Evening Blues Preview 4-20-15
This evening's music features blues, r&b and soul songwriter, guitarist, flute and organ player Johnny Heartsman.
Here are some stories from tonight's post:
Conflicts and war across the region, says one analyst, 'have been an economic boon to those who wipe away crocodile tears with one hand and sign weapons contracts with the other.'
With ongoing wars and armed conflicts currently underway across the Middle East, South Asia, and large portions of Africa, the role that U.S. weapons makers play across the region was highlighted in weekend reporting by the New York Times, which showed how the drive for corporate profits has unleashed an arms race with perilous human consequences and no end in sight for people living in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere.
"As the Middle East descends into proxy wars, sectarian conflicts and battles against terrorist networks, countries in the region that have stockpiled American military hardware are now actually using it and wanting more," the Times reports. "The result is a boom for American defense contractors looking for foreign business in an era of shrinking Pentagon budgets — but also the prospect of a dangerous new arms race in a region where the map of alliances has been sharply redrawn." ...
Sharif Nashashibi, an award-winning journalist and expert on the Middle East region, noted in a Sunday column in the Middle East Eye that though war-profiteering is anything but new, the current scale of the problem is worrying. "Weapons exports provide massive economic benefits," notes Nashashibi, "which translate to political benefits, domestically and in terms of influence with clients. The Middle East and North Africa has long been a theatre of combat—often on numerous fronts—and hence among the most lucrative markets on the planet. However, weapons purchases have skyrocketed in recent years as unrest, tension and war between and within states have increased markedly."
Arms suppliers derive maximum benefit from just the right amount of destabilisation: enough to make clients bulk-buy, but not enough to existentially threaten them or disrupt energy supplies. That is why, for example, the US profited so immensely from the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s - it armed both sides, resulting in a war of attrition that lasted almost a decade.
Similarly, the Arab Spring, Arab-Iranian tensions and the rise of the Islamic State, among other current crises, have been an economic boon to those who wipe away crocodile tears with one hand and sign weapons contracts with the other. Operation Decisive Storm over Yemen will no doubt add to the buying frenzy.
Russian President Putin says 'it enables destabilizing the situation'
Nearly 300 U.S. soldiers have arrived in Ukraine to act as 'trainers' for the county's newly-formed National Guard as part of what is being called Operation Fearless Guardian. ...
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement Friday rebuking the troops' arrival.
"The participation of instructors and specialists from a third country on the territory of Ukraine, where an unresolved intra-Ukrainian conflict remains, where problems persist in carrying out the Minsk agreement, is far from helping resolve the conflict. To the contrary, it enables destabilizing the situation," spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated.
The Kremlin isn't alone in criticizing the operation, as the Ottawa Citizen reported this week:
But some foreign affairs experts say the decision to send Canadian, British and U.S. training troops to Ukraine could worsen matters with nuclear-armed Russia.
"Canada’s decision is not only provocative to Russia but it’s dangerous," said retired Canadian diplomat James Bissett. "We are poking at them unnecessarily."
The Saudi invasion of Yemen, under the pretext of alleged Iranian involvement in the Houthi rebellion, is nothing but a thinly disguised helping hand extended to Al Qaeda. Saudi air strikes are directed exclusively against the Houthi militia, which the New York Times says “is considered Al Qaeda’s most determined foe.” Al Qaeda, however, is untouched.
The Saudis took the Americans by surprise, much to John McCain’s delight: at a congressional hearing, the Arizona Senator declared: “These countries, led by Saudi Arabia, did not notify
us nor seek our coordination or our assistance in this effort because they believe we are siding with Iran. The prospect of radical groups like Iranian-backed Houthi militants” was “more than [U.S. Arab allies] could withstand.” Radical groups like Al Qaeda don’t seem to be in McCain’s purview: Iran is the main enemy, and Al Qaeda is just a footnote.
However, the Pentagon doesn’t quite see it that way, as Al Jazeera reports:
“A senior commander at Central Command (CENTCOM), speaking on condition of anonymity, scoffed at that argument. ‘The reason the Saudis didn’t inform us of their plans,’ he said, ‘is because they knew we would have told them exactly what we think – that it was a bad idea.’
“Military sources said that a number of regional special forces officers and officers at US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) argued strenuously against supporting the Saudi-led intervention because the target of the intervention, the Shia Houthi movement – which has taken over much of Yemen and which Riyadh accuses of being a proxy for Tehran – has been an effective counter to Al-Qaeda.”
When are we going to stop pretending the Saudis are our allies?...
The idea that we have any allies in the Middle East is laughable – and, yes, that includes Israel. It’s one big snake pit, with the biggest serpents professing their eternal friendship with Washington – while biting us on the ankles when they can. What we are faced with now is a Saudi-Gulf states-Israeli alliance intent on war with Iran – with the United States directly in the crossfire.
We are, in short, but a few steps away from a regional conflict that has all the makings of a third world war.
Homeless people in Colorado may soon be able to sleep in public without being subjected to police harassment if a new bill discussed Wednesday in the state's legislature comes to pass.
The bill — dubbed the "Homeless Persons' Bill of Rights" — is sponsored by Democratic Representatives Joe Salazar and Jovan Melton, along with Senator John Kefalas. According to the draft legislation, current Colorado laws "result in people in Colorado being criminally punished for doing what any person must do to survive."
The legislators initially introduced the bill in March. It aims to ensure homeless people the right to move freely without discrimination, and to rest, eat, accept food, and maintain privacy over their belongings. ...
Other states like California and Oregon have also attempted to draft bills that end the criminalization of homelessness. Eric Tars, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty's senior attorney, told VICE News that criminalizing the homeless costs states double or triple what it would take to provide housing for them. Tars said the main cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing, but according to him, the bill is a potential step to improve the current situation of homeless people. ...
"These advocacy efforts are an effort to bring us back to our best ideals, to something that says we are all equally deserving of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. No one should be punished for trying to survive," Tars added, saying we have to see the homeless "as people, as our fellow citizens, equally deserving of rights and dignity… this is about who we are as Americans."
Also of interest: