Evening Blues Preview 6-5-15
This evening's music features New Orleans r&b singer, "Mr. Personality," Lloyd Price.
Here are some stories from tonight's posting:
For first time since US air war on ISIS began ten months ago, lawmakers push legislation calling for withdrawal of military forces
A small group of bipartisan congressional lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation calling for the withdrawal of the U.S. military from Iraq and Syria, in a surprise move that could, for the first time, force a real debate on the 10-month-old war on ISIS.
Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) invoked the War Powers Resolution when introducing the legislation, which directs President Barack Obama "to remove United States Armed Forces deployed to Iraq or Syria on or after August 7, 2014" within 30 days or by the end of the year.
Upon bringing the bill to the House floor, McGovern rebuked Congress as "the poster child for cowardice."
"This House appears to have no problem sending our uniformed men and women into harm's way," he said. "It appears to have no problem spending billions of dollars for the arms, equipment and airpower to carry out these wars. But it just can't bring itself to step up to the plate and take responsibility for these wars."
Thanks to the proposed legislation, lawmakers might not be able to avoid debate on the war forever—or even for the rest of June.
As Huffington Post reporter Jennifer Bendery explains, now that McGovern introduced the legislation, "he has to wait 15 calendar days for the House Foreign Affairs Committee to act, and if it does nothing, and if House leaders do nothing, the resolution automatically heads to the House floor and anyone can bring it up for a debate."
Although its doors have been closed since 2012, the U.S. embassy in Damascus has recently sent out a round of pugnacious tweets charging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with giving Islamic State fighters a free pass while bombing U.S.-aligned Free Syrian Army (FSA) units holed up in the city of Aleppo.
By bombing one side in an intra-rebel war and not the other, the embassy says, Damascus is making its preference clear, i.e., in favor of the hyper-brutal Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. “Reports indicate,” declared an embassy tweet on June 1, “that the regime is making air-strikes in support of ISIL’s advance on Aleppo, aiding extremists against Syrian population.” ...
But this picture is complicated by the fact that the FSA also faults the U.S. for not bombing ISIS and that Shi‘ite forces across the border in Iraq actually accuse America of providing ISIS with military aid. The Islamic State is America’s “creation,” declared Akram al-Kabi, leader of the powerful Nujabaa Brigade, while Iraqi forces recently fired on a U.S. helicopter that they believed was ferrying aid to the other side.
For The New York Times’ Anne Barnard, this swirl of charges and counter-charges demonstrates “the complexity of the battlefield in Syria’s multifaceted war and the challenges it poses for United States policy.” But Barnard is wrong in her analysis. It’s not the Syrian battlefield that’s complex, but the predicament that the U.S. finds itself in.
What has caused Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states to ratchet up their support for radical Islamists fighting in Syria and Iraq is the impending nuclear accord with Iran, which has infuriated Sunni states and Israel and is leading the U.S. to assure its allies that it will redouble its efforts to roll back Iranian influence in other countries.
This means a stepped-up effort to topple the Iranian-backed government in Syria and to oppose pro-Iranian forces in Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen and inside Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration wants to have a peaceful agreement with Iran over nuclear issues but the price is to double down on a proxy war against Iranian (and Shi’ite) interests across the Middle East.
The negotiations with Iran have resulted in a curious dynamic. Most Americans hope that the talks will help defuse conflict in the Middle East. But they are in fact doing the opposite. America’s allies in that region turn out to be some of the most sectarian nations on earth, not just Saudi Arabia and the Arab gulf states but Israel as well.
Spooked by the impending peace agreement, they are now demanding no-holds-barred religious warfare against a region-wide Shi‘ite “conspiracy” supposedly originating in Tehran – and the U.S., struggling to hold the alliance together, is unable to say no.
As a consequence, Washington has agreed to a Saudi war against the Shi‘ite Houthis in Yemen, to a Saudi-led crackdown on Shi‘ite democratic protesters in Bahrain, and to a stepped-up Saudi-Turkish-Qatari effort to overthrow Assad in Syria, a campaign that has already claimed an estimated 220,000 lives and will undoubtedly claim many more.
To cap it off, the U.S. is now blaming Assad for stirring things up in the first place. It’s a big lie worthy of Goebbels, yet the only people falling for it are America’s lapdog press.
Twenty million Yemenis, nearly 80% of the population, are in urgent need of food, water and medical aid, in a humanitarian disaster that aid agencies say has been dramatically worsened by a naval blockade imposed by an Arab coalition with US and British backing.
Washington and London have quietly tried to persuade the Saudis, who are leading the coalition, to moderate its tactics, and in particular to ease the naval embargo, but to little effect. A small number of aid ships is being allowed to unload but the bulk of commercial shipping, on which the desperately poor country depends, are being blocked.
Despite western and UN entreaties, Riyadh has also failed to disburse any of the $274m it promised in funding for humanitarian relief. According to UN estimates due to be released next week 78% of the population is in need of emergency aid, an increase of 4 million over the past three months.
The desperate shortage of food, water and medical supplies raises urgent questions over US and UK support for the Arab coalition’s intervention in the Yemeni civil war since March. Washington provides logistical and intelligence support through a joint planning cell established with the Saudi military, who are leading the campaign. London has offered to help the Saudi military effort in “every practical way short of engaging in combat”. ...
“There are less and less of the basic necessities. People are queueing all day long,” said Nuha Abdul Jabber, Oxfam’s humanitarian programme manager in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. “The blockade means it’s impossible to bring anything into the country. There are lots of ships, with basic things like flour, that are not allowed to approach. The situation is deteriorating, hospitals are now shutting down, without diesel. People are dying of simple diseases. It is becoming almost impossible to survive.”
Local business success stories show "there's no reason for anyone to treat these kinds of threats as credible any longer"
One year after Seattle's mayor signed the nation's first citywide $15 minimum wage into law, dire predictions of economic collapse have not come to pass.
In fact, according to Working Washington—the group that launched the fast food strikes that sparked the fight for $15 in Seattle and then helped lead the victorious campaign—many of the very same business owners and others who predicted such devastation "are now hiring and even expanding their business operations in the city."
Consider Andrew Friedman, who owns Liberty Bar in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Working Washington notes that Friedman was one of the most outspoken opponents of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law, and helped lead the Forward Seattle effort to repeal the law. "Your favorite indie shop is out of business if $15 an hour happens," Friedman said in March of 2014. "Local independent businesses WILL close, many of your neighbors WILL be out of work."
Since the minimum wage increase took effect in April, Friedman has opened a second bar in the same neighborhood.
Working Washington has compiled more than a dozen such stories, in an effort to prove that "[t]here’s no reason for anyone to treat these kinds of threats as credible any longer."
And with cities across Washington state and around the country considering $15 an hour laws of their own, that message couldn't be better timed.
Also of interest: