Presidents’ Day ReadsPosted: February 21, 2011
Good Morning! It’s “Presidents’ Day.” Talk about a generic holiday. We used to mark two presidents’ birthdays in February–Washington’s birthday on the 22nd and Lincoln’s birthday on the 12th–but now we just have a Monday in February when everything goes on sale, and pictures of Washington and Lincoln are used to sell cars and mattresses. At least some of us get the day off work.
There’s an awful lot of news happening, and I’m guessing there could be a even more happening Libya by the time you start reading this. The latest is that protesters are in Tripoli, and the family of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is vowing to fight the protesters “to the last man standing,” according to Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam in a really monotonous, rambling speech yesterday.
Anti-government protesters rallied in Tripoli’s streets, tribal leaders spoke out against Gaddafi, and army units defected to the opposition as oil exporter Libya endured one of the bloodiest revolts to convulse the Arab world.
Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi appeared on national television in an attempt to both threaten and calm people, saying the army would enforce security at any price.
“Our spirits are high and the leader Muammar Gaddafi is leading the battle in Tripoli, and we are behind him as is the Libyan army,” he said.
“We will keep fighting until the last man standing, even to the last woman standing…We will not leave Libya to the Italians or the Turks.”
In fast-moving developments after midnight, demonstrators were reported to be in Tripoli’s Green Square and preparing to march on Gaddafi’s compound as rumours spread that the leader had fled to Venezuela. Other reports described protesters in the streets of Tripoli throwing stones at billboards of Muammar Gaddafi while police used teargas to try to disperse them.
“People are in the street chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great) and throwing stones at photos of Gaddafi,”an expatriate worker told Reuters by telephone from Tripoli. “The police are firing teargas everywhere, it’s even getting into the houses.”
There was also plenty of protesting going on in other Middle Eastern countries:
Libya’s extraordinary day overshadowed drama elsewhere in the region. Tensions eased in Bahrain after troops withdrew from a square in Manama occupied by Shia protesters. Thousands of security personnel were also deployed in the Iranian capital, Tehran, to forestall an opposition rally. Elsewhere in the region unrest hit Yemen, Morocco, Oman, Kuwait and Algeria.
At Asia Times Online, Pepe Escobar wrote a couple of days ago that the protests in Bahrain could soon spread to Saudi Arabia. That is one fascinating article.
In Wisconsin, protesters say they aren’t going anywhere.
“We’ll be here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday — as long as it takes,” Gary Lonzo, a union organizer and former Wisconsin corrections officer, said Sunday as he watched protesters banging drums and waving signs here for a sixth day in a row. “We’re not going anywhere.”
As the protests went on through falling sleet and snow, some lawmakers suggested that a compromise might yet be possible over the cuts that Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, has proposed. A spokesman for Dale Schultz, a moderate Republican senator, said that Mr. Schultz supported Mr. Walker, particularly in his assessment that the state budget situation was dire, but that Mr. Schultz also hoped to work to preserve collective bargaining rights.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s Democratic State Senators are staying in Illinois until further notice.
“This is not a stunt, it’s not a prank,” said Senator Jon Erpenbach, one of the Democrats who drove away from Madison early Thursday, hours before a planned vote, and would say only that he was in Chicago. “This is not an option I can ever see us doing again, but in this case, it’s absolutely the right thing to do. What they want to do is not the will of the people.”
Either I missed this story completely, or the US corporate media ignored it. An exiled religious leader, Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has returned to Egypt after 50 years and may be trying to “stealing the revolution,” according to a retweet from Mona Eltahawy (h/t, Wonk the Vote). Quaradawi made a speech to more than a million people in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday. During the rally,
Google executive Wael Ghonim, who emerged as a leading voice in Egypt’s uprising, was barred from the stage in Tahrir Square on Friday by security guards, an AFP photographer said. Ghonim tried to take the stage in Tahrir, the epicentre of anti-regime protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, but men who appeared to be guarding influential Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi barred him from doing so.
Ghonim, who was angered by the episode, then left the square with his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.
Remember Raymond Davis, who was arrested in Pakistan for shooting two Pakistani men on the street? He was more or less outed as a CIA agent during his trial. The U.S. has been trying to save him from murder charges by claiming he had diplomatic immunity. But the trial has gone on anyway, and now it’s definite that he’s CIA.
Raymond Davis has been the subject of widespread speculation since he opened fire with a semi-automatic Glock pistol on the two men who had pulled up in front of his car at a red light on 25 January.
Pakistani authorities charged him with murder, but the Obama administration has insisted he is an “administrative and technical official” attached to its Lahore consulate and has diplomatic immunity.
Based on interviews in the US and Pakistan, the Guardian can confirm that the 36-year-old former special forces soldier is employed by the CIA. “It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt,” said a senior Pakistani intelligence official. The revelation may complicate American efforts to free Davis, who insists he was acting in self-defence against a pair of suspected robbers, who were both carrying guns.
The Pakistani government is aware of Davis’s CIA status yet has kept quiet in the face of immense American pressure to free him under the Vienna convention. Last week President Barack Obama described Davis as “our diplomat” and dispatched his chief diplomatic troubleshooter, Senator John Kerry, to Islamabad. Kerry returned home empty-handed.
Many Pakistanis are outraged at the idea of an armed American rampaging through their second-largest city. Analysts have warned of Egyptian-style protests if Davis is released.
Oh dear, another diplomatic nightmare for our indecisive President to deal with. BTW, has he said anything about the bloody massacres in Libya yet?
The New York Post has a nasty takedown of Mitt Romney by Josh Kosman, author of a book on how private equity firms could cause the next economic crisis.
…the former private equity firm chief’s fortune — which has funded his political ambitions from the Massachusetts statehouse to his unsuccessful run for the White House in 2008 — was made on the backs of companies that ultimately collapsed, putting thousands of ordinary Americans out on the street. That truth if it becomes widely known could become costly to Romney, who, while making the media rounds recently, told CNN’s Piers Morgan that “People in America want to know who can get 15 million people back to work,” implying he was that person.
Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, bought companies and often increased short-term earnings so those businesses could then borrow enormous amounts of money. That borrowed money was used to pay Bain dividends. Then those businesses needed to maintain that high level of earnings to pay their debts.
Romney in 2007 told the New York Times he had nothing to do with taking dividends from two companies that later went bankrupt, and that one should not take a distribution from a business that put the company at risk.
Yet Geoffrey Rehnert, who helped start Bain Capital and is now co-CEO of the private equity firm The Audax Group, told me for my Penguin book, “The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Is Destroying Jobs and Killing the American Economy,” that Romney owned a controlling stake in Bain Capital between approximately 1992 and 2001. The firm under his watch took such risks, time and time again.
I’m going to leave you with this video from The Ed Show live in Madison, Wisconsin.