Saturday, August 27, 2016

Vets Lose When Big Pharma and Defense [sic] Corporations Rake in the Big War Bucks

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

Vets Lose When Big Pharma and Defense [sic] Corporations Rake in the Big War Bucks

By Ann Jones [1] / TomDispatch [2]

August 25, 2016

  A friend of mine, a Vietnam vet, told me about a veteran of the Iraq War who, when some civilian said, “Thank you for your service,” replied: “I didn’t serve, I was used.” That got me thinking about the many ways today’s veterans are used, conned, and exploited by big gamers right here at home.

  Near the end of his invaluable book cataloguing the long, slow disaster of America’s War for the Greater Middle East [3], historian Andrew Bacevich writes:

   “Some individuals and institutions actually benefit from an armed conflict that drags on and on. Those benefits are immediate and tangible. They come in the form of profits, jobs, and campaign contributions. For the military-industrial complex and its beneficiaries, perpetual war is not necessarily bad news.”

   Bacevich is certainly right about war profiteers, but I believe we haven’t yet fully wrapped our minds around what that truly means. This is what we have yet to take in: today, the U.S. is the most unequal [4] country in the developed world, and the wealth of the plutocrats on top is now so great that, when they invest it in politics, it’s likely that no elected government can stop them or the lucrative wars and “free markets” they exploit.

  Among the prime movers in our corporatized politics are undoubtedly the two billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, and their cozy network of secret donors. It’s hard to grasp how rich they really are: they rank [5] fifth (David) and sixth (Charles) onBusiness Insider’slist of the 50 richest people in the world, but if you pool their wealth they become by far the single richest “individual” on the planet. And they have pals. For decades now they’ve hosted top-secret gatherings [6] of their richest collaborators that sometimes also feature [7] dignitaries like Clarence Thomas or the late Antonin Scalia, two of the Supreme Court Justices who gave them the Citizens United decision, suffocating American democracy in plutocratic dollars. That select donor group had reportedly planned to spend at least $889 million on this year’s elections and related political projects, but recent reports [8] note a scaling back and redirection of resources.

    While the contest between Trump and Clinton fills the media, the big money is evidently going to be aimed at selected states and municipalities to aid right-wing governors, Senate candidates, congressional representatives, and in some cities, ominously enough, school board candidates [9]. The Koch brothers need not openly support [10] the embarrassing Trump [11], for they’ve already proved that, by controlling Congress, they can significantly control [12] the president, as they have already done in the Obama era.

   Yet for all their influence, the Koch name means nothing, pollsters report [13], to more than half of the U.S. population. In fact, the brothers Koch largely stayed under the radar until recent years when their roles as polluters, campaigners against the environment, and funders of a new politics came into view. Thanks to Robert Greenwald’s film Koch Brothers Exposed [14] and Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right [15], we now know a lot more about them, but not enough.

  They’ve always been ready to profit off America’s wars. Despite their extreme neo-libertarian goal of demonizing and demolishing government, they reportedly didn’t hesitate [16] to pocket about $170 million as contractors for George W. Bush’s wars. They sold fuel (oil istheir principal business) to the Defense Department, and after they bought Georgia Pacific, maker of paper products, they supplied that military essential: toilet paper [17].

   But that was small potatoes compared to what happened when soldiers came home from the wars and fell victim to the profiteering of corporate America. Dig in to the scams exploiting veterans, and once again you’ll run into the Koch brothers.

Pain Relief: With Thanks from Big Pharma

   It’s no secret that the VA wasn’t ready for the endless, explosive post-9/11 wars. Its hospitals were already full of old vets from earlier wars when suddenly there arrived young men and women with wounds, both physical and mental, the doctors had never seen before. The VA enlarged its hospitals, recruited new staff, and tried to catch up, but it’s been running behind ever since.

  It’s no wonder veterans’ organizations keep after it (as well they should), demanding more funding and better service. But they have to be careful what they focus on. If they leave it at that and overlook what’s really going on—often in plain sight, however disguised in patriotic verbiage—they can wind up being marched down a road they didn’t choose that leads to a place they don’t want to be.

   Even before the post-9/11 vets came home, a phalanx of drug-making corporations led by Purdue Pharma [18] had already gone to work on the VA. These Big Pharma corporations (many of which buy equipment [19] from Koch Membrane Systems) had developed new pain medications—opioid narcotics like [20] OxyContin (Purdue), Vicodin, Percocet, Opana (Endo Pharmaceuticals), Duragesic, and Nucynta (Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson)—and they spotted a prospective marketplace. Early in 2001, Purdue developed a plan to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars targeting [21] the VA. By the end of that year, this country was at war, and Big Pharma was looking at a gold mine.

    They recruited doctors, set them up in private “Pain Foundations [22],” and paid them handsomely to give lectures and interviews, write studies and textbooks, teach classes in medical schools, and testify before Congress on the importance of providing our veterans with powerful painkillers. In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration considered restricting the use of opioids, fearing they might be addictive. They were talked out of it by experts likeDr. Rollin Gallagher [21] of the American Academy of Pain Medicine and board member of the American Pain Foundation, both largely fundedby the drug companies. He spoke against restricting OxyContin.

   By 2008, congressional legislation had been written—the Veterans’ Mental Health and Other Care Improvement Act [23]—directing the VA to develop a plan to evaluate all patients for pain. When the VA objected to Congress dictating its medical procedures, Big Pharma launched [21] a “Freedom from Pain” media blitz, enlisting veterans’ organizations to campaign for the bill and get it passed.

   Those painkillers were also dispatched to the war zones where our troops were physically breaking down under the weight [24] of the equipment they carried. By 2010, a third of the Army’s soldiers were on prescription medications [25]—and nearly half of them, 76,500, were on prescription opioids—which proved to be highly addictive, despite the assurance of experts like Rollin Gallagher. In 2007, for instance, “The American Veterans and Service Members Survival Guide,” distributed by the American Pain Foundation and edited by Gallagher, offered [21] this assurance: “[W]hen used for medical purposes and under the guidance of a skilled health-care provider, the risk of addiction from opioid pain medication is very low.”

   By that time, here at home, soldiers and vets were dying at astonishing rates [26] from accidental or deliberate overdoses. Civilian doctors as well had been persuaded to overprescribe these drugs, so that by 2011 the CDC announced [27] a national epidemic, affecting more than 12 million Americans. In May 2012, the Senate Finance Committee finally initiated an investigation [22] into the perhaps “improper relation” between Big Pharma and the pain foundations. That investigation is still “ongoing,” which means that no information about it can yet be revealed to the public.

   Meanwhile, opioid addicts, both veterans and civilians, were discovering that heroin was a cheaper [28] and no less effective way to go. Because heroin is often cut with Fentanyl, a more powerful opioid, however, drug deaths rose dramatically [29].

  This epidemic of death is in the news almost every day now as hard-hit cities and states sue [30] the drug makers, but rarely is it traced to its launching pad: the Big Pharma conspiracy to make big bucks off our country’s wounded soldiers.
It took the VA far too long to extricate itself from medical policies marketed by Big Pharma and, in effect, prescribed by Congress. It had made the mistake of turning to the Pharma-funded pain foundations in 2004 to select [31] its Deputy National Program Director of Pain Management: the ubiquitous Dr. Gallagher [32]

   But when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency finally laid down new restrictive rules [33] on opioids in 2014, the VA had to comply. That’s been hard on the thousands of opioid-dependent vets [34]it had unwittingly hooked, and it’s becoming harder as Republicans in Congress move to privatize the VA and send vets out with vouchers to find their own health care.

Cute Cards Courtesy of the Koch Brothers

   To force the VA to use its drugs, Big Pharma set up dummy foundations and turned toexisting veterans’ organizations for support. These days, however, the Big Money people have found a more efficient way to make their weight felt. Now, when they need the political clout of a veterans’ organization, they help finance one of their own.

   Consider Concerned Veterans for America [35] (CVA). The group’s stated mission: “to preserve the freedom and prosperity we and our families fought and sacrificed to defend.” What patriotic American wouldn’t want to get behind that?
The problem that concerns the group right now is the “divide” between civilians and soldiers, which exists, its leaders claim, because responsibility for veterans has been “pushed to the highest levels of government.” That has left veterans isolated from their own communities, which should be taking care of them.

    Concerned Veterans for America proposes (though not quite in so many words) to close that gap by sacking the VA and giving vets the “freedom” to find their own health care. The 102-page proposal [36] of CVA’s Task Force on “Fixing Veterans’ Health Care” would let VA hospitals treat veterans with “service-connected health needs”—let them, that is, sweat the hard stuff—while transforming most VA Health Care facilities into an “independent, non-profit corporation” to be “preserved,” if possible, in competition “with private providers.”

   All other vets would have the “option to seek private health coverage,” using funds the VA might have spent on their care, had they chosen it. (How that would be calculated remains one of many mysteries.) 

   The venerable [37] VA operates [38] America's largest health care system, with 168 VA Medical Centers and 1,053 outpatient clinics, providing care to more than 8.9 million vets each year. Yet under this plan that lame, undernourished but extraordinary and, in a great many ways, remarkably successful version of single-payer lifelong socialized medicine for vets would be a goner, perhaps surviving only in bifurcated form: as an intensive care unit and an insurance office dispensing funds to free and choosy vets.

   Such plans should have marked Concerned Veterans for America as a Koch brothers’ creation even before its front man gave the game away [39] and lost his job. Like those pain foundation doctors who became self-anointed opioid experts, veteran Pete Hegseth had made himself an expert on veterans’ affairs, running Concerned Veterans for America and doubling as a talking head [40] on Fox News. The secretive veterans’ organization now carries on without him, still working to capture—or perhaps buy—the hearts and minds of Congress.

   And here’s the scary part: they may succeed. Remember that every U.S. administration, from the Continental Congress on, has regarded the care of veterans as a sacred trust of government. The notion of privatizing veterans’ care—by giving each veteran a voucher [41], like some underprivileged schoolboy—was first suggested only eight years ago by Arizona Senator John McCain, America’s most famous veteran-cum-politician. Most veterans’ organizations opposed the idea, citing McCain’s long record [42] of voting against funding the VA. 
  
   Four years ago, Mitt Romney touted the same idea and got the same response.
That’s about the time that the Koch brothers, and their donor network, changed their strategy. They had invested an estimated$400 million [43] in the 2012 elections and lost the presidency (though not Congress). So they turned their attention to the states and localities. Somewhere along the way, they quietly promoted Concerned Veterans for America and who knows what other similar organizations and think tanks to peddle their cutthroat capitalist ideology and enshrine it in the law of the land.

    Then, in 2014, President Obama signed into law [44] the Veterans’ Access to Care Through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act. That bill singled out certain veterans who lived at least 40 miles from a VA hospital or had to wait 30 days for an appointment and gave them a “choice card,” entitling them to see a private doctor of their own choosing. Though John McCain had originally designed the bill, it was by then a bipartisan effort, officially introduced [45] by the Democratic senator who chaired the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs: Bernie Sanders.

   Sanders said that, while it was not the bill he would have written, he thought it was a step toward cutting wait times. With his sponsorship, the bill passed by a 93-3 vote. And so an idea unthinkable only two years earlier—the partial privatization of veteran’s health care—became law.

   How could that have happened? At the VA, there was certainly need for improvement. Its health care system had been consistently underfunded and wait times for appointments were notoriously long [46]. Then, early in 2014, personnel at the Phoenix VA in McCain’s home state of Arizona were caught [47] falsifying records to hide the wait-time problem. When that scandal hit the news [48], Concerned Veterans for America was quick to exploit [49] the situation and lead a mass protest. Three weeks later, as heads rolled at the VA, Senator McCain called [48] a town hall meeting to announce his new bill, with its “hallmark Choice Card.” His website notes that it “received praise... from veterans’ advocacy organizations such as Concerned Veterans for America.”

   That bill also called for a “commission on care” to explore the possibilities of “transforming” veterans’ health care. Most vets still haven’t heard of this commission and its charge to change their lives, but many of those who did learn of it were worried by the terminology. After all, many vets already had a choice through Medicare or private insurance, and most chose the vet-centered treatment of the VA. They complained only that it took too long to get an appointment. They wanted more VA care, not less—and they wanted it faster.

   In any case, those choice cards already handed out have reportedly [50] only slowed down the process of getting treatment, while the freedom to search for a private doctor has turned out [51] to be anything but popular. Nevertheless, the commission on care [52]—15 people chosen by President Obama and the leaders of the House and Senate—worked for 10 months to produce a laundry list of “fixes” for the VA and one controversial recommendation. They called for the VA “across the United States” to establish “high-performing, integrated community health care networks, to be known as the VHA Care System.”

   In other words, instead of funding added staff and speeded-up service, the commission recommended the creation of an entirely new, more expensive, and untried system. Then there was the fine print: as in the plan of Concerned Veterans of America, there would be tightened qualifications, out-of-pocket costs, and exclusions. In other words, the commission was proposing a fragmented, complicated, and iffy system, funded in part on the backs of veterans, and “transformative” in ways ominously different from anything vets had been promised in the past.

  Commissioner Michael Blecker, executive director of the San Francisco-based veterans’ service organization Swords to Plowshares, refused [53] to sign off on the report. Although he approved of the VA fixes, he saw in that recommendation for “community networks” the privatizer's big boot in the door. Yet while Blecker thought the recommendation would serve the private sector and not the vet, another non-signer took the opposite view. Darin Selnick, senior veterans' affairs advisor for Concerned Veterans for America and executive director of CVA's Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce, complained [54] that the commission had focused too much on “fixing the existing VA” rather than “boldly transforming” veterans’ health care into a menu of “multiple private-sector choice options.” The lines were clearly drawn.

  Then, last April, Senator McCain made an end run around the commission, a dash that could only thrill the leaders of Concerned Veterans for America and their backers. Noting that his choice card legislation was due to expire, McCain, together with seven other Republican senators (including Ted Cruz), introduced new legislation: the Care Veterans Deserve Act of 2016 [55]. It’s a bill designed to “enhance choice and flexibility in veterans’ health care” by making the problematic choicecard“permanently and universally” available to all disabled and other unspecified veterans. You can see where the notion came from and where it’s going. By May 2016, when Fox News featured [56] a joint statement by Senator McCain and Pete Hegseth, late of Concerned Veterans for America, trumpeting the VA Choice Card Program as “the most significant VA reform in decades,” you could also see where this might end.

  As real veterans’ organizations wise up to what’s going on, they will undoubtedly stand against the false “freedom” of a Koch brothers-style “transformation” of the VA system. The rest of us should stand with them. The plutocrats who corrupted veterans’ health care and now want to shut it down, and the plutocrats who profit from this country’s endless wars are one and the same. And they have bigger plans for us all.

   Ann Jones, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of Kabul in Winter, among other books, and most recently They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story [57], a Dispatch Books project (Haymarket, 2013).

        [59]


Links:

[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/ann-jones-1
[2] http://www.tomdispatch.com/
[3] https://www.amazon.com/dp/0553393936/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20
[4] http://inequality.org/unequal/
[5] http://www.businessinsider.com/50-richest-people-on-earth-2016-1/#49-tie-aliko-dangote-1
[6] https://www.thenation.com/article/exclusive-behind-koch-brothers-secret-billionaire-summit/
[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/20/us/politics/20koch.html
[8] http://www.nationalreview.com/article/435418/koch-brothers-campaign-activity-slows
[9] https://meamatters.com/2015/12/04/will-the-koch-brothers-target-your-school-board-next/
[10] http://prospect.org/article/make-no-mistake-koch-brothers-are-helping-donald-trump
[11] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/22/us/politics/republican-democratic-voters-poll.html
[12] http://www.politico.com/story/2014/05/republicans-legislation-obama-dccc-event-106481
[13] http://www.politico.com/story/2014/03/koch-brothers-poll-104993
[14] http://www.bravenewfilms.org/koch
[15] https://www.amazon.com/dp/0385535597/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20
[16] http://exiledonline.com/anti-war-libertarians-charles-and-david-koch-love-profiteering-off-americas-war-machine/
[17] http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/11/defense-spending-sequester-toilet-paper-military
[18] http://www.latimes.com/projects/oxycontin-part1/
[19] http://www.kochmembrane.com/Industrial-Life-Sciences/Pharmaceutical-Intermediates.aspx
[20] http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM348818.pdf
[21] http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local-military/critics-say-firms-spurred-painkiller-prescriptions/nSPNL/
[22] https://www.propublica.org/article/senate-panel-investigates-drug-company-ties-to-pain-groups
[23] https://www.congress.gov/bill/110th-congress/senate-bill/2162
[24] http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/weight-of-war-gear-that-protects-troops-also-injures-them/
[25] http://www.statesman.com/news/news/prescription-drug-abuse-overdoses-haunt-veterans/nSPLW/
[26] http://www.drugfree.org/news-service/va-opiate-overdose-rate-almost-double-the-national-average-report/
[27] http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/p1101_flu_pain_killer_overdose.html
[28] http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/01/18/rising-use-opioid-painkillers-and-efforts-curb-them-may-lead.html
[29] http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/concerns-grow-fentanyl-fuels-rise-opioid-overdose-deaths/
[30] http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/pennsylvania/mc-pa-drug-company-lawsuit-resolution-20160617-story.html
[31] http://www.salem-news.com/articles/october302013/senate-painkillers-ms.php
[32] https://iprcc.nih.gov/National_Pain_Strategy/Professional_Education_and_Training_Members.htm#RollinMacGallagherMDMPH
[33] http://www.roanoke.com/news/virginia/new-dea-rules-place-more-restrictions-on-popular-painkillers/article_8431e5e4-8d15-53b7-88cd-a346a42929b2.html
[34] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/veterans-struggle-to-renew-their-prescriptions-amid-new-opioid-rules/2015/02/18/4d42d63a-acb3-11e4-9c91-e9d2f9fde644_story.html
[35] http://cv4a.org/
[36] http://cv4a.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Fixing-Veterans-Healthcare.pdf
[37] http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2016/08/veterans-care-should-not-be-profit-making-enterprise/130948/?oref=d_brief_nl
[38] http://www.va.gov/health/aboutVHA.asp
[39] http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/01/26/ceo-vets-group-backed-by-koch-brothers-resigns-campaign-heats-up.html
[40] http://www.foxnews.com/person/h/pete-hegseth.html
[41] http://www.ipsnews.net/2008/08/politics-us-mccains-plan-to-privatise-veterans-health-care/
[42] http://www.politicalaffairs.net/28-votes-mccain-s-record-against-veterans/
[43] http://www.prwatch.org/news/2014/01/12353/koch-network-raised-400-million-2012
[44] https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/08/07/president-obama-signs-bill-give-va-resources-it-needs
[45] http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/the-veterans-access-to-care-through-choice-accountability-and-transparency-act-of-2014
[46] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/may/23/robert-mcdonald-veterans-affairs-secretary-likens-/
[47] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/22/va-brass-knew-of-false-data-for-2-years-/11224899/
[48] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/05/21/veterans-healthcare-scandal-shinseki-timeline/9373227/
[49] https://www.thenation.com/article/how-koch-network-exploited-veterans-affairs-crisis/
[50] http://www.npr.org/2016/06/06/480604249/for-doctors-and-patients-veterans-choice-often-means-long-waits
[51] https://www.yahoo.com/news/vas-choice-program-health-care-off-slow-start-081210315.html?ref=gs
[52] https://commissiononcare.sites.usa.gov/
[53] http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/07/prweb13535231.htm
[54] http://freebeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/COC-Commissioners-Report-Dissent-063016-1.pdf
[55] http://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2016/4/senators-mccain-ayotte-cornyn-cruz-ernst-flake-graham-tillis-introduce-the-care-veterans-deserve-act
[56] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/05/27/sen-john-mccain-pete-hegseth-its-time-for-real-reform-our-veterans-deserve.html
[57] http://www.amazon.com/dp/1608463710/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20
[58] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on Vets Lose When Big Pharma and Defense Corporations Rake in the Big War Bucks
[59] http://www.alternet.org/
[60] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"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


Friday, August 26, 2016

Baltimore Activist Alert August 27 – September 2, 2016

Baltimore Activist Alert August 27 – September 2, 2016

"I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours.
The initiative to stop it must be ours." -Martin Luther King Jr.

Friends, this list and other email documents which I send out are done under the auspices of the Baltimore Nonviolence Center.  Go to www.baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com.  If you appreciate this information and would like to make a donation, send contributions to BNC, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218.  Max Obuszewski can be reached at 410-323-1607 or mobuszewski [at] verizon.net.

1] Books, buttons and stickers
2] Web site for info on federal legislation
3] Join Nonviolent Resistance lists  
4] Two friends are looking to buy a house in Baltimore
5] "Meet me in the middle" – Aug. 27
6] Film “Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA” – Aug. 27
7] HONDURAN PEOPLE'S MOVEMENTS – Aug. 27
8] Rally 4 Refugees – Aug. 28
9] “Scared and Sacred Score the Same in Scrabble” – Aug. 28
10] Picnic to Strengthen Rent Control – Aug. 28
11] International Day Against Nuclear Testing – Aug. 29
12] Pentagon Vigil – Aug. 29
13] Marc Steiner on WEAA – Aug. 29 – Sept. 2
14] The Defense [sic] Budget – Aug, 29
15] I want a president – Aug, 29
16] Film MAKING A KILLING – Aug. 29
17] Get answers about birth control – Aug, 30
18] Peace vigil in Philadelphia – Aug. 30
19] "No Drone Research at JHU" – Aug. 30
20] Black Freak Mosh Heaven – Aug. 30
21] National Sexual Assault Conference – Aug. 31 – Sept. 2
22] Take Me Out to the Ballgame – deadline Aug. 31

-------
1] – Buttons, bumperstickers and books are available.  “God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions” stickers are in stock. Call Max at 410-323-1607.

2] – To obtain information how your federal legislators voted on particular bills, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/.  Congressional toll-free numbers are 888-818-6641, 888-355-3588 or 800-426-8073. The White House Comment Email is accessible at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/.

3] – THE ORGANIZING LIST will be the primary decision-making mechanism of the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR].  It will be augmented by conference calls and possibly in-person meetings as needed.  It will consist of 1 or 2 representatives from each local, regional, or national organization (not coalitions) that wishes to actively work to carry out the NCNR campaign of facilitating and organizing nonviolent resistance to the war in Iraq.

To join the ORGANIZING List, please send your name, group affiliation, city and email address to mobuszewski at Verizon.net.  Different local chapters of a national organization are encouraged to subscribe.  

THE NOTICES LIST will include only notices of NCNR actions and related information and is open to any interested person to subscribe.  It will be moderated to maintain focus & will include periodic notices about getting involved in NCNR national organizing.  To join the NOTICES List, send an email message to ncnrnotices-subscribe@lists.riseup.net. You will get a confirmation message once subscribed.  If you have problems, please write to the list manager at ncnrnotices-admin@lists.riseup.net.

4] – Janice and Max are looking to buy a house in Baltimore.  Let Max know if you have any leads—410-323-1607 or mobuszewski at Verizon dot net.

5] – Come "meet me in the middle" of Baltimore on Sat., Aug. 27 at 10 AM for Communities United's citywide general meeting! Communities United's eastside family is meeting up with the westside family at St. Vincent de Paul Church at President and Fayette Streets (across from the Shot Tower subway stop). Come out and help fight for decent housing, peace in our neighborhoods, opportunities for youth and ex-offenders, the schools our kids deserve, and MORE!  Go to http://www.communitiesunite.org/.

6] – See a screening of Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA” on Sat., Aug. 27 from 6 to 9 PM at the CODEPINK House, 1241 Evarts St. NE, WDC 20018. Contact Martha Durkee-Neuman (martha@codepink.org). The Robert Greenwald film tells the stories of how guns - and the billions made off of them - affect the lives of everyday Americans. It features personal stories from people across the country who have been affected by gun violence, including survivors and victims' families. The film exposes how powerful gun companies and the NRA are resisting responsible legislation for the sake of profit - and thereby putting people in danger.

7] – A DISCUSSION THE FIGHT FOR ANCESTRAL TERRITORY AND REPARATIONS: HONDURAN PEOPLE'S MOVEMENTS SINCE 2009 GARIFUNA, LENCA, WOMEN AND YOUTH WILL TAKE PLACE on Sat., Aug. 27 at 7:30 PM at Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201. 
After 2 long years of deliberations at the international level, African-descended people in Honduras, known as the Garifuna, have won a groundbreaking legal victory. In 2016, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled against the government in a landmark case that will lead to reparations and land returns for the Garifuna, who have suffered displacement, political violence, and repression by leaders of the Honduran state. Hear from public scholar Jeanette Charles who will share firsthand accounts of how Garifuna movements envision and practice autonomy. How might we use the Garifuna experience to inform our own fight for economic and political liberation in the USA? Charles is a daughter of the Haitian diaspora and was raised in working class Los Angeles, CA. She has done extensive work across the Americas focusing on African and Indigenous histories of resistance as well as women, queer, and youth organizing. Call 443-602-7585.  Go to http://www.redemmas.org.  

8] – A Rally 4 Refugees will take place at the Washington National Monument, The National Mall, WDC, on Sun., Aug. 28 from 10 AM  to 2:30 PM.  Go to http://dcrally4refugees.org/.  Join together steps from the White House and U.S. Capitol and stand against intolerance, raise awareness, educate, offer tools and resources for those who wish to help, and raise funds. Be one of the voices telling our government that we reject the atrocities and lack of human rights occurring and want more direct action taken to help alleviate the suffering.

The rally will raise awareness about the global refugee crisis, and urge U.S. action -- at home and overseas -- to alleviate suffering through relief efforts and refugee resettlement. Everyone is encouraged to attend the historic rally, buy a T-shirt to help support the costs of the rally, and to spread the word using #DCRally4Refugees and #StandForHumanity, to stand in solidarity with refugees and displaced people worldwide. DCRally4Refugees is 100 percent dependent on individual contributions.

Call on the U.S. to safely resettle more refugees and provide increased support to relief efforts overseas. The Rally will offer resources for those who wish to help and raise a collective voice against intolerance. There are 65 million refugees and displaced persons worldwide—the largest displacement crisis on record. As fellow human beings, Americans have a responsibility to bear witness, amplify refugee voices, and support refugees as they dare to hope against all odds. People can learn the facts, get involved, support, and join DCRally4Refugees.

9] – Usually, the Baltimore Ethical Society, 306 W. Franklin St., Suite 102, Baltimore 21201-4661, meets on Sundays, and generally there is a speaker and discussion from 10:30 AM to noon.  On Sun., Aug. 28, the topic of discussion is “Scared and Sacred Score the Same in Scrabble” with Charles Shafer.  Shafer assumes a variety of quirky characters who have religious encounters of various sorts, including, a lovely but lonely young lady, a loudmouth know-it-all, and a rabbi/teacher/CEO along with Jesus and God himself. They appear in a variety of madcap scenes including a bizarre college class, a film noir adventure and a frantic attempt to avoid calamity.

Shafer, a law professor, is interested in the use of comedy to explore social issues. This is his first solo show. He says, “I want to present a very funny show that has embedded within some questions about god and religion. But I have to be honest, being entertaining and having a good time myself is number one goal.” Call 410-581-2322 or email ask@bmorethical.org.

10] – There is a Picnic to Strengthen Rent Control on Sun., Aug. 28 from 2 to 5 PM at 2400 15th St. NW, WDC. While the DC Council is on recess, there is a need to build power and rev up to pressure on councilmembers upon their return. Join Jews United for Justice on the north side of Malcolm X Park (Meridian Hill) to reconnect with JUFJ friends, hear an update about the rent control campaign, make political art, and help pass two pieces of legislation that provide greater protections for DC renters. Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/159487141130686/.

11] – August 29 is International Day Against Nuclear Tests. The international instrument to put an end to all forms of nuclear testing is the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has however yet to enter into force.

On Dec. 2, 2009, the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly declared 29 August the International Day against Nuclear Tests by unanimously adopting resolution 64/35. The resolution calls for increasing awareness and education “about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.” The resolution was initiated by the Republic of Kazakhstan, together with a large number of sponsors and cosponsors with a view to commemorate the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test site on 29 August 1991. The Day is meant to galvanize the United Nations, Member States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, youth networks and the media to inform, educate and advocate the necessity of banning nuclear weapon tests as a valuable step towards achieving a safer world.

12] – There is a weekly Pentagon Peace Vigil from 7 to 8 AM on Mondays, since 1987, outside the Pentagon Metro stop.  The next vigil is Mon., Aug. 29, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker.  Email artlaffin@hotmail.com or call 202-882-9649.  The vigil will be outside the Pentagon's south Metro entrance and in the designated "protest zone" behind bicycle fences across from the entrance to the Metro.  By Metro, take Yellow Line and get out at the "Pentagon" stop. Do not go to the Pentagon City stop! Go up south escalators and turn left and walk across to protest area. By car from D.C. area, take 395 South and get off at Exit 8A-Pentagon South Parking. Take slight right onto S. Rotary Rd. at end of ramp and right on S. Fern St. Then take left onto Army Navy Dr. You can "pay to park" on Army Navy Dr.,  and there is meter parking one block on right on Eads St. Payment for both of these spots begin at 8 AM.  No cameras are allowed on Pentagon grounds. Restrooms are located inside Marriott Residence Inn on corner of S. Fern and Army Navy Dr. 

13] – The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday through Friday fr6m 10 AM to noon on WEAA 88.9 FM, The Voice of the Community, or online at www.weaa.org.   The call-in number is 410-319-8888, and comments can also be sent by email to steinershow@gmail.com. All shows are also available as podcasts at www.steinershow.org.

14] – On Mon., Aug. 29 from 10 to-11:30 AM, Michael O'Hanlon, Brookings Institute, and three other speakers, will tackle "The Defense [sic] Budget, Overseas Contingency Operations, The Budget Control Act, and Beyond," at the Brookings Institute, 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC 20036. RSVP at https://www.brookings.edu/events/the-defense-budget-overseas-contingency-operations-the-budget-control-act-and-beyond/.

15] – "I Want a President.." Writing Workshop is happening at The Potter's House, 1658 Columbia Rd. NW, WDC, on Mon., Aug. 29 from 6 to 8 PM.  What do you want in a president? What experiences should be reflected? What do you wish to see in government that seems impossible from where we stand now?  Join Natalie Campbell & Saisha Grayson in a writing workshop and discussion, engaging with and adapting a 1992 text by artist and activist Zoe Leonard listing demands for a new U.S. president. The adapted texts from the workshop will be archived online and will culminate in a public collective reading on Oct. 16 at 5:30 PM in front of the White House. Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/writing-workshop-at-the-potters-house-tickets-26932446673.

16] --- On Mon., Aug. 29 at 7 PM, as part of the Pacem Summer Film Series, see “Making a Killing” at Theater N, 1007 N. Orange St., Wilmington, DE. Call (302) 656-2721.

17] – On Tues., Aug. 30 at 2 PM EDT Your Birth Control Coverage Questions will be Answered.  RSVP at http://action.nwlc.org/site/Survey?ACTION_REQUIRED=URI_ACTION_USER_REQUESTS&SURVEY_ID=23724.   As the National Women's Law Center's birth control experts, Brandie Temple and Mara Gandal-Powers [mailto:action@nwlc.org] will be answering all of your birth control coverage questions in real time on Facebook Live. Learn more about the event, submit your question in advance, or sign up to get a reminder so you don't miss out!

The health care law, also known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, requires health insurance plans to cover certain preventive health services and screenings without out of pocket costs, including birth control. That means if you have health insurance through your job, your parents, your spouse, your school, or the health insurance marketplace, your birth control should be covered without a co-pay. Some people have trouble getting their preferred method of birth control covered even though the law requires all FDA-approved birth control methods to be available without out-of-pocket costs.

18] – Each Tuesday from 4:30 - 5:30 PM, the Catholic Peace Fellowship-Philadelphia for peace in Afghanistan and Iraq gathers at the Suburban Station, 16th St. & JFK Blvd., at the entrance to Tracks 3 and 4 on the mezzanine.  The next vigil is Aug. 30.  Call 215-426-0364.

19] – Vigil to say "No Drone Research at JHU" each Tuesday at 33rd & North Charles Sts. join this ongoing vigil on Aug. 30  from 5:30 to 6:30  PM. Call Max at 410-323-1607.

20] – On Tues., Aug. 30 at 7 PM at The Potters House, 1658 Columbia Rd. NW,WDC, Ron Williams will do an author talk Black Freak Mosh Heaven.  It is a poetic autobiography about a black youth who rocks and rolls to his own beat and is forced to battle racism, stereotypes and ignorance. It is a thought-provoking tale of a man who struggles against society's intolerance and fights to create a world of acceptance. It is a literal companion to his autobiographical one man show, Dreadlocks, Rock 'n Roll & Human Rights.  Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/549068988614119/.

21] –  There is a National Sexual Assault Conference 2016 at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park, 2660 Woodley Road NW, WDC, from Wed., Aug. 31 (all day) through Fri., Sept. 2 (all day). The Conference is an annual two and a half day, advocacy-based conference providing advanced training opportunities and information regarding sexual violence intervention and prevention. The theme for this year’s conference is “Hopeful Future, Honored Past.” Visit http://www.nsvrc.org/nsac.

22] – On Tues. Sept. 20th, a peace delegation will be going to the Oriole-Red Sox game at Camden Yards.  A young peace loving Oriole fan, Carlos Laffin, and a lifetime Oriole fan, from his days growing up in Salisbury, MD, Johnny Zokovitch, will be honored.  If you would like to join the delegation, contact Bob Cooke at 301-661-0449 (cell), no later than Wed., Aug. 31.  All tickets will be in the same section, and the cost of the tickets should probably be in the $16 to $24 range.

To be continued.

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

Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/. "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


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/
"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


Turkey is Now in Syria; What it Means for the Middle East - Two Views

Published on Portside (https://portside.org)

Turkey is Now in Syria; What it Means for the Middle East - Two Views

Robert Fisk; Vijay Prashad

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
https://portside.org/sites/default/files/styles/medium/public/field/image/turkey_tanks_jarablus.jpg?itok=FBAr4cWl


The Turks don't want a Kurdish mini-state on their frontier any more than the Syrians want to lose territory to the Kurds

By Robert Fisk

August 24, 2016

How the West would love to believe that Turkey's army in Syria - all 10 tanks of it - are striking at last at everyone's enemy, the blood-soaked cult of the "Islamic State". But few in Syria or Turkey will be fooled. Isis have been sitting in Jerablus for many months; it is the advance of the American-armed Kurdish YPG militia along the Turkish border towards Jerablus that worries Sultan Erdogan.

And yet again as Turkish troops advanced, he bundled up the YPG (People's Protection Units) - who the Turks believe have connections with the PKK or Kurdistan Workers Party, whom they view as much more dangerous - as "terrorists", along with Isis. In other words, he's calling both the anti-Assad Isis and the anti-Isis Kurds the enemies of Turkey (as he did after the suicide bombing of a wedding in Gazientep last weekend), lumping his pet hates together. Only his obsession with Fethullah Gulen, whom he blames for July's failed coup, has been omitted from his latest "battle" objectives in Syria.

Erdogan's latest ally, Tsar Vladimir, will have no objections. At one blow, Turkey strikes - however feebly - at both Isis and the pro-American Kurdish militia with whose apparatchiks Moscow has remained studiously aloof. The Syrians will know - and surely will have been told - that Putin supports Turkey's little incursion. They will be in no mood to protest since their own government army was fighting the same Kurdish group in the city of Hassakeh until a ceasefire two days ago. Here, too, the YPG was trying to seize Syrian sovereign territory.

Put simply, the YPG is getting too big for its boots. It is using the anti-Isis war to carve out a little homeland inside Syria along the Turkish border and gobbling up as much of Syria as it can before the civil war ends. The Turks don't want a Kurdish mini-state on their frontier any more than the Syrians want to lose territory to the Kurds. The anti-Assad "Free Syrian Army" is supposed to be among Turkey's little squadron of armour heading for Jerablus but this is likely to be of little interest to Damascus: Syrian troops have long since ceased to regard the FSA as a serious military force and will not worry if its men wish to "martyr" themselves in this Turkish-run operation.

It's all bad news for Isis, of course. And deeply ironic, for it was at the very same Jerablus - under Turkish shellfire today - where TE Lawrence "of Arabia" spent some of the happiest months of his life before the First World War, digging through the ancient ruins of Carcamish, and where he began to frame his affectionate but also deeply racist view of the Arabs. The sterility of the desert, Lawrence would later write of anyone who lived there "robbed him of compassion and perverted his human kindness to the image of the waste in which he hid."

He wrote of the Arab's "delight in pain" and of how the desert became "a spiritual iceberg, in which was preserved intact but unimproved for all ages a vision of the unity of God." Perhaps Lawrence got closer to the mind of Isis than we might imagine. Now the Turks can discover this for themselves in the new ruins of Jerablus.

Robert Fisk is the multi-award winning Middle East correspondent of The Independent, based in Beirut. He has lived in the Arab world for more than 40 years, covering Lebanon, five Israeli invasions, the Iran-Iraq war, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Algerian civil war, Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, the Bosnian and Kosovo wars, the American invasion and occupation of Iraq and the 2011 Arab revolutions. Occasionally describing himself as an `Ottoman correspondent' because of the huge area he covers, Fisk joined The Independent in 1989. He has written best-selling books on the Middle East, including Pity the Nation andThe Great War for Civilisation. He was born in Kent in 1946 and gained his BA in English and Classics at Lancaster University. He holds a PhD in politics from Trinity College, Dublin.


Turkey warms up to Russia and Iran in a bid to exit before a total rout of its proxies in Syria

By Vijay Prashad

August 24, 2016

https://portside.org/sites/default/files/images/Kurdish_women.jpg

Kurdish gains along the Turkish border have been anathema to Mr. Erdogan's government. Women after being evacuated by the Syria Democratic Forces from IS-controlled Manbij in Aleppo, Syria.
Photo credit: Reuters // The Hindu

 Sharp changes in the war on Syria have impacted the policy of the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Initially Mr. Erdogan believed that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would fall precipitously. It did not. Rather than overthrow Mr. Assad, the war has placed Turkey itself in danger - a `failed coup' on July 15 came alongside a renewed war against Turkey's Kurdish population, just as Islamic State (IS) attacks in the country have raised alarm bells about Mr. Erdogan's adventurism. An adjustment of Turkey's policy is now on the cards. The President's August 9 trip to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and the warm words exchanged when the Iranian Foreign Minister came to Turkey on August 10 indicate a change.

Failure in Syria

In 2011, Turkey had hastily come out in favour of the removal of Mr. Assad. "It is not heroism to fight against your own people," Mr. Erdogan said in November 2011. This was a curious call from the head of government in a state that had been at war against its own people, namely the Kurds, since the 1980s. The call amplified the chorus in the Gulf Arab and Western capitals. Their main goal was to weaken Iran by overthrowing the Assad government.

Mr. Erdogan hoped that his fraternal Syrian Muslim Brotherhood would ride into Damascus on the wings of Western-driven regime change. But the West was wary. It provided diplomatic and military support to the rebels, but found the road to Damascus blocked by Russia, Iran and China. None of them wanted to see the scenario of Iraq or Libya replayed in Syria. Furthermore, Russia and Iran had material interests in Syria that they did not want to jeopardise. Now, five years later, Mr. Erdogan's forward policy has failed, which is why he has warmed up to both Russia and Iran in a bid to chart out a path from the Syrian quagmire.

Turkey's long border with Syria proved to be the most accessible route for arms and fighters. Gulf Arab and Western intelligence prowled the towns of the borders, working with Turkish intelligence to provide support for the motley crew of proxy armies. It was along this border that the Kurdish fighters, supported by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a group banned in Turkey, began to make inroads. Last week, a coalition of the Kurds and Arabs under the flag of the Syria Democratic Forces seized the IS-held town of Manbij. Kurdish gains along the Turkish border have been anathema to Mr. Erdogan's government, which had restarted its war against the Kurdish population inside Turkey as well as against PKK camps in Iraq. It was this war that opened up tensions between Washington and Ankara, with the former uneasy with the Turkish assault on some of the main groups that had been fighting the IS.

It is not yet clear who authorised the `failed coup' against the civilian government in Turkey. Mr. Erdogan blames the movement of his former ally Fethullah Gülen. Since Mr. Gülen lives in the U.S. and because of rumours that the U.S. troops at the Turkish base in Incirlik had helped the coup plotters, animosity against the U.S. rose sharply. In late July, thousands surrounded the Incirlik base, burning U.S. flags and chanting `Death to the U.S.'. This was the day before the head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford arrived in Turkey to soothe the heated relations. The firmest indicator that the U.S. opposed the coup, said Mr. Erdogan, would be the extradition of Mr. Gülen. Since this is not likely to take place, tensions between the U.S., North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Turkey will remain.

Russia and Iran outreach

Instability in Turkey as a result of the Syrian war has created great economic problems. The doors to the Western market are not wide open, while the war in Syria has blocked the West Asian marketplace. Renewed ties with Russia have restarted the Turkish Stream gas lines and prompted a Russian reaffirmation of its promise to build nuclear reactors in Turkey. The business lobbies close to Mr. Erdogan can breathe again.

Over the course of the past year, both Turkey's proxy armies in Syria and its Syrian political allies have seen their position weakened. Saudi Arabia's games with the Syrian opposition bloc has snuffed out the dominance of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, under heavy Syrian and Russian bombardment, the extremist rebel fighters of Aleppo, including the Turkish proxies, have faced setbacks. It is clear that the extremists, including the Turkish proxies, will not be able to hold on for too long. Turkey seeks an exit before a full battlefield humiliation.

During his visit to Moscow, Mr. Erdogan suggested that Turkey needed to coordinate Syria policy with Russia and Iran. On August 20, his Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that Mr. Assad could stay in power for a transitional period. The slogan `Assad must go' is no longer fundamental to Turkish foreign policy.

The day after Mr. Erdogan left Russia, a delegation of senior Turkish military officers arrived to coordinate a military command centre. Turkey is eager that the Kurdish forces not take territory along the border. Russian military officers told them that this would be a priority. A few days later the Iranian and Turkish Foreign Ministers announced close coordination on Syria. This is surely a blow to Turkey's proxies, and indeed to the Gulf Arabs who have come to rely upon Turkey as the pathway into Syria.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the press in Ankara that the "era of bullying and coups is over" and that "people's choice cannot be suppressed by a military group". The statement was about the `failed coup' in Turkey. It could just as well have been with reference to Syria, a country destroyed by regional ambitions. The rebalancing of Turkish foreign entanglements might finally allow Syria's future to be less grim.

Vijay Prashad, a columnist for the Turkish daily BirGün, is the author of fifteen books, most recently of The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (LeftWord Books). He is a Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, a journalist and commentator. In  2013 - 2014, Prof. Prashad was the Edward Said Chair at the  American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon. He  earned his B.A. in History at Pomona College, Claremont and both an M.A. and Ph.D. in History at the University of Chicago.


Links:


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"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