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A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held crisis talks with leaders of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday
This is the horror:
Iraqi security forces attempting to retake control of the western city of Ramadi were routed in heavy fighting Sunday, the worst defeat for Iraq’s central government since Islamic State militants stormed across the country last June.
And this is the stupidity:
In a replay of last year’s military debacle, elite units abandoned their U.S.-provided equipment to Islamic State fighters and fled the area, leaving several hundred soldiers surrounded in the last government-held enclave in the city.
The elite units are not stupid, they're running for their lives. What's stupid is that the United States continues to send arms to fight the bad guys despite the continuing pattern of the arms ending up in the hands of the bad guys. For these particular bad guys, it's been essential to their success. As McClatchy's Roy Gutman and Mousab Alhamadee so accurately described it:
an Islamic caliphate armed with US weapons
That description came in August. It has only gotten worse, since. The United States sends arms to fight the bad guys, and the arms end up in the hands of the bad guys. And despite all the many lost years of training Iraqi government troops, military experts say the bad guys are better trained. Of course, the continuing success of the bad guys while using American-made arms will only renew and increase calls for more American-made arms to be sent. And maybe some American troops, too. The thing about endless war is that it never ends.
Demonstrators protest outside of the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station during a rally for Freddie Gray, in Baltimore, April 21, 2015. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Baltimore on Tuesday to protest the death of the 27-yea
The Baltimore Orioles baseball team has been inadvertently caught in the middle of the public uprising over the brutal death in police custody of Freddie Gray. First, its fans were temporarily locked inside the team's Camden Yards baseball stadium, as the chaos roiled around it, then a home game was played to empty stands, out of fear for fan safety. Local sports broadcaster Brett Hollander decried the inconvenience to fans, and criticized the protests. Orioles Chief Operating Officer John Angelos, whose father Peter is the team's owner, responded:
Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

That a baseball executive is able to contextualize what so many politicians and media mouthpieces can only stereotype and vilify contextualizes the depth of dysfunction in our politics and media.
Ron Wyden at a September 2012 hearing of the Senate Energy Committee
In a long article, Village internet outlet Politico sets the context:
Senior lawmakers appeared to be close to reaching an agreement Wednesday night over a bipartisan trade promotion authority bill that has already ignited a fierce fight between President Barack Obama and liberal Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Two Republicans — Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan — have been in negotiations for months to strike a deal with Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has faced intense pressure from labor and progressive groups to walk away from the talks.

Wyden's hometown newspaper has the news:
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is near to reaching a deal with Republicans on a "fast-track" trade bill regarded as crucial to later producing congressional agreement on a sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact with 12 Pacific Rim nations.

"We are close to finding common ground," Wyden said Thursday morning in a Senate Finance Committee hearing as the panel's chairman, Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, also delivered an upbeat assessment of his long negotiations with the Oregon Democrat. Wyden indicated there could be a deal as early as Thursday afternoon.

More over the fold.
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Coloring book cover: 'U.S. Senator 'Ted' Cruz to the future: Comic coloring activity book'
For the children
Ted Cruz says so much that is noxious and unhinged that it's easy to overlook just how deranged he truly is. But this exchange with Fox "News" talking head Megyn Kelly should not get a pass:
"This is what some of your critics point to," said Kelly. "They say, yes, you've led the fight on certain issues, but what have you actually accomplished?"

Cruz reached into his bag of ready answers and insisted that gun safety legislation would have passed after Sandy Hook, if not for him. "Much of Washington was consigned," he insisted. "I did everything I could to energize and mobilize the grassroots, to stand up and protect the Second Amendment, and every single proposal of Barack Obama would undermine the Second Amendment, was voted down on the Senate floor."

The mind reels. But TBogg finds the appropriate words:
His most notable accomplishment, after 26 people — 20 of them small children — were systematically tracked down and butchered, was that he fought to make sure that guns remained cheap, plentiful, and easy to obtain in America?

Ted Cruz is a sociopath.

And he wants to be president.

And some people will vote for him because of it.
U.S. Representative Steve King (R-IA) talks at the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, February 10, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing
One of the uglier forms of modern American anti-Semitism takes form in the belief that Jewish Americans are more loyal to Israel than to the United States. Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King has managed to take this form of anti-Semitism to its next level. King so takes for granted that American Jews should be loyal to Israel first that he's baffled that they aren't:
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) criticized "Jews in America" who, in an effort to align themselves with President Obama's stance on Israel, are "Democrats first and Jewish second," BuzzFeed reported on Friday.

King's comments were made during an interview on Friday with Boston Herald Radio about the members of Congress who refused to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress on March 3.

"Well, there were some 50 or so Democrats that, that decided they would boycott the president's speech," King said. "Here's what I don't understand, I don't understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their President."


There are so many ways to go with this. Not that someone with a cantaloupe where his brain should be is capable of understanding, but let's try explaining this as one would to a child. A very small and not particularly bright child. Perhaps "Jews in America" can be Democrats first because to whatever degree they hold national loyalties they are loyal to the United States first. Because Israel is a foreign country and Jews in America are, you know, American.

Perhaps "Jews in America" can be Democrats first because they feel that the Democratic Party in the two-party system of their home country (you know—the United States) best represents their political values.

Head below the fold for more.

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Global map: February 2015 Blended Land & Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in °C
The National Climatic Data Center is terse and to the point:
The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for February 2015 was the second highest since record keeping began in 1880. Both the year-to-date (January–February) and seasonal (December–February) globally averaged temperatures were record high.
Which continues the trend that made 2014 the hottest year on record. And given these continuing records, Thursday's report from the National Snow & Ice Data Center was no surprise:
On February 25, 2015 Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.54 million square kilometers (5.61 million square miles). This year’s maximum ice extent was the lowest in the satellite record, with below-average ice conditions everywhere except in the Labrador Sea and Davis Strait. The maximum extent is 1.10 million square kilometers (425,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average of 15.64 million square kilometers (6.04 million square miles) and 130,000 square kilometers (50,200 square miles) below the previous lowest maximum that occurred in 2011.

Because of the variability of ice extent at this time of year, there can be some delay in pinpointing the date of the maximum extent, as was true this year. NSIDC calculates daily ice extent as an average of the previous five days (see the Sea Ice Index documentation for more information), and we also look for a clear downward trend for a number of days.

While the downturn in extent was quite pronounced on February 25, the trend subsequently flattened. This is in part due to recent ice growth in the Bering Sea, partly balancing continued ice retreat in the Barents and Kara seas. Over the next two to three weeks, periods of increase are still possible. However, it now appears unlikely that there could be sufficient growth to surpass the extent reached on February 25.

More beneath the fold.
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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif
Good news on many fronts:
Iran has continued to meet its commitments under an interim nuclear agreement with six world powers, a confidential United Nations nuclear agency report seen by Reuters showed on Friday.

The monthly update by the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran was not enriching uranium above a fissile concentration of 5 percent. It also said Iran had not made "any further advances" in its activities at two enrichment facilities and a heavy water reactor under construction.

Under the November 2013 accord between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Russia, China and Britain, the Islamic Republic halted its most sensitive nuclear activity and took other steps in exchange for some easing of economic sanctions.

Negotiations remain delicate, and as is usually the case with international diplomacy, the closer the sides get to a deal the more they will be focusing on the most delicate and controversial details. But even with another break coming, plans are for both sides to continue to talk, and as long as both sides are talking the potential for war is at least held in abeyance. The goal, of course, is a comprehensive agreement upon which can be built a lasting peace.

The Republicans are doing their best to scuttle any possible deal, but the international community and the American people both support the negotiations. Iran is doing its part to keep negotiations moving, by demonstrating good faith, and the White House is trying to do the same. The Republicans are continuing to try to undermine negotiations by demonstrating bad faith.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
If his lips are moving ...
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is either full of shit or else he's full shit. He won a plurality in this week's Israeli election by peeling votes away from harder right-wing political parties, and he did it by stoking racism and by openly saying what everyone has long known: that he opposes Palestinian statehood. But with the election over, he's now backtracking on his claimed opposition to Palestinian statehood, and now says he does favor a two-state solution. He's backtracking rhetorically, anyway. Because while some may think he's now punking the harder-right voters who supported him because of his statement against Palestinian statehood, anyone who has been paying attention knows that it's really the international community he's trying to punk. Because he wants international support, and particularly support from the United States, but he doesn't want Palestinian statehood. The White House, once again, is not impressed:
White House spokesman Josh Earnest warned that the foundation for its policy for supporting Israel had been “eroded”.

“Steps that the United States has taken at the United Nations had been predicated on this idea that the two-state solution is the best outcome,” he said.

“Now our ally in these talks has said that they are no longer committed to that solution. That means we need to re-evaluate our position in this matter, and that is what we will do moving forward.”

Netanyahu is lying to Washington and the international community by pretending he supports Palestinian statehood, and he is doing it by pretending he was lying to the harder-right voters who voted for him because he opposes Palestinian statehood. It's impressive for its sheer brazenness, but little else. Earnest didn't mince words.
“What is apparent is that in the context of the campaign and while he was the sitting prime minister of Israel, he walked back from commitments that Israel had previously made to a two-state solution,” Earnest said.
More over the fold.
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Bill Gates
The proving is in the doing
Not good:
The charity run by Bill and Melinda Gates, who say the threat of climate change is so serious that immediate action is needed, held at least $1.4bn (£1bn) of investments in the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, according to a Guardian analysis of the charity’s most recent tax filing in 2013.

The companies include BP, responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Anadarko Petroleum, which was recently forced to pay a $5bn environmental clean-up charge and Brazilian mining company Vale, voted the corporation with most “contempt for the environment and human rights” in the world clocking over 25,000 votes in the Public Eye annual awards.

The Gates foundation does a lot of good work, but what good will it really do if it is undermined by the overwhelming consequences of climate change? And more specifically, how can Gates pretend to care about climate change when his foundation is so deeply invested in the industries that cause it?
A Guardian campaign, launched on Monday and already backed by over 95,000 people is asking the Gates to sell their fossil fuel investments. It argues: “Your organisation has made a huge contribution to human progress ... yet your investments in fossil fuels are putting this progress at great risk. It is morally and financially misguided to invest in companies dedicated to finding and burning more oil, gas and coal.”
The divestment movement is growing, although given Gates's curious past associations, who knows if he'll listen? But his deep financial ties to the fossil fuels industry needs to be publicized. If nothing else, for the sake of educating those who might buy his products.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) acknowledges applause at the end of his speech to a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 3, 2015. U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (C) (R-OH) and President
Attempting to undermine American diplomacy
Not only has President Obama not called Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on his apparent victory in yesterday's Israeli election, he has instead explicitly rebuked him:
Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, reaffirmed the president’s belief in the two-state solution, and strongly condemned Netanyahu’s decision to rally support with incendiary remarks about a high turnout among Israeli Arab voters. Netanyahu used a 28-second video on election day to warn that Israeli Arabs were being bussed to the polls “in droves”.

“The United States and this administration is deeply concerned about rhetoric that seeks to marginalise Arab Israeli citizens,” Earnest said. “It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together.”

He added: “Rhetoric that seeks to marginalise one segment of their population is deeply concerning, it is divisive, and I can tell you that these are views the administration intends to communicate directly to the Israelis.”

Netanyahu, of course, rallied to his surprise plurality win not only with his overt racism against Israel's minority Arab citizens, but he also finally came clean and admitted what everyone has known all along: he opposes the creation of a Palestinian state. So unless he plans on allowing Palestinian residents of Gaza and the West Bank to become Israeli citizens, and thus demographically overwhelm Jewish Israelis, or unless he plans to try to send them to other countries, his active intent is to make them permanently stateless, and effective permanent prisoners, just for having been born Palestinian Arabs.

Netanyahu has been actively attempting to scuttle Obama's diplomacy that is designed to prevent a war with Iran. Diplomacy that is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans. He all but explicitly endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, even as the American electorate handily rejected Romney and re-elected Obama. In other words, Netanyahu meddles in American domestic politics and he attempts to undermine American diplomacy, both in opposition to what the American people themselves want. And all Democrats and all Americans of conscience should heartily support President Obama for standing strong against Netanyahu's belligerent extremism.

The White House says that with Netanyahu's apparent victory, it will have to "re-evaluate its policy on the Middle East peace process." A return to power by Netanyahu will mean Israel no longer is interested in a peace process. The consequences will be on Netanyahu and his supporters.

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Sun Mar 15, 2015 at 07:45 AM PDT

The Clinton Conspiracy Complex

by Laurence Lewis

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton smiles during her remarks at a campaign rally for Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Democratic nominee for Maryland governor, at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland October 30, 2014.  REUTER
You know you're in the midst of another concocted Clinton scandal when Republicans, Village media, and other perpetual critics of the most investigated couple in the history of American politics breathlessly assert that something no good, awful, and very terrible has been perpetrated, despite their inability to identify exactly what that something is.

In the midst of their caterwauling about Hillary Clinton's use of a private email account and a private server while serving as Secretary of State, Republicans, Village media, and other perpetual critics of the most investigated couple in the history of American politics have been thrashing about, desperately trying to figure out if it was the inapplicable 2014 regulation, the vague and poorly written 2009 regulation, or some earlier vague and poorly written regulation, not to mention where responsibility and culpability were defined, and within what time frame. The arguments are fiercely defended, then casually tossed aside and forgotten as new arguments are floated, and the only thing that remains consistent is that desperate thrashing yearning to prove that Hillary Clinton did something no good, awful, and very terrible. As she so often does, digby got to the core of the problem:

I am going to issue the standard disclaimer that if Clinton did something real bring it on.  But this is a patented pseudo-scandal planted by the Benghazi bullshit squad and I'm not jumping on the bandwagon.

If somebody wants to do an expose of Clinton's cozy relationship with Wall Street, her hawkish foreign policy or her penchant for nonsensical bipartisan cant, that's perfectly fair.  In fact, it's necessary. I think a hardcore investigation into the Clinton Foundation and all its opaque financial dealings is absolutely in bounds. But when they start recycling rightwing Benghazi crapola, referencing Whitewater,talking about her "calculating Machiavellian character"  and don't even have a clue about what it is she's supposed to have done wrong, just that it doesn't "pass the smell test", I'm going to be ornery. This is the Village in all its glory and I'm sad to say that a new generation of Villagers is just as willing to chase the shiny object for the Dark Ops wingnuts as their forebears.

And as he so often will be, Jeb Bush was quick in criticizing Clinton, attempting to draw a contrast with his own ostensible transparency from his time as Florida's governor. Oops:
Bush, a leading Republican contender for president, quickly jumped on the news against an expected rival, whom critics have long cast as secretive. "Transparency matters," Bush wrote Monday night on Twitter. "Unclassified @HillaryClinton emails should be released. You can see mine, here."

Earlier this year Bush released several hundred thousand emails covering his eight years as governor, a massive archive that gave insight into his handling of sensitive issues such as the Terri Schiavo saga and into his assertive leadership style. The records were already available but Bush, putting them in an easy-to-read format, touted his commitment to transparency. But the public cannot see everything.

Bush, who used a private account, removed from the record those emails related to politics, fundraising and family matters.

"He's being a bit disingenuous because he decided what we saw and didn't see," said Barbara A. Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a group that is supported by news organizations, including the Tampa Bay Times.

But the hypocrisy isn't limited to Bush. The New York Times is playing the same game. One might even say it is complicit.

More over the fold.

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Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Speaking with talk radio host John Gambling of AM 970 The Answer on Thursday, the former New York City mayor charged that Obama was ignoring “enormous amount of crime” committed by black Americans, citing a recent highly-publicized scuffle at Brooklyn McDonald’s and the shooting of two Ferguson, Missouri police officers early Thursday.

Referring to Cosby’s history of scolding remarks inveighing against black culture, Giuliani said, “I hate to mention it because of what happened afterwards, but [he should be saying] the kinds of stuff Bill Cosby used to say.”

Get it? Obama is a famous black man, Cosby is a famous black man, and famous black men should be more alike. Don't you just hate when black people can't be all alike? Particularly when they can't all be alike in criticizing black culture. Because Giuliani just couldn't make his false point without invoking the name of Cosby. As a role model, in this case.

As for "what happened afterward," um—that women went public with their claims that Cosby was committing serial sexual assault? Which he is alleged to have been committing serially back when he was getting attention for criticizing black culture? Is it that Giuliani thinks those allegations trivial, or is it that he wants people subliminally to equate Obama with them? As in all black men are scary, but at least Cosby talked right?

Giuliani’s opening qualification — he really hates to say what he’s about to say, but here goes anyway — is eerily similar to the one he uttered before asserting last month that Obama doesn’t love America.
In other words, Giuliani keeps hating not being able to stop himself from expressing in public what Giuliani in private really thinks. I hate to say it because the man is a public figure and former elected politician and it would be nice if public figures and elected officials didn't, but Rudy Giuliani has a persistent problem with race.
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