embrace the concept and that facilitates proliferation of the idea.
In either case, part of Chomsky’s line of argument is to unite against the “lunatics” of the Republican party, based largely on their denial of human-caused global warming. At one level, this ignores commonalities even on issues where the left and right disagree: Trump and Rand Paul might not believe in global warming, but they might oppose subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, which may do more to slow global warming than the actions someone of like Clinton, who claims to oppose global warming, but will almost certainly continue to back fossil fuel subsidies.
There’s other threatening lunacies coming from the establishment of both parties, as Robert Parry notes in his recent piece “A Crazy Establishment Demands ‘Sanity’” about the perpetual war stance of both Democrats and Republicans. Is the immediate threat of global warming really more than the threat of nuclear war from continuing wars and even provoking Russia?
And there’s a lunacy ultimately driving this: Saying you want the system to change when you signal from the onset that you will capitulate. Or that you should capitulate at all. The insanity of year after year having an alleged set of beliefs but then, using the vote, when people sacrificed and died to get this paltry tool, to in effect back establishment candidates you say you regard as criminal.
It’s past time to stop allowing election years to be when much organizing takes a rest and instead use the election — in part by fomenting a greater left-right alliance.
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day and just as surely as we need to remember the Nazi holocaust, we have to understand how it has been manipulated. Saddam is Hitler, Nasser is Hitler, etc. At times it's been manipulated to silence those who want peace and to demonize those opposed to Israel's crimes.
But that insight of course shouldn't blind us to the reality of the massive suffering brought on in the Nazi Holocaust toward the many victims of the Nazi regime, including socialists, gypsies, Slavs, gays, dissidents, "asocials" and of course Jews.
During the blizzard this weekend, I painted snow. I've been painting all kinds of natural and other intricate objects lately, and since it snowed, I painted snowflakes.
Perhaps my most moving moment during the storm was when it hit me that if I let snow land on cold metal instead of paper, as I'd been doing till then, and immediately sprayed it with cold paint, the individual snowflakes could be preserved. So I got a window screen I'd just recently purchased at Community Forklift, a local reuse nonprofit, and started spray painting the snowflakes as they fell in. Consciously or not, the can of paint I grabbed was yellow. The second I started spraying and saw the individual flakes, it hit me that I was making a Nazi Holocaust Memorial -- since of course the Nazis made Jews wear yellow Stars of David in the buildup to their plans of extermination and the most extensive of the snowflakes were six sided.
On the street outside my home with one hand I held up the screen as the snow fell. I tried to focus and gently gather and "save" each snowflake as I sprayed with the other hand and the snow began to taper off.
Some of the results are below, photographed with a phone camera barely up to the task. Unfortunately, I got to this idea late in the snowstorm, after quite a bit of experimentation throughout the weekend, so wasn't able to make it as extensive as I'd have liked. So I, perhaps nearly alone among adults in D.C., eagerly await the next snowstorm.
Yes, Trump plays a bully boy and is appealing to populist (good), nativist, xenophobic, racist sentiments (bad).
Those things need to be meaningfully addressed and engaged rather than dismissed by self-styled sophisticates, noses raised.
We've spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could've spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems; our airports and all of the other problems we've had, we would've been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now.