The Evening Blues - 3-16-23


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Silas Hogan

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features swamp blues guitarist Silas Hogan. Enjoy!

Silas Hogan - So Long Blues

"Every empire suffers from hubris, arrogance and condescension, and therefore a moral blindness. That's true of the American empire, it was true of the British Empire earlier, and it will certainly be true of the Chinese Empire in the future."

-- Cornel West

News and Opinion

Bush-Era Neocons Should Shut The Fuck Up About Iraq (And Everything Else)

David Frum and Max Boot, two neoconservatives who helped grease the wheels for the invasion of Iraq, have some thoughts they’d like to share with us as we approach the 20th anniversary of that horrific and unforgivable war. Both of these perspectives can be read in widely esteemed mainstream publications, because everyone who was responsible for inflicting that war upon our species has enjoyed mainstream influence and esteem to this very day.

Both men concede in their own ways that the war was a mistake, while simultaneously cheerleading the US proxy war in Ukraine that has brought humanity closer to nuclear armageddon than it has been at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both men mix their Iraq War retrospectives with war apologia, historical revisionism, and outright lies. And both men should shut the fuck up. About everything. Forever.

Frum’s article is posted in The Atlantic, where he is a senior editor, and it is titled “The Iraq War Reconsidered“. Frum is credited with authoring George W Bush’s infamous “Axis of Evil” speech, which marked the beginning of an unprecedented era of US military expansionism and “humanitarian interventions” in geostrategically valuable nations after 9/11.

In just the second sentence of his article Frum opens with an absolute scorcher of a lie, saying “an arsenal of chemical-warfare shells and warheads” were discovered in Iraq to suggest that the weapons of mass destruction narrative had been proven at least somewhat true. As The Intercept’s Jon Schwartz explained back in 2015, the only chemical weapons in Iraq were either (A) munitions sealed in bunkers at an Iraqi weapons complex by UN inspectors in the nineties and left there because they were too dangerous to move, and (B) some old munitions that had been lost and forgotten after the Iran-Iraq War. In neither of these cases is it true that Saddam Hussein was hiding any weapons of mass destruction.

Frum claims that “The United States went to war to build a democracy in Iraq,” which is an infantile fairy tale only idiots and children believe. Iraq was invaded because it was an oil-rich nation in a geostrategically crucial region whose leader had been insufficiently servile to US energy interests. Probably didn’t help that it was also moving toward re-normalizing relations with Iran.

Frum hilariously claims that “What the U.S. did in Iraq was not an act of unprovoked aggression,” and shows that he has learned absolutely nothing about anything by criticizing the Obama administration for not invading Syria to enforce “its own declared red lines” on chemical weapons allegations.

Frum begins the article by calling the war “a grave and costly error,” but by the end he has completely walked this back by gushing about how much better it made things for Iraqis. He says that “ISIS has been destroyed in Iraq and reduced to a tiny foothold in Syria” and “Jihadist terrorism has receded across the Arab Middle East,” and that the ensuing “stability” has had “economic benefits” for Iraqis, like greater oil exports. Frum makes the unfalsifiable fantasy claim that things would have been just as bad for Iraqis if the US hadn’t invaded, saying “Whether Iraq had an alternative future that would have been much better for the country and its people seems very doubtful to me.”

“Imperfect as Iraqi governance is, thanks to the U.S. intervention, the country has for the first time in its independent history a political system that is in some measure accountable to its people,” Frum writes.

Frum closes with a paragraph that continues The Atlantic’s long and ongoing pattern of churning out think pieces which use the war in Ukraine to rehabilitate the image of the neocons:

“The invasion of Ukraine has recalled the peoples of the Western democracies to themselves. There are times when free people must fight in self-defense. That truth must not be lost, whatever lessons we draw from the Iraq War. And perhaps the commitment to share that freedom with the people of Iraq is not yet lost either. They have gained a chance, and their story is not over.”

Max Boot’s article is titled “What the Neocons Got Wrong“, and it’s published in Foreign Affairs. Boot was one of the earliest influential proponents of the Iraq invasion, penning a now-notorious essay for the neoconservative Weekly Standard titled “The Case for American Empire” a month after 9/11. Boot’s 2001 screed called for “a U.S. invasion and occupation” of Iraq, predicting a swift and easy victory and saying that “Once we have deposed Saddam, we can impose an American-led, international regency in Baghdad, to go along with the one in Kabul.”

Boot’s sentiments on Iraq today are more contrite than Frum’s, unequivocally denouncing the war and the idea of promoting democracy by military force, but there’s still a lot of warmongering bullshit in his Foreign Affairs piece.

“Both South Korea and South Vietnam were worth defending from communist aggression, but the Koreans showed greater skill and willingness to fight for their own freedom than the South Vietnamese did,” Boot proclaims out of fucking nowhere.

“I am a neocon no more,” Boot declares, before making it clear that he has simply pivoted from supporting Republican wars to supporting Democrat wars like the proxy war in Ukraine. Boot says “Ukraine easily meets the test” for justifiable US interventionism, and calls President Zelensky “a Churchillian figure worthy of the United States’ unstinting support.”

Despite his denunciation of neoconservatism, Boot has been an exceptionally hawkish supporter of the same US proxy war that all his Bush-era neocon buddies have rallied behind in the last year. In his regular opinion column for The Washington Post he has been one of the loudest voices pushing for the US to pour more powerful weapons into Ukraine, and even went on a trip with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to write war propaganda about the need for the US alliance to send more tanks there.

(While we’re on the subject, why does The Washington Post need to give regular opinion columns to Max Boot, John Bolton, Jennifer Rubin, and Josh Rogin? They’re all warmongering neocons. I think even neocons would agree that’s too many neocons.)

But of greater significance than the specific words that David Frum and Max Boot have published is the fact that their words are being published at all. It is absolutely insane that the people who helped unleash the horror that was the Iraq War upon the world are not only not in prison, but are actively uplifted and celebrated on the most influential platforms in the western world. These freaks shouldn’t be able to get jobs of any greater influence than working behind a cash register, and they should have a harder time getting those jobs than convicted felons. They certainly shouldn’t be given a platform to write about the very crime they helped orchestrate.

But such is the civilization we find ourselves in. The empire elevates those who serve the empire, and marginalizes those who speak out against it. David Frum and Max Boot are massively amplified celebrity pundits not in spite of their past misdeeds but exactly because of them. They have proved themselves to be reliable servants of the empire, and the empire has rewarded them accordingly.

In a remotely sane society, this would not be the case. In a remotely sane society, such creatures would be regarded with the same revulsion and rejection as child molesters. These people are worse than serial killers, because they’ve got body counts that Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy could only dream of.

Here’s hoping that one day we live in a society that has become so healthy that it is no longer acceptable to be a neocon.

Death, Destruction & Resilience: Nadje Al-Ali on the 20th Anniversary of U.S. Invasion of Iraq

Reparations Demanded 20 Years After US Launched 'War-for-Profit' in Iraq

Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the George W. Bush administration's illegal invasion of Iraq this weekend, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights on Wednesday renewed its call for reparations "for those harmed as a result of the U.S.'s unlawful act of aggression in its cruel, senseless, and baseless war-for-profit."

"Ten years ago, we teamed up with Iraqi civil society groups and U.S. service members to demand redress," the nonprofit explained, "and this need only becomes more urgent as the incalculable human toll of the war continues to grow: hundreds of thousands dead, some two million disabled, some nine million displaced, environmental devastation, countless people tortured, traumatized, or otherwise harmed in ways unseen, occupation and embrace of torture as policy in the so-called 'War on Terror,' and an entire generation that was born and raised in only war."

As Common Dreams reported earlier Wednesday, the Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs estimates that already, "the total costs of the war in Iraq and Syria are expected to exceed half a million human lives and $2.89 trillion" by 2050.

The project also said that "an estimated 300,000 people have died from direct war violence in Iraq, while the reverberating effects of war continue to kill and sicken hundreds of thousands more."

Such figures have fueled calls from groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which asserted that "reparations are rooted in precedent and international law, as well as a strong tradition of justice-based organizing by civil rights movements, and we should not let the difficulty of securing justice deter us from seeking it—for Iraqis and for all others harmed by U.S. imperialism, exploitation, and genocide."

"Justice also entails accountability for the perpetrators of these horrific crimes, including those responsible for the torture" in Iraq and beyond, argued the center—which since 2004 has filed three lawsuits against U.S-based military contractors on behalf of Iraqis tortured at the Abu Ghraib prison and also sued Erik Prince and his company Blackwater over the Nisour Square massacre.

"Legal efforts against high-level political and military leaders for the invasion itself and the many crimes committed in the 'War on Terror' pose a different set of challenges, as demonstrated by our efforts to hold high-level Bush-administration officials accountable at the International Criminal Court for crimes in or arising out of the war in Afghanistan or under universal jurisdiction," CCR noted. "Those of us pursuing accountability can draw inspiration from activists in other countries like Argentina and Guatemala who waged successful campaigns over several decades."

Highlighting that "Congress continues its overbroad authorizations for use of military force," the center argued that "such authorizations must be repealed, and the unlawful policies of endless war and militarization must be replaced with international-law-based, rights-respecting policies and practices."

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote Thursday to repeal both the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force against Iraq. While the measure's sponsor, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), has been publicly optimistic about passage, it would then need approval from the GOP-controlled House of Representatives before being sent to President Joe Biden's desk for signature.

NEOCONS FREAK At Trump, DeSantis On Ukraine

Russia plans to recover wreckage of US drone downed over Black Sea

Moscow has said it intends to recover the wreckage of a US drone brought down on Tuesday following an interception by Russian fighter jets, but US officials said the debris could be in such deep water that recovery is impossible, and would have no real intelligence value.

“I don’t know if we can recover [it] or not, but we will certainly have to do that, and we will deal with it,” said Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s security council, on Wednesday. “I certainly hope for success.”

Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, said Russia had the technological capability to recover the debris of the MQ-9 Reaper drone from the seabed. The impact site is believed to be in international waters off the west coast of occupied Crimea, where Russia has established naval bases and airfields.

Turkey has barred access for warships through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began over a year ago, and the US navy does not have any warships currently in the Black Sea. John Kirby, the spokesman for the national security council, said on Wednesday the wreck might not be salvageable.

“It has not been recovered. And I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to recover it,” Kirby told CNN. “Where it fell into the Black Sea [is] very, very deep water. So we’re still assessing whether there can be any kind of recovery effort. There may not be.” Gen Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said that where the drone had come down, the sea was up to 5,000 feet (1524 metres) deep, “so any recovery operation is very difficult at that depth, by anyone”.

MQ-9 Reaper drone, military tries to de-escalate. Neocons want to escalate

Ah, the man who gives lunacy and degeneracy a bad name pipes up:

Sen. Graham Calls for US to Start Shooting Down Russian Planes

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called for the US to start shooting down Russian planes that encounter US aircraft in response to the downing of the MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea.

Graham told Fox News host Sean Hannity that the US should tell Russia if “you ever get near another US asset flying in international waters, your airplane will be shot down.”

“What would Ronald Reagan do right now? He would start shooting Russian planes down if they were threatening our assets. American foreign policy is in freefall,” Graham added.

WATCH: Russian Plane DOWNS US Drone

Canadian FM Says Regime Change in Moscow Is ‘Definitely’ the Goal

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said last week that regime change in Moscow is “definitely” the goal when announcing Canada was banning the import of Russian steel and metal as part of its sanctions campaign against Russia.

“We’re able to see how much we’re isolating the Russian regime right now — because we need to do so economically, politically and diplomatically — and what are the impacts also on society, and how much we’re seeing potential regime change in Russia,” Joly said, according to the National Post.

Joly said regime change and holding Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable was the purpose of the sanctions. “The goal is definitely to do that, is to weaken Russia’s ability to launch very difficult attacks against Ukraine. We want also to make sure that Putin and his enablers are held to account,” she said.

Russian Economy SOARS Past Germany & UK!

North Korea test launches ICBM as South Korea and Japan leaders set to meet

North Korea has test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a display of military might, just hours before the leaders of South Korea and Japan were to meet at a Tokyo summit that was expected to be overshadowed by Kim Jong-un’s nuclear threats.

The launch on Thursday, the North’s first ICBM test in a month and third weapons test this week, also comes as South Korean and US troops continue joint military exercises that Pyongyang sees as a rehearsal to invade.

South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol said the North would pay a price for its provocative actions and urged stronger security ties with the US and Japan. ...

Japanese defence minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile probably landed in waters outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone after about an hour-long flight. The landing site is about 250km (155 miles) off the western island of Oshima, which is close to where other North Korean ICBMs fell in recent months after test-flights. ...

After conducting a record number of missile tests last year, North Korea has extended its testing activities this year, including the launch on 18 February of its Hwasong-15 ICBM that is designed to strike the US mainland. After that ICBM launch, North Korea said the test was meant to further bolster its “fatal” nuclear attack capacity against its rivals.

Anger as French government pushes through pension reform without vote

Farmer protest party wins 'monster' Dutch vote victory

Credit Suisse takes $54bn loan from Swiss central bank after share price plunge

Credit Suisse has announced that it will take a CHF50bn ($53.7bn) loan from the Swiss central bank, in an action it says will “pre-emptively strengthen its liquidity” as it moves to stem a crisis of confidence a day after its share price plummeted.

This additional liquidity would support the bank in taking the “necessary steps to create a simpler and more focused bank built around client needs”, its statement said. The bank said it was also making buyback offers on about $3bn worth of debt.

The bank said its borrowing measures “demonstrate decisive action to strengthen Credit Suisse as we continue our strategic transformation to deliver value to our clients and other stakeholders”.

Asian stocks slid on Thursday and investors turned to the safety of gold, bonds and dollars as fears of a broader crisis intensified despite the intervention, leaving markets on edge ahead of a European Central Bank meeting (ECB) later on Thursday.

Expectations of a 50 basis-point rate rise in Europe have evaporated as markets radically rethink the global interest rate outlook. Money market pricing implies a less than a 20% chance of such a rise from the ECB, down from 90% a day earlier.

'LEHMAN MOMENT' As Bank Bubbles Burst

Batya Ungar-Sargon: SVB Downfall Further Proves The Govt ONLY Cares About The Rich

Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over toxic train derailment

The state of Ohio is suing the rail giant Norfolk Southern over the derailment of a freight train carrying toxic chemicals through the village of East Palestine last month, calling it one of a “long string” of derailments and hazardous material incidents involving the company.

The 58-count civil lawsuit, filed in federal court, seeks to hold the rail company financially responsible for the derailment that caused the release of over 1m gallons of chemicals, calling it “recklessly endangering” to the residents of East Palestine and the state’s natural resources.

The suit alleges multiple violations of state and federal law pertaining to hazardous waste, water pollution, air pollution and common law negligence, and seeks to recoup the state’s costs from the leak, including for damage to natural resources, emergency responses and economic harm to residents.

“Ohio shouldn’t have to bear the tremendous financial burden of Norfolk Southern’s glaring negligence,” Ohio’s attorney general, Dave Yost, said after the lawsuit was filed.

“The fallout from this highly preventable incident may continue for years to come, and there’s still so much we don’t know about the long-term effects on our air, water and soil,” he said. “The fallout from this highly preventable accident is going to reverberate through Ohio and Ohioans for many years to come.”

Access to abortion pill in the balance as Texas judge hears mifepristone case

A Texas court heard a closely watched case on Wednesday on the future of a key abortion medication amid protests against the presiding judge’s decision not to publicize the hearing.

Justice department officials, drug company attorneys and lawyers from the anti-abortion Alliance Defending Freedom gathered in the remote city of Amarillo, Texas, for a hearing before Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk with the district court for the northern district of Texas. Kacsmaryk was asked by anti-abortion groups to grant a preliminary injunction revoking the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, one of two medications used in more than 50% of all abortions in the US.

A decision overturning approval of the drug would apply nationwide, not only in the states that have banned or restricted abortion.

In a hearing that lasted more than four hours, the judge asked both sides questions about the administrative law governing the FDA and whether the plaintiffs had standing to bring the case. Appearing to take pains to seem neutral, he gave little inclination of how he would rule, but promised a decision would come “as soon as possible”. He offered nothing beyond that in terms of a timeline.

Attorney Erik Baptist, arguing for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said “any relief must be complete, universal and nationwide” as “the harms of chemical abortion drugs know no bounds”. Medication abortion has been repeatedly found to be extremely safe.

Tents slashed and supplies destroyed: ‘Cop City’ activists describe police intimidation

A police helicopter circled so close to a house in the leafy Atlanta neighborhood called Lakewood late on Saturday night that a resident said he could “damn near see the pilot”. The resident, who asked for anonymity in order to speak with the Guardian, decided to go to a nearby friend’s house. Others were not so lucky. Several dozen other people, including members of a medical crew, were then rousted from campsites on the resident’s property during a post-dawn police raid that followed.

Up to 40 Atlanta police department officers swarmed the sprawling, hillside property, slashing medical supply tents, breaking windows of a camper van parked on site and ripping netting surrounding a greenhouse.

The Guardian has obtained a copy of the search warrant used for the raid and spoke to numerous people present during the police action. The document and the witness accounts offer telling insight into how law enforcement officials and the justice system in Georgia are prosecuting unprecedented state domestic terrorism charges against members of a broad social movement that opposes a $90m police and fire department training center, known as “Cop City”, planned for the nearby South River forest. The movement has also opposed a former film studio owner’s plans to convert 40 acres (16 hectares) of public park in the forest into private property, calling for the forest to be preserved.

The warrant states there was probable cause for believing that evidence of “conspiracy to commit domestic terrorism” could be found at the Lakewood location.

Objects officers sought included “cameras, radios … boxes of nails … lighters … tents, camping equipment, spray paint cans, [and] black clothing”, according to the warrant. The list also mentions “literature … related to defend the forest”. Although several dozen people were detained near the property for several hours, the only person arrested was Mark Lindsey, another year-round resident – for an unpaid traffic ticket. None of the half-dozen people present during the raid and interviewed by the Guardian had any items seized by police, or had heard of anyone else’s property being seized.

the horse race

Stormy Daniels meets with prosecutors to discuss Trump role in payout

The adult film star Stormy Daniels met with investigators on Wednesday to discuss the former president’s role in a hush money payment made ahead of the 2016 election in exchange for her silence about claims of a sexual liaison. The news emerged as Michael Cohen, a former Trump attorney who orchestrated the payment, was giving a second day of testimony before a New York grand jury looking into the matter.

The $130,000 payment was made in 2016, as Trump’s first presidential campaign was in its final weeks and Daniels was neg