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Bill O'Reilly photoshop
What if Bill O'Reilly actually believes his own bullshit? Is it really possible to lie so often to so many people about so many things? Witnessing combat from 1,200 miles away. Witnessing protesters being killed when none were.  Rescuing a photographer who never was rescued. It's as if his entire adventure in Argentina was concocted by James Thurber. Except that Thurber was a humorist and O'Reilly is humorless.

O'Reilly claimed to have seen nuns murdered in El Salvador, only to backtrack and "clarify" that he saw pictures of the murdered nuns. Which is akin to my claiming to have walked on the moon, when a small child, only to clarify that I saw Apollo astronauts walk on the moon. On TV. O'Reilly claimed to have been attacked during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which his colleagues from the time dispute. Which seems to be part of a recurring pattern with all of O'Reilly's claims of daring and courage, whenever there was someone else around who witnessed or experienced the same events. Which means either there's a conspiracy to discredit O'Reilly, among disparate professional reporters from different news organizations, from different parts of the world, from different eras. Or else O'Reilly is a habitual liar. Or else O'Reilly has told so many lies to so many people for so many years that even he can't remember what's real and what isn't. Or maybe he really needs to believe his alternate reality.

Bill O'Reilly is very popular with the most uninformed people in America. O'Reilly has claimed to have won a prestigious TV award that he never won for a TV show that did win an award after O'Reilly left. Which makes one wonder if it won the award for having survived O'Reilly's tenure. O'Reilly has even claimed athletic prowess that he clearly never possessed, which may be getting us nearer to the truth of who O'Reilly is and why he has such grandiose fantasies about having lived a life he clearly never lived. One could almost get Freudian in analyzing O'Reilly's fetish to be someone he is not and never will be, and to impose those desires on innocents to the point of repulsiveness.

More over the loofah.

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U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (C) pauses between answers to questions during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 10, 2013. U.S. House of Representatives Republicans are still weighing a short-term debt-limit increase, pos
Extremist
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is held by many of Iran's critics as the personification of extremism, and a threat to regional and international security. So what does it say when he comes across as more reasonable than the Republican Congress and the Israeli prime minister?
Khamenei said this week that he could accept a compromise in the nuclear talks and gave his strongest defence yet of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s decision to negotiate with the west, a policy opposed by powerful hardliners at home.
A policy opposed by hardliners in the United States and Israel, as well:
But the real issue here is that Netanyahu and the Republicans are trying to tank the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Even if they had crossed all their Is and dotted their Ts they'd still be trying to stand in the way of a more peaceful world. That's the problem, not the lack of protocol. And it's a big one.
This is what the Republicans and Netanyahu are trying to tank:
The nuclear talks with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are aimed at clinching an accord that would ease western concerns that Tehran could pursue a covert nuclear weapons program. On offer in return is the lifting of sanctions that have ravaged the Iranian economy.
And the Republicans are trying to tank those negotiations by imposing new sanctions on Iran. Even Israel's security agency Mossad agrees on what new sanctions would accomplish:
The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has broken ranks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling U.S. officials and lawmakers that a new Iran sanctions bill in the U.S. Congress would tank the Iran nuclear negotiations.
Please head below the fold for more on this story.
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U.S. troops in Iraq
Perpetual war
Back in September, when President Obama announced his military mission against the terrorists who call themselves the Islamic State, I wrote that military missions don't creep anymore, they accelerate toward disaster:
So, the plan is to bomb the terrorists, which almost certainly will only make things worse, to rely on local forces who are reportedly making a deal with the terrorists not to fight each other so they can all focus on fighting the Syrian government, and to keep in the back pocket the possibility of using ground troops. Just in case they become necessary. In the far off future somewhere. Just in case this plan of bombing, making things worse, and relying on local forces who have an entirely different agenda somehow doesn't work out.

And it gets even worse, because the history of sending arms to local forces has not been a pretty one. Many of the nearly quarter million small arms sent to Afghanistan are missing and unaccounted for. The terrorists in Syria and Iraq already have been winning battles by using captured American weapons, and now there will be even more American weapons for them to capture, from forces supposedly friendly to the U.S. but who are not themselves intent on fighting the same enemy the administration wants them to fight. Even the CIA thinks the idea of arming Syrian rebels is doomed to fail. More people will needlessly die, billions of more dollars will be wasted, and the bad guys inevitably will end up with more American-made weapons. And the neocons will demand an escalation. And the traditional media will back them. And the American generals already are contemplating American troops on the ground, if this impossible plan with impossible goals somehow proves unsuccessful.

When has a U.S. military incursion in the region ever proved successful? The Bush war in Iraq led directly to the current crisis. Thirteen years after it started, and despite two escalations from the Obama administration, the Bush war in Afghanistan remains a persistent failure. The effort in Syria was failed from the start, and with more money and more arms will only get worse. President Obama continues to choose his words very carefully, when discounting the possibility of using ground troops, but he still hasn't explained how a bombing campaign while relying on local forces to fight on the ground somehow will succeed where previous such efforts have failed. It will get worse. As will the politics. Blowback is coming. In the Middle East and in the United States.

Of course, I hoped I would be proven wrong. And of course, the military contractors immediately began cashing in. Now we have this:
A mere six months after military operations began against the Islamic State, the White House today formally requested that Congress authorize military operations against the Islamic State. The full text of the resolution proposed by the Obama administration is right here.

Some Democrats criticized the proposal as too broad and too vague. They are right. Several critics I spoke to note that, in its current form, at least, it would not only do little to limit Obama right now, but could also leave the next president with enormous war-making latitude — whether he or she is a Democrat or a Republican.

More over the fold.
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Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown
Oregon's Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber just started the second term of his unprecedented second governorship. It's about to end. In the midst of a widening scandal involving allegations of influence-peddling by Kitzhaber and his fiancee Cylvia Hayes, which increasingly looks to be compounded by a desperate attempt at a cover-up, Oregon's Democratic leaders are calling for Kitzhaber to resign. Before going public, they reportedly told Kitzhaber privately.

Oregon has no Lieutenant Governor, so the line of succession leads through Secretary of State Kate Brown, State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, Senate President Peter Courtney, and Speaker of the House Tina Kotek. All are Democrats. Brown also is president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, and was abruptly called back from their national meeting in Washington, DC by Kitzhaber Tuesday night, for a face to face meeting, as rumors swirled that he was about to resign. Wednesday, Kitzhaber announced he was not resigning, and the purpose of his urgent meeting with Brown looked inexplicable. Today, Brown issued a statement describing the events as "clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation."

As next in the line of succession, Brown appropriately has said nothing more. She can't be seen as chomping to succeed Kitzhaber. Those in line after her, however, can speak, and today Wheeler, Courtney, and Kotek all called on Kitzhaber to resign. More evidence of a cover-up also came to light today, with reports that last week Kitzhaber's office asked capitol techs to delete thousands of his personal emails from state servers. The techs refused. It was previously reported that Kitzhaber also sought a personal meeting with Democratic State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, as she considered launching an investigation into his actions. Rosenblum's office informed Kitzhaber's office that if they met, she would not discuss Hayes or the associated issues.

Oregon's leading newspaper, The Oregonian, a right wing rag that has been reduced to a small tabloid and only four days a week delivery, gets a big win, here. When reports emerged last fall that long before she met Kitzhaber, Hayes had illegally accepted payment for marrying a foreign national so he could become an American citizen, Oregonian writers immediately began calling it a political scandal, even though Kitzhaber was not involved, and clearly was shell-shocked by the revelation. But that turned out to be the tip of the iceberg, and it now seems clear that Kitzhaber's years of leadership and accomplishment, including establishing one of the nation's first state health insurance options, have been undermined by his personal loyalty to a person whose loyalty to Kitzhaber took a back seat to her own personal ambitions. But he is responsible for his behavior, and his behavior appears to have been unethical and possibly criminal.

Both Kitzhaber and Hayes have retained criminal defense attorneys, and as the state's Democratic leaders have made clear, his need to address his possible criminal culpability makes it impossible for him to perform his functions of governor. The state's Democratic legislative majorities were strengthened in November's elections, and Kitzhaber and those Democratic majorities have an agenda that includes strong new environmental protections and expanded educational opportunities. State leaders rightly don't want Kitzhaber's personal problems to become distractions from implementing that agenda.

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Speaker John Boehner blows his nose during the 2014 State of the Union.
All he is saying, is give war a chance
Benjamin Netanyahu seems to think that standing and speaking before the Congress of the United States will make him look big right before an election back home. John Boehner seems to think that behaving like an ass will make him look like less of an ass. Or something. Frankly, it's always hard to fathom what goes on inside John Boehner's orange head. And even Netanyahu himself is playing Boehner for a fool. Which isn't hard to do. But digby gets to the real point about the latest Republican attempt to make President Obama look bad by making themselves look worse. Let's not get caught up in process. This story is about much more than process.
Yes, the way it was done was wrong. The Speaker of the House should not be inviting foreign leaders to speak without clearing it with the White House. This is the kind of thing they should agree upon before it happens.

But the real issue here is that Netanyahu and the Republicans are trying to tank the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Even if they had crossed all their Is and dotted their Ts they'd still be trying to stand in the way of a more peaceful world. That's the problem, not the lack of protocol. And it's a big one.

The White House is trying to negotiate a solution to a critical international security issue. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appears to be trying to do the same. Time will tell. But both sides are talking, and that has been a step in the right direction. The problem is that ideological extremists want to undermine any effort at a peaceful resolution. Ideological extremists in Iran and Israel and in the United States.
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Global temperatures
While Republicans continue to deny the scientific reality of climate change, even when some admit it is happening but still refuse to acknowledge that people are causing it, President Obama continues to do something about it. First came the historic agreement he made with China to reduce emissions. Now comes this:
President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Sunday that the two countries will work together to fight global climate change, laying out a set of goals that the two countries hope “will expand policy dialogues and technical work on clean energy and low greenhouse gas emissions technologies.”

While not a concrete emissions reductions agreement like the one Obama reached with China this past November, the deal includes efforts to cooperate on reducing emissions of fluorinated gases, invigorate India’s promotion of clean energy investment, and partner to reduce the debilitating air pollution that has plagued many of India’s cities.

The agreement also emphasized that the countries would “cooperate closely” for a “successful and ambitious” agreement at the Paris climate talks at the end of the year. During that conference, 196 nations are expected to meet and tentatively agree a course of action to respond to climate change. It is widely considered the last chance for a global agreement that could feasibly keep the rise in global average temperatures under 2°C.

More over the fold.
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Aerial view of Davos, Switzerland in winter.
Davos, Switzerland
Big but not surprising news as the World Economic Forum convenes its annual meeting in the Swiss mountains:
Wealth accumulated by the richest one percent will exceed that of the other 99 percent in 2016, the Oxfam charity said Monday, ahead of the annual meeting of the world’s most powerful at Davos, Switzerland.

“The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast,” Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima said.

How fast? In 2009, the wealthiest one percent held 44 percent of global wealth. Last year— just five years later—that share had risen to 48 percent. It will top 50 percent next year. Austerity works! The average wealth of the global one percent is $2.7 million, but given the staggering wealth of the very wealthiest, that means that it takes much less than that to qualify. And that hints at the breadth and depth of global poverty. As does this:
Of the remaining 52 percent, almost all—46 percent—is owned by the rest of the richest fifth of the world’s population, leaving the other 80 percent to share just 5.5 percent with an average wealth of $3,851 (3,330 euros) per adult, the report says.
Let's repeat that: 80 percent of the adults in the world have an average wealth of $3,851.

The Guardian has more:

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International and one of the six co-chairs at this year’s WEF, said the increased concentration of wealth seen since the deep recession of 2008-09 was dangerous and needed to be reversed.

In an interview with the Guardian, Byanyima said: “We want to bring a message from the people in the poorest countries in the world to the forum of the most powerful business and political leaders.

“The message is that rising inequality is dangerous. It’s bad for growth and it’s bad for governance. We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for.”

The question for all political leaders is what they intend to do about it. The most devious and cynical will try to coopt it for their own self-servicing purposes, but we need answers from those who genuinely care about it.
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Global temperatures
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have this morning announced that 2014 was the hottest year on record. From the NASA announcement:
The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists.

The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

In an independent analysis of the raw data, also released Friday, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record.

“NASA is at the forefront of the scientific investigation of the dynamics of the Earth’s climate on a global scale,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The observed long-term warming trend and the ranking of 2014 as the warmest year on record reinforces the importance for NASA to study Earth as a complete system, and particularly to understand the role and impacts of human activity.”

Since 1880, Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius), a trend that is largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet’s atmosphere. The majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades.

“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.

There's much more below the fold.
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Pope Francis
Ugh:
Pope Francis has said there are limits to freedom of expression and that in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris “one cannot make fun of faith”. On a plane from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, the largest catholic majority country in Asia, the pope said freedom of speech is a fundamental human right but “every religion has its dignity”.

Asked about the attack that killed 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo - targeted because it had printed depictions of the prophet Muhammad - he said: “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.

“There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity ... in freedom of expression there are limits.”

He gestured to Alberto Gasparri, who organises papal trips and was standing by his side, and added: “If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

It's normal. Violence is normal.

As it always has done, the new issue of Charlie Hebdo plays no favorites:

Another shows Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious leaders huddled around a globe at the Vatican. "I keep the western sector, you keep the eastern sector," the caption says.
No wonder the pope objects.
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People participate in a vigil to pay tribute to the victims of a shooting, by gunmen at the offices of weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, in the Manhattan borough of New York January 7, 2015. Hooded gunmen stormed the Paris offices of the w
Certain right-wing blowholes, both here and in Europe, want to use the mass murder terrorist attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo as but the latest excuse to vent their unhinged hatred: it's Obama's fault, it's multiculturalism, it's Islam, etc., etc. Isis isn't in the headlines anymore, Ebola did not turn into a pandemic in the West, so for the unhinged right, the latest reason to spew their bile is a mass murder in France. Reporters for the French government's Channel 24 news service offer some facts:
French authorities have released photos of the two main suspects, identified as Cherif Kouachi, 32, and his 34-year-old brother, Said.
The names and pictures of the two lead suspects have been widely disseminated. Their backgrounds have not. The orphaned sons of immigrants, the Kouachi brothers no doubt had a difficult upbringing. In 2005, Cherif Kouachi was arrested, and in 2008 brought to court for alleged involvement with terrorist networks. But before that, he had been a pizza deliveryman, and before that, in his own words, a delinquent. As his lawyer explained, he had been a drinker, a smoker, and his interest had been in football. News reports from around the time of his arrest and court appearance described him as having been a pot smoker, and as having had a girlfriend before marriage. And then something happened.
But the 2003 US invasion of Iraq – and especially the photographs emerging from Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib jail of US troops taunting Muslim prisoners –  rapidly changed that profile.
Yes, as the usual suspects blither about Obama and liberalism and everything else, the reality is that these two young men were radicalized because of the Bush administration's wars and abuses. Unlike some on the right, we will say explicitly that nothing justifies the horrors these two young men allegedly perpetrated. But it's no secret that the reactionary war policies of the Bush administration and its lapdog Blair government in Britain increased radicalization of vulnerable populations and undermined American national security. Indeed, just last month, The Guardian's Martin Chulov reported that the ISIS terrorists themselves created their network "inside an Iraqi prison—right under the noses of their American jailers." In other words, if those right-wing blowholes really want to find someone other than the murderers themselves to blame for Wednesday's horrors in Paris, they could start by looking in the mirror.
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Tue Dec 16, 2014 at 08:48 AM PST

Run, Jeb, run!

by Laurence Lewis

Screen grab of McClatchy-Marist poll graphic showing Hillary Clinton consistently trouncing Jeb Bush in a potential presidential campaign.
It must be tough being Jeb Bush. Well, as tough as it can be for the scion of a multi-generation one-percenter dynasty, anyway. But he was the good son. The one who worked hard, got good grades, kept his nose to the grindstone. He was the natural heir to the neoliberal, neo-con country club econopolitical throne. But in 1994, while he was barely losing the Florida gubernatorial campaign to the popular legend Lawton Chiles, his big brother was winning the gubernatorial race in what was becoming deep red Texas. His idiot brother. The lazy one. The perpetual fuck-up. The one who kept needing his uncles and his father's friends to bail him out of business disasters, or use his name and residency so they could buy and run a baseball team his brother would get all the credit and quite a bit of money for fronting as figurehead.

So, because of 1994, Jeb's big brother got to run for president first. And with Jeb's help, win. And prove such a disastrous failure as to ruin the Bush brand, maybe once and for all. But the American mass media are good sports. As they should be, given who owns them. And time and favorable propaganda heal all wounds. Or do they? Well, at least the state of the Republican leadership is such a sick joke that the Republican insiders are desperate for anyone or anything to save them from the sort of clown shows that were the last two Republican presidential primary campaign seasons. So, it's finally Jeb's turn! Or is it?

Clinton easily defeated every potential Republican challenger in general election matchups. She rolled up margins of 13 percentage points over Bush, 12 over Christie and Romney and 14 over Paul.
That would be Hillary Clinton, and that would be Jeb Bush, and that McClatchy-Marist poll was released yesterday. And those would be landslide numbers. How big of a landslide?
Notable: At a time when Democrats have had trouble wooing white voters, Clinton runs roughly even with the Republicans.
While the Republican brand continues to alienate all other demographics, it needs to dominate among white voters just to have a chance in national elections. But against Hillary, it has no chance. Even the latest supposed Republican savior, Jeb Bush, consistently polls as unable to beat Clinton even in his home state of Florida. And gets crushed by her nationwide.

Run, Jeb, run!

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Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney speaks about national security at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington in this file photo from May 21, 2009. Cheney, 69, was hospitalized in George Washington Hospital on February 22, 2010 after experienci
The incompetence of the Bush-Cheney administration allowed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to happen. The facts are easily documented. The Bush-Cheney team was asleep at the wheel, ignored screaming sirens, and failed to prevent the worst ever attack on American soil. For that alone, they should live throughout history in infamy and ignominy. But that was only the beginning. And for Dick Cheney itself, the undermining of American national security continues.

Dick Cheney isn't just a torture apologist, he's complicit in torture occurring. The entire world knows this. Anyone with a conscience knows this. Dick Cheney belongs on trial, given a fair chance to defend himself in national and international courts of law, and if found guilty, he should be subject to appropriate legal sanctions. The same sanctions to which any otherwise anonymous criminal convicted of similar crimes would be subject. Anyone who cares about the very concept of justice knows this.

Right-wing blowholes and their enablers in the American mass media have made a big to-do out of the release of the heavily redacted and only partially investigated Senate report on torture, but not for the reasons they should. They claim that the release of the heavily redacted and only partially investigated Senate report on torture undermines national security. I wrote about it on Sunday, but it needs reiterating: it is not the release of information about the torture that undermines national security, it is that the torture happened in the first place. And now it is that those responsible for the torture are not being held accountable. Dick Cheney goes on TV and says he'd do it again. With the whole world watching.

Let's be clear: the entire world knows there was torture, the entire world knows that Dick Cheney was one of those primarily responsible for the torture regime, and the entire world knows that he is a free man, living in luxury. What does it do to America's standing in the world when the American mass media give Dick Cheney and his ilk repeated opportunities to spew their bile on internationally broadcast television? What does it do to America's standing in the world when the American mass media continue to demonstrate that in the United States those responsible for torture are treated with deference and respect, are given public fora to tout openly their support for what they have done and state clearly that they would do it again, and at times are even openly supported for doing so?

This isn't about free speech, it is about responsibility. By treating torture as a subject worthy of political debate, by treating those responsible for torture as worthy of explaining themselves and their rationales for torture rather than as criminal psychopaths, the American mass media is itself debased. Torture is not debatable. Those responsible for torture deserve neither deference nor respect, and the only place appropriate for them to explain themselves and their deranged rationales is in courts of national and international law. By giving Dick Cheney and his ilk air time, and by treating them as worthy of deference and respect, the American mass media projects to the entire world just how debased it is, and by projection, just how debased the United States has become. The world is watching. The American mass media has the legal right, but by treating Dick Cheney and his ilk with deference and respect, the American mass media undermines national security.

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