13 April 2010

Hypocrisy...has seemingly become the coin of the realm

Hypocrisy and the end of empires
Hypocrisy has always been an important denomination of political currency, but today it has seemingly become the coin of the realm.

In the US, the vitriolic Republican-corporate attacks on healthcareand other much needed reforms in the name of protecting the rights of individual citizens, reflect an increasingly toxic political culture and the power of the right to manipulate deep-seated fears and prejudice for its own ends.

However, the continuities in US foreign policy between the Obama and Bush administrations reflect a more systemic hypocrisy whose negative consequences have global implications.


Al Qaeda Chemical Weapons Tests

Dirty bomb: How real is the risk?
"Two decades after the end of the Cold War, we face a cruel irony of history - the risk of a nuclear confrontation between nations has gone down but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up,'' Obama said on Tuesday.

"Nuclear terrorism is unfortunately a realistic possibility. Though terror groups themselves may not have the technical knowledge or equipment to produce highly enriched uranium [HEU] or plutonium, it would nevertheless be possible for them to obtain these materials from poorly guarded nuclear facilities," said MJ Gohel, a terrorism specialist at the Asia Pacific Foundation, an independent intelligence think-tank based in the UK.

Tea Parties
Obama's 'tea party' complex
First there were the "bitter-clingers," then Scott Brown's truck. Now President Obama has taken on tea party protesters, saying he's "amused" by their failure to see that the average American's tax burden has lessened under his stewardship.

"You would think they'd be saying thank you, that's what you'd think" the President said.

A New York Times/CBS News poll says only two percent of tea party protesters realize that their taxes have likely gone down this year (compared to 22 percent of the general population who understand that). Given college tax credits, making work pay, college loan relief, and home buyer credits, 90 percent of Americans got a tax break this year. The average tax refund is 10 percent larger than last year.

"The rise of the Tea Party at time when taxes are literally at their lowest in decades is really hard to understand," William Gale of the Brookings Institution told Political Hotsheet.

But to distill the tea party message down to simply an argument over this year's 1040 form, critics say, isn't only a failure to understand the tea party's DNA, but also factually questionable given recent analyses showing that the tax burden on Americans is likely to rise in coming years.

What's more, tea party protesters aren't just worried about taxes, but the rising federal debt and creeping entitlement programs they say threaten individual liberty as defined by the Constitution.

Tea Party Crash fizzles out
After several days of hype and hand-wringing about liberal plans to infiltrate Thursday’s tea party rallies, the great 2010 Tax Day Tea Party Crash did not produce much of a bang in Washington.

To be sure, a handful of obvious crashers engaged in some mostly non-confrontational back-and-forth with tea party activists at a Thursday evening rally that drew thousands to Washington’s National Mall near the Washington Monument. And some less overt crashers subtly mocked activists from amidst their ranks at both the evening rally on the Mall and an earlier event at Freedom Plaza near the White House. And there could have been other infiltrators who evaded immediate detection.

A group of five American University students, who were on average probably at least 25 years younger than most attendees at the FreedomWorks rally, waded through the crowd with signs ranging from the direct and challenging (“Embrace the state”) to the satirical (“I have a sign” and “Loud noises”) to the malapropically mocking (“No $ 4 educatoin. I don’t wnt it”).

Kurt Beyer, a 21-year-old student at Pennsylvania’s Muhlenberg College attended with two of classmates and held aloft a sign reading “Palin 2010. One people. One Nation. One Leader.” Not only is Palin not running for anything in 2010 (she’s rumored to be considering a presidential bid in 2012), but the slogan is a translation of one used by Adolph Hitler in 1938.

A self-described infiltrator at the afternoon rally, who dressed as a monk and carried a sign reading “God Hates Taxes,” said many tea partiers lauded him for his sign.

Brooks Alexander, a 23-year-old Olney, Md., hotel worker and Obama supporter who wore an Obama t-shirt to the evening rally, said infiltrators were being disrespectful.

They’re doing a disservice not only to themselves, but to the people who are here trying to express their views,” said Alexander, who is African American and said he traveled to the rally to verify for himself liberal accounts blasting the tea party as racist.

“All my friends told me I was crazy to come down here in an Obama shirt,” he said. “Obviously I have political disagreements [with the tea party], but I cannot lie. I cannot say that people have been anything but nice to me. They have been shaking my hand. One guy told me I had a lot of [guts] for coming down here. I will definitely walk away from this with a new understanding of the tea party.”

Iran demands US troop withdrawal
"The region has no need for alien troops and they should return home and let the regional states take care of their own affairs," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech marking the country's annual Army Day on Sunday.

"They must leave the region and this is not a request but an order, and the will of the regional nations," he said.

"This is the will of the regional nations that after 60 odd years, the root of this corrupt microbe and the main reason for insecurity in the region be pulled out," Ahmadinejad said.

He said that except the "Zionist regime (Israel)," Iran considered all other countries as "friend and brother" with whom the Islamic state wanted peaceful co-existence.

Ahmadinejad flexes military muscle as news of secret Gates Iran memo ripples
A secret memo from US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned the White House in January that the US lacks a long-term plan to deal with Iran, according to reports. News of the Gates Iran memo is causing a stir in Washington.

“On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do,” [said Gen. Jones].

"I didn’t need a secret memo to know we didn’t have a coherent policy," Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said." "That’s pretty obvious."

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad went a step further, vowing to respond with “all [Iran’s] military potential” in the face of armed aggression, reports Al Jazeera.

The remarks came on Iran’s Army Day when the nation showcases its military technology. The Iranian president also added that the US must withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, where he says the presence of US forces has only “increased insecurity in both countries.”

Obama's Press
Anon. WH reporter confesses to saving info for book
Media observers are no doubt familiar with the debate over whether it's appropriate for journalists to save nuggets of news for books they plan on writing later. The purists argue that journalists are simply looking to cash in on their beats and, in the process of doing so, depriving the public of valuable information. Other authors more inclined to save scoops for later are reluctant to admit to doing it, but they'd still argue that a) oftentimes those scoops are only offered under the condition that they not be used until later; b) news takes some time to leak out; and c) there's something to be said for the long view in journalism. And so on and so on...

Press airs grievances to Gibbs
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs met with a delegation from the White House press corps for 75 minutes on Thursday in an effort to improve frayed relations between the two sides.

The immediately precipitating event for the meeting was an April 10 incident in which President Barack Obama left the White House complex to attend one of daughter’s soccer games at 9:20 a.m., without being accompanied by the usual traveling press pool, which had been told to show up by 11:30 a.m. About fifteen minutes after his departure, press officials scrambled to assemble a partial pool that departed at 9:43 a.m. But the pool did not catch up, and the president got back to the White House 10 minutes before the reporters.

At the time, Gibbs apologized to NBC News, the network assigned to the travel pool that day, and said it was an “unintentional … oversight” — a miscommunication between the president and his staff.

During the meeting, Gibbs did not to promise that such an instance would never happen again, but pointed out it was the first time in 15 months, attendees said.

The White House official told POLITICO: “Our percentage [of including the press] is pretty damn high, and we expect it to stay that way."

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