The Evening Blues - 3-27-23


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Ray Charles

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features blues piano player Ray Charles. Enjoy!

Ray Charles - Unchain my Heart

“The coup that overthrew President Chavez of Venezuela in April 2002 was greeted with euphoria in Washington. The new president—a businessman—was instantly recognized and the hope expressed that stability and order would return to the country, thus creating the basis for solid future development. The New York Times editorialized in identical language.
... The coup was reversed three days later and Chavez then came back to power. The State Department soberly denied any prior knowledge about anything, saying it was all an internal matter. It was to be hoped that a peaceful, democratic, and constitutional solution to the difficulties would be arrived at, they said. The New York Times editorial followed suit, merely adding that perhaps it was not a good idea to embrace the overthrow of a democratically elected regime, however obnoxious, too readily if one of America's fundamental values was support for democracy.”

-- David Harvey

News and Opinion

They’re Rebooting “Axis Of Evil” On The 20th Anniversary Of The Iraq Invasion

The western political/media class has suddenly resurrected the phrase “Axis of Evil” in recent days to refer to the increasing intimacy between Russia and China, just in time for the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Famed Iraq War cheerleader Sean Hannity appears to have kicked things off last week, saying on his show that “a new Axis of evil is emerging” between China, Russia and Iran, a slogan that has since been echoed numerous times this week.

On Tuesday former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told Fox News that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are “two dictators that have said they are unlimited partners,” asserting that “This is the new Axis of Evil, with Iran being their junior partner.”

Also on Tuesday Representative Mike Lawler tweeted, “Xi’s meeting with Putin in Moscow is deeply concerning and highlights the growing threats posed by this new axis of evil,” and on Thursday he tweeted, “We are dealing with a new axis of evil and failure to stop Putin in Ukraine will have far-reaching implications as Russia pushes further into Eastern Europe and China moves against Taiwan.”

On Wednesday The Telegraph published an article titled “Xi and Putin are building a new axis of evil,” which mixes in the phrases “China-Russia axis” and “Beijing-Moscow axis” for good measure.

Also on Wednesday Representative Brian Mast tweeted “This is the new axis of evil” with a picture of Xi and Putin shaking hands.

On Thursday British tabloid The Sun published an article titled “WHO’S THE BOSS? Body language experts reveal Putin & Xi’s hidden messages in their ‘axis of evil’ meeting and who REALLY has the power,” with the phrase “axis of evil” appearing nowhere in the actual body of the text.

The “Axis of Evil” slogan was first made infamous by George W Bush in a jingoistic speech he gave a few months after 9/11, and at the time referred to the nations of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. The following year Iraq would be in ruins as the US empire ushered in a new era of worldwide military expansionism and shockingly aggressive interventionism throughout the Middle East.

Bush (and the speechwriter who helped him coin the phrase, neoconservative war propagandist David Frum) used the word “Axis” to evoke the memory of the Axis powers of World War II who fought against the Allied forces, of which the United States was a part. Western warmongers have an extensive history of comparing every war they want to fight to the second world war, framing whoever their Enemy of the Day happens to be as the new Adolf Hitler, whoever wants to fight him as the new Winston Churchill, and whoever opposes the war as the new Neville Chamberlain.

The idea is to get everyone thinking in terms of Good Guys versus Bad Guys like children watching a cartoon show, instead of like grown adults engaged in complex analysis of real life as it actually exists. Because the US empire has spent generations framing WWII as a pure Good Guys versus Bad Guys conflict, now propagandists can say that every Pentagon target is Hitler and the US and its allies are the brave heroes who are fighting Hitler.

And that appears to be the intention behind this recent resurrection of the “Axis of Evil” label: not to recall George W Bush’s hawkish sloganeering on the 20th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, but to recall World War II. This seems likely because we’re also seeing a huge increase in the use of the term “axis” to refer to Russia, China, Iran and sometimes other nations like North Korea, without the fun “of Evil” part.

Genocide walrus John Bolton has been trying to make “axis” happen for a while now; he used that term to refer to the relationship between Russia and China last month in an interview with The Washington Post, where he also claimed that we are already in “a global war” against those nations. In an interview with The Telegraph earlier this week Bolton referred to “the China-Russia axis,” which he described as having “outriders like Iran and North Korea.”

On Monday Representative Jamie Raskin tweeted about the “axis of authoritarianism linking Russia, China, and Iran.”

On Wednesday Representative Lisa McClain tweeted, “Xi and Putin seek a new world order that poses a worrying global threat. The West should be worried about this China-Russia axis and what it means for freedom.”

(Can I just pause a moment here to note that it’s a bit odd for the other guys to be labeled the “axis” when the US is now aligned with every one of the World War II Axis powers?)

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday, committee chairman Michael McCaul shed a bit more light on the worldview driving this perspective in his opening remarks.

“History shows when you project strength you get peace but when you project weakness it does invite aggression and war; you only need to look back to Neville Chamberlain and Hitler, and really the course of time has proven that axiom,” McCaul said, adding, “We’re starting to see this alliance very similar in my judgement to what we saw in World War Two: Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.”

The problem with McCaul’s thinking, of course, is that he is pretending the US is just some passive witness to the formation of this evil “axis” of hostile nations instead of the singular driving factor behind it. Russia, China, and other unabsorbed governments have all been driven closer and closer together by the hostility of the United States toward all of them, and now they are overcoming some significant differences to rapidly move into increasingly intimate strategic partnerships to protect their national sovereignty from a globe-spanning empire which demands total submission from every government on earth.

Empire managers have long forecasted the acquisition of post-Soviet Russia as an imperial lackey state which could be weaponized against the new Enemy Number One in China, but instead the exact opposite happened. Hillary Clinton told the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in 2021 that as an insider within the US power structure she’d “heard for years that Russia would become more willing to move toward the west, more willing to engage in a positive way with Europe, the UK, the US, because of problems on its border, because of the rise of China.” But that’s not what occurred.

“We haven’t seen that,” Clinton said. “Instead what we’ve seen is a concerted effort by Putin maybe to hug China more.”

Perhaps more effort would have been expended winning over Russia’s friendship had this incorrect forecast not been made. If US empire managers had not been so confident that Moscow would come groveling to their feet to kiss the imperial ring, perhaps they would not have felt so comfortable expanding NATO, knocking back Putin’s early gestures of goodwill while administration after administration assured him with its actions that it will accept nothing but total subordinance, and engaging in aggressive brinkmanship on its border.

But they made a different call, so now we have to listen to cringey cold warriors like Michael McFaul moan about Moscow deciding to go with Beijing instead of Washington.

“After the collapse of the USSR, a democratic Russia had the chance to be a major, respected European power,” McFaul recently complained on Twitter. “Putin however has pushed Russia a different way, turning Russia (yet again) into a vassal of an Asian autocratic power. Such a wasted opportunity. Oh well.”

Which is of course just McFaul’s way of saying, “Russia was supposed to be our vassal, not China’s!”

Really all this fuss is nothing other than the emergence of a multipolar world crashing headlong into the imperial doctrine that US unipolar hegemony must be maintained at all cost. If not for that last bit the US empire ceasing to singularly dominate the planet wouldn’t be much of a problem, but because there’s a zealous belief that all attempts to surpass the United States must be treated as enemy acts of aggression we’re now seeing world powers split into two increasingly hostile alliance groups with more and more talk of hot global conflict.

This is madness, and it needs to stop.

EDIT: The always excellent Moon of Alabama put out its own piece on the rebirth of the “Axis of Evil” slogan at the same time as me that’s got more instances of the use of that phrase by the political/media class.

End of unipolarity w/ Jeffrey Sachs, Alexander Mercouris and Glenn Diesen

U.S. Launches AIR STRIKES On Iranians IN SYRIA!

More US Airstrikes in Syria Kill at Least 19, Multiple American Bases Attacked

Three American bases in Eastern Syria were targeted with rockets and drones on Friday. One American soldier was injured in the attack. The American bases came under fire after the US carried out airstrikes in eastern Syria.

The violence in Syria escalated on Thursday when a US outpost was attacked. One contractor was killed by a drone strike. Additionally, five soldiers and one contractor were wounded. The Pentagon claimed it had intelligence that the drones used in the attack were of "Iranian origin."

Biden responded by authorizing airstrikes against groups affiliated with Iran in the regions. ... Tehran said there would be a "counter-response" to the airstrikes. “Any pretext to attack bases created at the request of the Syrian government to deal with terrorism and Islamic State elements in this country will be met with an immediate counter-response,” Keyvan Khosravi, spokesperson for the Supreme National Security Council of Iran warned.

The Pentagon also warned it would respond to further attacks. "We are postured for scalable options in the face of any additional Iranian attacks," a statement from CENTCOM Commander, General Michael "Erik" Kurilla said. ...

Tehran entered the Syrian war at the request of Damascus. Iranian support forces have helped to push back jihadist groups. However, the Syrian government and its partner forces, including ones backed by Iran, have come into conflict with American forces as well. As part of its economic war against Damascus, Washington occupies the eastern third of Syria, including where most of the country’s oil and wheat resources are located. Damascus views the American forces as illegally occupying Syrian territory.

Biden BOMBS Syria After US Contractor Killed

The Pentagon says its illegal bases were targeted by drones in the third attack against US troops in Syria within 24 hours

Two military bases of the US occupation army in Syria came under heavy attack late on 24 March, leaving multiple casualties among the troops stationed at Al-Omar and Conoco oil fields in Deir Ezzor governorate.

According to local reports, flames rose from inside the occupation base at Al-Omar, Syria’s largest oil field.

No group has taken responsibility for the daring operation. According to the Pentagon, one attack was carried out with rockets, while the other “involved multiple Iranian drones.”

Friday night’s attack marked the third armed operation against US troops within 24 hours. ...

US military bases in Syria regularly come under attack by local resistance groups, as popular discontent has grown significantly over their ongoing theft of Syria’s natural resources.

Aaron Mate at UN: OPCW cover-up denies justice to Douma victims

Putin DEPLOYING Tactical Nukes Closer To Ukraine

Zelensky Tells Europe Give More Weapons and Add Sanctions on Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday demanded that European countries provide more military aid and add more sanctions on Russia, warning that not doing so would prolong the war.

Zelensky said in a virtual address to EU leaders that they should provide longer-range weapons and Western-made fighter jets. He thanked Slovakia and Poland for providing Soviet-made MiG-29 planes but said Kyiv needs “modern aircraft.”

“Is there rational motivation for the protraction in providing modern aircraft?” the Ukrainian leader said. He dismissed concerns about Russia potentially escalating the war in response to such support, pointing to the provision of German-made Leopard tanks.

“Remember how many Russian threats there were when it came to the transfer of Leopards and other tanks – more advanced than those our soldiers had previously. These more advanced tanks are already in Ukraine. So, what did Russia do in response? We all have to get used to the fact that a terrorist state bluffs more often than it can escalate,” he said.

Ukrainian troops return home after Challenger 2 tank training in UK

Ukrainian crews have returned home after completing training in the UK on British tanks that are expected to be used in a counteroffensive against Russia.

The training has been completed after UK military officials spent several weeks instructing the Ukrainian personnel in how to operate and fight with Challenger 2 tanks, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Monday.

The troops travelled to Britain shortly after Rishi Sunak announced in January that the UK would send 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. The MoD could not confirm the exact location of the tanks.

The Ukrainian crews and the tanks are expected to be in position in time for a spring counteroffensive that is believed to be in the works.

Israeli Protests Intensify over Netanyahu Gov’t Weakening Judiciary as Palestinian Rights Ignored

Israel: mass protests after sacking of minister who opposed judicial overhaul

Tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to protest after Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defence minister over his opposition to a planned judicial overhaul.

Yoav Gallant had called on the prime minister to scrap the proposals which have divided the country, led to mass protests and sparked growing discontent within the military.

Netanyahu’s move on Sunday underscored his determination to press on with the overhaul which has also angered business leaders and raised concerns among Israel’s allies. Gallant was the first senior member of the ruling Likud party to speak out against the plan.

But as droves of protesters flooded the streets late into the night, other Likud ministers began indicating willingness to hit the brakes. Culture minister Micky Zohar, a Netanyahu confidant, said the party would support him if he decided to pause the judicial overhaul.

A parliamentary vote this week will take place on a centrepiece of the overhaul – a law that would give the governing coalition the final say over all judicial appointments. It also seeks to pass laws that would grant parliament the authority to override supreme court decisions and limit judicial review of laws.

France pension reform: Macron holds crisis meeting, new day of strikes planned

Violence escalates in French pension reform protests: "Social and political crisis"

Rwanda scheme would ‘completely erode’ UK’s standing on world stage

The UK’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda would “completely erode” Britain’s standing on the world stage, the new head of Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. Tirana Hassan, who takes over as HRW’s executive director on Monday, also said other conservative governments in Europe were considering following Britain’s lead and looking at African states as an offshore dumping ground for asylum seekers, potentially dealing further blows to established refugee protections. ...

The UK government’s deportation scheme was agreed with Rwanda nearly a year ago but has been held up by legal challenges since then, including the intervention of the European court of human rights. The home secretary, Suella Braverman, visited Kigali earlier this month to see accommodation blocks being built for deported asylum seekers from Britain, causing additional controversy by taking only the rightwing press with her.

The government has also proposed a restrictive new immigration bill under the slogan “stop the boats” aimed at cutting down refugee crossings of the Channel. “It’s cheap politics, divisive and completely contrary to human rights,” Hassan said. “I think that this current government in the UK is essentially scraping the bottom of the barrel.”

“This is just going to completely erode any sort of international standing that the UK has when it comes to human rights on the international stage. They don’t have a leg to stand on in terms of their credibility any more,” Hassan said.

Internet Archive to Appeal 'Chilling' Federal Ruling Against Digital Books

Internet Archive vowed to appeal after a U.S. district court judge on Friday sided with four major publishers who sued the nonprofit for copyright infringement.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Internet Archives operated a controlled digital lending system, allowing users to digitally check out scanned copies of purchased or donated books on a one-to-one basis. As the public health crises forced school and library closures, the nonprofit launched the National Emergency Library, making 1.4 million digital books available without waitlists.

Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House sued Internet Archive over its lending policies in June 2020. Judge John G. Koeltl of the Southern District of New York on Friday found in Hachette v. Internet Archive that the nonprofit "creates derivative e-books that, when lent to the public, compete with those authorized by the publishers."

Internet Archive "argues that its digital lending makes it easier for patrons who live far from physical libraries to access books and that it supports research, scholarship, and cultural participation by making books widely accessible on the Internet," the judge wrote. "But these alleged benefits cannot outweigh the market harm to the publishers."

In a statement responding to the ruling, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle pledged to keep fighting against the publishers.

"Libraries are more than the customer service departments for corporate database products. For democracy to thrive at global scale, libraries must be able to sustain their historic role in society—owning, preserving, and lending books," Kahle said. "This ruling is a blow for libraries, readers, and authors and we plan to appeal it."

Drip, drip, drip ...

Officers in ‘Cop City’ raid shot pepperball gun into activist’s tent first

A police officer fired rounds from a pepperball gun into Manuel Paez Terán’s closed tent before an exchange of gunfire that resulted in the death of the environmental activist and injury of an officer, according to police incident reports obtained by the Guardian. Armed police in tactical gear killed the 26-year-old Paez Terán on the morning of 18 January as they swept through an Atlanta forest to clear activists who were camping there to prevent construction on a $90m police and fire department training facility known as “Cop City”. ...

The incident reports reveal that officers were first to discharge a weapon – they fired a pepperball gun into Paez Terán’s tent, which was followed by gunshots they believed were coming from inside the tent, leading officers to fire a barrage of shots blindly into the tent, killing Paez Terán inside. It also reveals that, while they rendered medical assistance to an injured officer, they did not immediately do the same for Paez Terán.

Until now, the police agencies involved in the operation have released few records detailing what happened that day, but have claimed that officers shot Paez Terán in self-defense. There are nine mentions of the phrase “domestic terrorist” or “domestic terrorists” used by officers in the 20-page police incident report, which Paez Terán’s family said showed the attitude they took towards anyone they encountered in the forest during an operation that resulted in the death of the activist, who went by “Tortuguita” and used they/them pronouns.

The new records sent to the Guardian through a public records request by the Georgia department of public safety reveal the previously unreleased written narratives of the officers involved, including the lead-up to the police clearing of the forest, what happened during the shooting and the immediate aftermath. The officers’ names are redacted. In a statement to the Guardian responding to the release of the documents, Paez Terán’s family said the reports “reveal that officers were fed a steady supply of hearsay and vague generalities about ‘domestic terrorists’ before entering the forest. It is clear that all law enforcement regarded any person in the forest as guilty of being a domestic terrorist.”

Through their lawyers, the family said: “The officer narratives released today by the department of public safety were drafted weeks or, in some cases, months after the incident. When officers drafted these statements, each had the opportunity to review the publicly available video and the press releases issued by the GBI [Georgia bureau of investigation]. As the GBI has acknowledged, ‘memory and perception are fragile’, and outside factors can influence witness statements.” Brian Spears, a lawyer for the family, said the records show the officers prepared their narratives in February and March, long after the shooting.

the horse race

Trump says he’s not upset over possible indictment while attacking ‘fake’ case

Donald Trump repeatedly insisted on Saturday night he was not upset by expected criminal charges that might arise from the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into his role in paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels as he returned from a campaign rally in Waco, Texas.

But the manner of Trump’s responses to questions suggested worries about potential damage to his image, and he came across as someone angry that his good vibrations with his “Make American great again” base in Texas could be interrupted by the reality of a possible indictment as soon as this week.

Travelling back from his first rally as a 2024 presidential candidate, Trump claimed during a recorded interview with four reporters aboard his Trump Force One plane that he was unafraid about the investigation even as he attacked the case and attacked media reporting about the case.

“I’m not frustrated by it. It’s a fake investigation. We did nothing wrong – I told you that,” the former president said before proceeding to lash out at the NBC News reporter on the plane who asked if he was frustrated. “This is fake news, and NBC is one of the worst. Don’t ask me any more questions.”