Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cornel West Talks Sanders, Trump and Black Lives Matter

Published on Portside (

Cornel West Talks Sanders, Trump and Black Lives Matter

Zeeshan Aleem

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Cornel West, one of America's most influential public intellectuals, has settled on his favorite candidate running for the White House: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

In a Facebook post Monday, West shared his thoughts on the 2016 presidential race, singling out Sanders and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump as the most electrifying candidates in the field. But he said that only one of them was bucking the establishment for the right reasons.

"Brother Bernie and Brother Trump are authentic human beings in stark contrast to their donor-driven opponents," he wrote. "Yet only Bernie has authenticity and integrity, whereas Trump is for real but not for right."

West described Sanders' focus on inequality as "prophetic," and said that his endorsement was based on the senator's record as "a long-distance runner with integrity in the struggle for justice for over 50 years." 

West's seal of approval is a significant development in light of Sanders' rocky relationship with racial justice advocates in recent months. His opinion holds a great deal of sway in the black community, and he's engaged in numerous high-profile acts of civil disobedience in response to police brutality. His backing should provide Sanders with credibility as he takes measures to shift his attention to issues of criminal justice reform.   

Mic spoke with West on the phone to ask more about his thoughts on the state of politics in America. He shared his views on what's unique and compelling about Sanders, Hillary Clinton's much-talked about exchange with Black Lives Matter activists, and the irony of Donald Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric. Along the way, he explained why he wishes that Black Lives Matter disruptions had begun much earlier in the Obama administration, which he has not been hesitant to criticize.

The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. We used Genius to add annotations for context, which you can find by clicking on the words highlighted in yellow.

Mic: How did you decide to endorse Bernie Sanders? How do you think of him vis-à-vis Hillary Clinton or Martin O'Malley or the other candidates on the Democratic side?

Cornel West: In a way, it was not too hard because we've got so many mediocre candidates, both in the milquetoast Democratic Party and the decrepit Republican Party.

Source: Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

It's just so clear. Hillary Clinton, she's been an exemplary neoliberal opportunist for a long time. Martin O'Malley strikes me as a kind of dyed-in-the-wool liberal. What we really need is a progressive to hit issues of Wall Street domination of the government. So in a sense it was very easy to endorse Brother Bernie. But we've got to always let him know that we keep the pressure on him.

Keep in mind, we're talking about a two-party system that is just so decrepit in so many ways. Radically inadequate. I was trying to talk about the interplay between the social movements, which is where I spend so much of my energy, and how it relates to electoral and political strategies.

In your endorsement, you said that Bernie Sanders is a "long-distance runner with integrity in the struggle for justice for over 50 years." Yet a lot of Black Lives Matter activists have seen his emphasis on economic equality as either overlooking or downplaying issues of racial injustice. What do you say to those activists who have reservations about him?

CW: It's very important to put pressure on all progressive politicians, no matter what color. But we should always acknowledge that the issue of not just economic injustice, but class injustice, is so fundamental in terms of wrestling with the vicious legacy of white supremacy. 

"I can't conceive of talking about struggling against white supremacy without talking about class."

Any time we have a politician who's bringing a serious critique to bear on Wall Street domination of the government, a serious critique to bear on the role that big banks and big corporations play in shaping the nation — that is an integral part of any struggle for black freedom.

Bernie Sanders speaks to fellow students at a 1962 sit-in.Source: Courtesy of Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

There's no doubt Bernie Sanders and other progressive politicians need to hit issues of police murder and police terror. They need to hit issues of white supremacy across the board. But it's very important never to downplay the critique of Wall Street domination or downplay the critique of capitalism as a whole. In that sense, indeed, Bernie Sanders is a prophetic politician in his critique of Wall Street, in his critique of class inequality and economic injustice.

There's been a lot of discussion about the tactics of Black Lives Matter, and how they're going about holding candidates responsible, by disrupting events by Sanders and others. I'm curious what you think about those kind of tactics in a broader, strategic sense.

CW: I have no problem with certain kinds of politics of disruption. I do think that you want to do it with integrity, which means that you want to do it in such a way that you're not either demonizing or trashing or dismissing. You're just bringing a challenge to bear. There's no problem about that.

Marissa Johnson, left, continues to speak while surrounded by media members as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., looks on at right before leaving the stage at a rally Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, in downtown Seattle.Source: Elaine Thompson/AP

I should say this: I wish that we had had a politics of disruption during the Obama administration too. Because it's not as if he's been on the cutting edge of dealing with issues like the legacy of white supremacy. He wouldn't even talk about race with any substance for almost six and a half years. When you get it, of course, it's very symbolic gesture, he goes to a deodorized prison, and only talks to a small number of nonviolent offenders.

It was just three and a half years ago that black leaders emerged out of the White House and [he] said, There's no such thing as a black agenda. That it's all about America. I'm president of all America. I'm not president of black America. There's nothing specific about black people I need to address. Black people are Americans like everybody else.

You had wholesale agreements among the traditional civil rights organizations. Sharpton, the Urban League, the NAACP. Just a few of us were saying, "This is ridiculous. This is pathetic. That there is a racial specificity here." And of course that's exactly what the young brothers and sisters say in the Black Lives Matter: There is a racial specificity that has to do with white supremacy that needs to be addressed.

Obama himself had been pushing this kind of abstract universalism that overlooked the distinctiveness of white supremacist treatment and abuse and of course police murder and police brutality and police terror is one example we could talk about. The privatization of schools, the entire gentrification of black communities. We could talk about the various attacks on black gays and lesbians and trans folk. So that there's a racial dimension that needs to be acted on.

I'm glad to see young activists in the Black Lives Matter movement acknowledging the racial specificity that was completely called into question by almost six years of the Obama administration.

There's nothing wrong with politics of disruption. You just want to make sure you have a moral consistency when you do this kind of thing.

FERGUSON, MO - OCTOBER 13: Author and activist Cornel West protests outside the Ferguson police station on October 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images

In that vein, Hillary Clinton recently met with a few Black Lives Matter activists at an event in New Hampshire. She made the point that she doesn't really believe in "changing hearts" to bring about change, and she's more interested in changing policy and laws. What do you think of her view of how social change works?

CW: I think that Brother Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report hit the nail on the head when he said that in that particular exchange, you had the young black activists who were talking very much about a change of heart — her heart. How has your heart changed, since the very ugly 1994 crime bill that you and your husband supported so vehemently?

But when you're engaged in that dialogue with a politician, you've got to lay out your demands. You can't just talk about heart. So she then ends up lecturing them, and I'm thinking, "Oh my God, she's the last person. By what authority is she going to sit there and lecture these black activists when she supported elimination of welfare in '96, or the crime bill in '94?" That was a strategic move by the young people that backfired on them.

I appreciate the audacity of the young folk, because I think the marvelous new militancy in the Black Lives Matter movement is a beautiful thing. And, as you know, it's in no way confined just to chocolate brothers and sisters. You've got a lot of vanilla brothers and sisters who are part of that movement. It's an awakening of the younger generation who are just tired of all of the lies and crimes overlooked by the powers that be.

In terms of specific policies they could have brought up, what do you think of the policies that you think are needed? Some Black Lives Matter activists recently released Campaign Zero, a list of demands...

CW: Yeah, [DeRay] McKesson and the others. I did, I did, and I welcome that kind of specific set of policy demands.

What really sits at the center of this has to do with poverty, labor, land. You've really got to talk about jobs with a living wage. That's what I like about Brother Bernie Sanders, when he talks about a Marshall Plan for cities — we have to have federal programs that generate jobs with a living wage. You've got to talk about full employment with jobs with a living wage.

Then you've got to talk about quality education. About the privatizing education that makes quality education available for a small few at the top. This notion of "rich kids get taught and poor kids get tested." We're talking about quality education across the board.

Then we're talking about land, having to do with gentrification. The dispersion of poor people and working people, especially poor working people of color. With this middle-class invasion into the cities. It's a land grab. It's a power grab that dissolves communities that too easily disperses people on just the market logic as opposed to democratic logic.

Cornel West and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, second from left, talk to students in a government class at John F. Kennedy High School Sacramento, Calif.,Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2006. Source: RICH PEDRONCELLI/AP

So the basic kinds of issues here have to do with just jobs with a living wage, quality education, decent housing. Trying to hold off this market-driven transformation of communities called gentrification. I'm just glad to see Brother Bernie is very much aware and speaking to some of these things, and I think he'll continue to speak with real power to these issues.

One divide we've seen in the conversation about Sanders is between those liberals who emphasize racial aspects of inequality, and those on the more traditional, socialist left, who tend to emphasize issues of class. But talking about race and class aren't mutually exclusive. How do you bridge that gap?

CW: We've been wrestling with this question for many, many, many decades. For me, the issue of class is so fundamental — having to do with resources and asymmetric relations of power at the workplace, bosses versus workers. Therefore I can't conceive of talking about struggling against white supremacy without talking about class.

But the question is, how do we come up with a language that allows a coalescing to take place, so that we don't end up with narrow talk about diversity and inclusion within a neoliberal framework? That is basically what the Democratic Party is all about. It's about diversity and inclusion within a neoliberal framework.

That's got to be radically called into question. You can call it into question in the name of fighting against white supremacy. Wonderful. You can call it into question in the name of fighting against economic injustice and class inequality. That's wonderful.

But when it comes to movements, we've got to interweave the struggle against white supremacy with the struggle against economic injustice, with the struggle against homophobia, with the struggle against patriarchy, and any form of xenophobia. Anti-Jewish hatred, anti-Palestinian hatred, anti-Arab hatred, anti-Muslim hatred. How do we talk about all of those simultaneously?

Twenty-five years ago, people talked about it in terms of fighting for radical democracy. Once you have the empowerment of everyday people across the board, then you're able to wed what people traditionally call "identity politics" with what people call "class-centered politics" because the two are so inseparable that you can't talk about one without the other. I think there's something to be said for that position.

Speaking of xenophobia, one last question. What do you think is fueling Donald Trump's rise? Why do you think he's doing so well and seems not to be going anywhere anytime soon?

CW: I do think that Brother Bernie and Brother Trump share one thing in common: They speak to the anti-establishment impulse among those who are looking for some candidates who are for real, as opposed to the superficial, donor-driven politicians that usually are dominant in any election cycle.

Source: Charlie Neibergall/AP

I think the problem, as you can imagine, is, with Donald Trump, you've got somebody who is xenophobic shot through with a nativistic hostility toward immigrants. I mean, these attacks on our precious Mexican brothers and sister are just pathetic. Nobody really wants to talk about his blessed mother, Mary Anne with an "e" who was born in Scotland, or his grandfather Friedrich Drumpf — D-R-U-M-P-F. Trump is an Anglicized name from "Drumpf," but his grandfather arrived in 1885 from Germany, and if the nativistic voices had been in place when his grandfather or when his mother arrived, they never would've got here.

I come from a people who have been here for 400 years. Black people built America in so many ways, along with white immigrants. But especially the slaves' free labor built America. It's just amazing to me that somebody like Trump — who just got here — becomes, in his mind, the definitive definer of who ought to get here.

The same is true in terms of his complicity with plutocratic corruption. He says, I have been a donor, I have been a participant in this corrupt system for 30 years. But all of a sudden now he's going to make America great again?

No. Plutocratic corruption of government is unpatriotic. I don't know how you're going to be so much in love with America but you're participating in plutocratic corruption of the system and then you wake up now 30 years later and say, "Lo and behold, I'm going to be the savior of overcoming the corruption." No, that lacks integrity.

He has authenticity, but he doesn't have integrity. Bernie Sanders has authenticity, but he's also got integrity. Integrity, of course, doesn't mean that you agree with everything that a politician does. But it's just so rare that you get authenticity and integrity. With Trump, you get authenticity with no integrity.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Can you sign the letter to Rep. Paul Ryan?/Can you join us in D.C. om September 22?

Dear Friends,

The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) is organizing an action in D.C. on September 22 as part of the week of actions of Campaign Nonviolence.  The action is "Sowing the Seeds of Hope: From Congress to the White House".

We will be visiting the office of Paul Ryan as one of the members of Congress who is doing so much to hurt the people of this country and of the world.  Then we will go to the White House where we will deliver a similar letter to President Obama and engage in an act of nonviolent civil resistance.

We will be mailing the following letter to Paul Ryan's office and then delivering it in person on September 22. Please let me know if you want to sign onto the letter at  Many of you have already signed onto a similar letter to Obama, but if you haven't and still want to sign onto that letter contact 

And please join us in D.C. on September 22.  We will begin the day in the cafeteria of the Longworth House Office Building at 9 AM and eventually go to Paul Ryan's office by 10 AM.  After some dialogue at the representative’s office, we will reconvene at the Edward R. Murrow park at noon for some very good speakers and then process to the White House where there will be an action of nonviolent civil resistance.  Please let me, Malachy, or Max know if you are able to risk arrest.

Peace, Joy


325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218

Representative Raul Ryan

1233 Longworth House Office Building,

Washington, D.C. 20515

September 12, 2015

 Dear Rep. Ryan,

As representatives of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR), we are writing to request a meeting with you or a senior member of your staff.  At this meeting, we would express our concerns about our government’s continuing wars and military incursions around the world and how this impacts global poverty and the threat to our planet's climate and habitat.  The suggested date for a meeting would be September 22. We realize that you are on the opposite ideological spectrum from us.  For example, we believe in gun control, the necessity of raising taxes on the wealthy, citizenship for the undocumented and marriage equality.  Though we have major differences with your political perspective, we still hope that we can engage in dialogue.  We are in a crisis situation in this country and in the world, as the pope has written.

Therefore, NCNR has issued a call to action: “We call upon people of good will to come to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 to actively participate in a witness of nonviolent civil resistance calling on Congress and the White House to take meaningful action as we confront the climate crisis, the unending wars, the root causes of poverty, and the structural violence of the military-security state.” While the president has recently taken laudable steps to avoid war with Iran and reduce carbon emissions, significant action is still needed to end fracking, to stop the XL Keystone Pipeline, to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels by banning offshore drilling for oil including in the Arctic, and to address the planet's looming climate catastrophe.

Unfortunately, except on occasion, instead of using the State Department, our government instead orders the Pentagon to deal with conflict.  Such behavior in concert with our allies greatly contributes to a violent and destabilized world. The U.S. use of armed drones by the military and the Central Intelligence Agency has inflicted enormous human suffering, is unconstitutional, and is only creating more “terrorists.” Congress should cease its hostile rhetoric and sanctions against North Korea, Russia, and Iran. Furthermore, the US should seek a diplomatic solution to the civil war in Syria, disband NATO, and end the increasing military presence in Southeast Asia, commonly referred to as the "Asian Pivot," which threatens China. Furthermore, Congress must end all military aid to Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the other countries in the Middle East. A new approach must be taken to free the Palestinians from over half a century of violent Israeli oppression. Diplomacy is the only answer to stop the cycle of violence. Violence and war are not the answers to conflict, as invariably noncombatants suffer the most. Diplomatic efforts to end the sanctions and hostile relations with Cuba are a good example of the positive path that can be taken and should be followed with other countries labeled as our enemies.

 Nuclear weapons can never be used, and the plans to use a trillion tax dollars to "upgrade" the nuclear arsenal is madness. A recent study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent think tank that works closely with the Pentagon, reports that the actual costs for updating the nuclear triad — the intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and aircraft capable of delivering nuclear warheads will cost $1 trillion dollars. This is beyond senselessly wasteful!  It is immoral and actually illegal under international law to possess such weapons capable of global annihilation thousands of times greater than the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These tax dollars must be re-allocated towards reviving our sagging infrastructure and supporting social services desperately needed by the poor. 

  Almost half the people on this planet live off less than $2.50 a day and around 22,000 children die every day due to poverty according to UNICEF.  However, the U.S. has continued to expend half of the federal discretionary budget on warmongering.  Besides wasting tax dollars, untold number of lives have been lost or injured, millions of refugees live unsettled lives and ecocide is being committed on Mother Earth.  "Six years after the onset of the financial and economic crisis, hunger remains high in the United States. The financial and economic crisis that erupted in 2008 caused a significant increase in hunger in the United States," according to the World Hunger Education Service. As you know, the banks were bailed out, but the people  were left to suffer the consequences. In addition,  the World Hunger Education Service states that in the US "In 2013, there were 45.3 million people in poverty. This is up from 37.3 million in 2007. The number of poor people is near the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty statistics have been published."

  According to the National Center for Children in Poverty "More than 16 million children in the United States – 22% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level – $23,550 a year for a family of four. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 45% of children live in low-income families." Congress is seeking more than half a trillion dollars for the Pentagon 2015 budget.  Instead, the Pentagon budget must be radically reduced with the savings going towards programs to lift people out of poverty.

 We look forward to a meeting in order to discuss the issues raised in this letter.  We have detailed specific solutions which include severe cuts to the military budget, ways to alleviate income inequality and how to deal with climate chaos.  Of course, we vehemently reject the Ryan budget which takes from the poor and gives to the rich.  And your proposed budget calls for more military spending. We believe Pope Francis will address the U.S. Congress. As you know the pope has been a leader calling for serious steps to be taken to address the climate crisis. In addition, Francis has called into question our economic system and the resultant income inequality and the wars which have a direct impact on the poor and on our planet. We hope you will listen to him and follow his call for a nonviolent way of addressing conflicts.

 We have requested a meeting on September 22, as during that time Campaign Nonviolence is calling for a week of actions around the U.S. in which the issues of the climate crisis, poverty, and war are addressed. We, members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, are heeding the call on behalf of Campaign Nonviolence.   We look forward to your response to our request, and hope that there will be an opportunity for dialogue. As the majority leader of the House Ways and Means Committee, you must take bold action to confront climate chaos, inequality and militarism.  And we are prepared to work with you on these crucial matters.


Joy First

Malachy Kilbride

Max Obuszewski

National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Can you help greet Sen, Ben Cardin on September 1?/Declaring 'Power In Numbers', People Rally Nationwide for Peace with Iran

   President Ron Daniels is inviting 30 Johns Hopkins University students to a discussion with Senator Ben Cardin on the proposed Iran nuclear agreement. Sen. Cardin has requested an open conversation with Hopkins students. Cardin is the Ranking Minority Member on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Said Cardin, “Our young people have the most at stake when we consider questions of long-term global stability, so the opportunity to test my thinking on the proposed agreement with students will be an integral part of my decision-making process. Maryland’s universities draw some of the sharpest minds in the world, and I look forward to learning more about their views on the world.”

  Can you join the Pledge of Resistance at 9:15 AM outside Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles Street, on Tues., Sept. 1?  Then at 9:30 AM, we will march over to Hodson Hall on JHU’s Homewood campus.  It is hoped that we can engage in dialogue with Sen. Cardin before he enters the building for the meeting with 30 students. Should we be moved off campus, we will vigil at 33rd & N. Charles Street calling for Congressional support of the Iran deal.  RSVP to Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at Verizon dot net.

Also note that office visits will occur again on September 10.  Let us keep the pressure on the legislators.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Declaring 'Power In Numbers', People Rally Nationwide for Peace with Iran

200 demonstrations sweep country in national day of action to support nuclear deal and say no to war

Demonstrators call on Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) to support the Iran deal at a town hall meeting in Denver, Colorado August 4, 2015. (Photo courtesy of MoveOn)

People across the United States are taking to the streets, rallying at their local representatives' offices, and submitting open letters on Wednesday calling on Congress to choose a path to peace, not war, by saying yes to the nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.

The national day of action was organized by a coalition that includes MoveOn, National Iranian American Council (NIAC), WinWithoutWar, and United for Peace and Justice, with over 200 actions from coast to coast. Brian Stewart, media relations director for MoveOn, told Common Dreams that tens of thousands of people nationwide also signed petitions, slated for delivery to lawmakers on Wednesday.

The coordinated mobilizations come as Congress nears the end of the August recess, after which lawmakers will vote on the pact—potentially as soon as September 9. As per recently-passed legislation, the U.S. House and Senate were given a total of 60 days to review the final deal.

If lawmakers were to vote against the deal, and amass the votes to override a presidential veto, Obama's hands would be tied on sanctions relief and the deal would sink. However, European Union nations are already showing more enthusiasm to engage, in what some say is a sign of the growing isolation of anti-diplomacy forces, from the United States to Israel.

Elham Khatami, national outreach director for NIAC, told Common Dreams that Wednesday's nationwide actions are the culmination of a month of mobilizing: "All of our organizations have been working through August to raise support, holding meetings and attending town halls. We've come together as a group of peace organizations today to try and make a really strong showing outside of congressional offices, because there's power in numbers."

Updates and commentary on the actions, still ongoing at the time of publication, are being posted to

#nowarwithiran Tweets

    The coordinated mobilizations are aimed at countering a well-funded campaign against the agreement. They come on the heels of numerous rallies and messages organized from within Iran, and the global diaspora, urging Congress to embrace the agreement—and cultivate peace with Iran.

  Dozens of Iranian civil society leaders and dissidents launched a social media campaign this week backing the deal, including those who have faced direct repression from the Iranian government, arguing that it will ease devastating sanctions and military escalation, and ultimately open up more space for social movements.

     "Those who have paid the highest price for the cause of democracy and human rights in Iran support the nuclear deal, not despite their pro-democracy and human rights activism, but precisely because of it," said Mohamadreza Jalaeipour, a former political prisoner, of the project.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

19 Disgraced Iraq War Architects Who Are Desparately Trying to Undo Obama's Iran Dael

Published on Alternet (

10 Disgraced Iraq War Architects Who Are Desperately Trying to Undo Obama's Iran Deal

By Zaid Jilani [1] / AlterNet [2]

August 26, 2015

There is a fierce battle going on in Washington, with progressive and pro-diplomacy organizations facing off against pro-Israel organizations to prevent a veto-proof vote to kill President Obama's deal with Iran.

These anti-deal organizations are joined by a number of hawkish figures whose last great foreign policy foray was America's last diplomatic catastrophe: the Iraq war. Here are 10 Iraq war supporters now trying to kill our best chance for a just peace with Iran:

  1. George W. Bush: The president who invaded Iraq has apparently learned nothing from the experience, arguing in April  [3]that Obama negotiating with Iran was “naive.”
  2. Bill Kristol: Kristol, a long-time GOP apparatchik who today is a board member [4] of the anti-deal Emergency Committee for Israel, was one of the biggest proponents [5] of the Iraq war. “We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators,” he said in March 2003. From his perch at The Weekly Standard, Kristol has asked [6] lawmakers to “kill the deal.”
  3. David Frum: Frum was a Bush administration speechwriter who coined the term [7] “Axis of Evil” to describe the governments of Iraq, Iran and North Korea, in order to justify the war push. Today, Frum not only opposes the Iran deal but has suggested [8] that Obama is engaged in antisemitic rhetoric for calling out lobbyists who are trying to sink the agreement.
  4. Lindsey Graham: Graham said [9] war with Iraq was the “only reasonable option”; today he says the deal is like throwing a “can of gasoline [10]” on a fire.
  5. John McCain: Graham's fellow senator McCain said Iraq [11] was “the right war for the right reasons” as he offered full-throated backing to the adventure. McCain mocks Obama's diplomatic effort, saying the Iran agreement is an attempt by the Obama administration to seek “nirvana [12]."
  6. Dick Cheney: Cheney, who represents the warmongering arm of the warmongering Republican Party, was a mastermind of the Iraq war. He has claimed [13] the deal would put us closer to nuclear war than at any time since World War II, and plans to give an address against the agreement next month.
  7. Joe Lieberman: The former Democratic vice presidential candidate who turned [14] against his own party over the Iraq war has stepped up to lead [15] so-called United Against Nuclear Iran, after the last chairman of the group stepped down because he decided to support the deal.
  8. Benjamin Netanyahu: The Prime Minister of Israel was outside the government in 2002, but he was still called to testify, telling lawmakers he had no doubts [16] about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. He is now claiming diplomacy with Iran threatens the entire world [17].
  9. Eli Lake: Lake was a reporter for UPI, arguing [18] about the threat of fantasy Iraqi WMD. Today, Lake is a one-man propaganda operation at Bloomberg View, claiming that Obama is practicing the “politics of fear [19]” in order to achieve peace, rather than the war Lake supported.
  10. AIPAC: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the main pro-Israel lobbying group, lobbied on behalf [20] of the Iraq war. Today, it is engaged in a no-holds-barred fight to kill the Iran deal, with the donors it has arrayed into an outside group pledging to spend as much as $40 million [21].

  11. The irony of all this is that the Iraq war set up [22] the diplomatic arrangements we are finalizing today. The war in Iraq expanded Iranian influence, and the West's negotiations with Iran are partly a result of a nuclear program that was ramped up in the wake of U.S. wars with Iran's neighbors. There is also added pressure to deal with Iran on the mutual interest of containing ISIS, which would likely never have emerged but for the Iraq war. The nuclear deal is simply an attempt to clean up the mess made by the Iraq war architects themselves.

  12. Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani [23] on Twitter.

  13.         [25]

  14. Links:
    [24] on 10 Disgraced Iraq War Architects Who Are Desperately Trying to Undo Obama's Iran Deal

  15. Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

  16. "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Bankers Are Buying Baltimore's Debt, Charging Families Crazy interest Raates, Then Taking Their Homes

Ollstein writes: "The death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Baltimore and the ensuing protests brought the nation's attention to the economic devastation that continues to grip the city. Now, new data shows powerful hedge funds are profiting off of struggling families in Baltimore by buying up debts as small as $250, charging high interest rates, and taking their homes when they fail to pay."

Baltimore police car at crime scene. (photo: Patrick Semansky/AP)
Baltimore police car at crime scene. (photo: Patrick Semansky/AP)

Bankers Are Buying Baltimore's Debt, Charging Families Crazy Interest Rates, Then Taking Their Homes

tBy Alice Ollstein, ThinkProgress

29 August 15

The death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Baltimore and the ensuing protests brought the nation’s attention to the economic devastation that continues to grip the city. Now, new data shows powerful hedge funds are profiting off of struggling families in Baltimore by buying up debts as small as $250, charging high interest rates, and taking their homes when they fail to pay. A report just released by the research and advocacy group HedgeClippers documents how the Wall Street hedge fund Fortress Investment Group and the Los Angeles-based Imperial Capital bought up hundreds of these small liens this year — on everything from an unpaid water bills to delinquent property taxes — and could take property worth tens of millions of dollars if the families can’t pay.

Once the hedge funds buy up these small debts, they reap an 18 percent interest, according to the Baltimore-based research group The Abell Foundation. More fees pile up after four months, and if the families can’t pay, they lose their homes. An analysis of those impacted in 2014 found the families had been living in their homes an average of 21 years. Half were elderly, more than a third were disabled, and the majority were African American.

State Delegate Cory McCray, a Democrat who grew up in and represents Baltimore, told ThinkProgress he has gotten a handful of phone calls this year from constituents on the cusp of losing their home over an unpaid water bill.

“The city needs a way to recoup its money, but they shouldn’t take someone’s home for that small amount,” he said. “Your house is your wealth that you pass on to the next generation. We have to protect that.”

 McCray and other lawmakers recently passed a bill to raise the amount that would trigger a lien from $250 to $500, which he emphasized is still an unfairly low amount over which to lose a home that could be worth hundreds of thousands. He added that when at-risk families reach out to the city, they can find an affordable payment plan “99 percent of the time” and a foreclosure only happens “under dire circumstances.” But the city continues to have one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, and the impact has been most severe in communities of color. Baltimore now has the ironic problem of both a growing homeless population and a growing stock of vacant and often dilapidated homes.

   The Abell Foundation recommends raising the threshold to $1,000, noting that neighboring D.C. waits until residents owe at least $2,500. They also emphasize that the vast majority of the money extracted from residents by these hard policies go to the hedge funds and other investors, not the city.

The hedge funds reaping these profits in Baltimore are also major donors in national elections.

Imperial Capital’s directors have lavished money on Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates in past races. This year, Several employees of the Fortress Investment Group gave the maximum legal amount to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and its director Michael Novogratz has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into backing Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and other Democrats in congressional races over the past few years.

  Clinton, a beneficiary of the hedge fund’s generosity, recently said in a speech about Baltimore’s woes: “Let’s take on the broader inequities in our society. You can’t separate out the unrest we see in the streets from the cycles of poverty and despair that hollow out those neighborhoods.” Thinking back to the beginning of her career as a lawyer at the Children’s Defense Fund, she added, “Our legal system can be and all too often is stacked against those who have the least power, who are the most vulnerable.”

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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs