Presidents’ Day Reads

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.”

He also warned of “rivers of blood.” But those may be famous last words. From the Guardian UK:

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.

Uh oh….

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.

What are you reading and blogging about today?

51 Comments on “Presidents’ Day Reads”

    • bostonboomer says:


      • Minkoff Minx says:

        From the BBC article above:

        What Europe and the West did not do, until very recently, was to side with human rights and the aspirations of the people.

        Condescendingly the West bought into the myth of the Arab street, that the people of North Africa and the Middle East were somehow unfit for democracy. They occasionally raised a fist or two after Friday prayers, but were essentially docile. This, too, was the message conveyed by their leaders when they dined at Western tables.

        What recent events have shown, however, is that a younger generation in the Middle East and North Africa share many of the dreams of young people everywhere. They want jobs, freedom and respect.

        Europe has come to their side late – and so in the present turmoil must walk humbly. Like the US, it has struggled to find a consistent voice in this crisis.

      • Sophie says:

        This statement troubles me:

        Condescendingly the West bought into the myth of the Arab street, that the people of North Africa and the Middle East were somehow unfit for democracy.

        You can’t just bring Democracy somewhere. In order to get it, a critical mass of the population has really, really want it. In order to have Democracy, you have to work for it on a daily basis. You have to do your homework on the issues. You have to let people you disagree with have their say. You have to show up for it.

        We’re barely hanging on to it in this country, since most folks want its benefits without doing the work it requires.

        I wouldn’t say the west thought they were unfit for it–just that they perhaps weren’t ready. I think it took this new generation to get that critical mass.

    • dakinikat says:

      On the run: Gaddafi flees Tripoli as protesters set the Libyan parliament building alight

  1. Minkoff Minx says:

    BB that article about the cleric and the body guards is disturbing.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I don’t know enough about him to judge whether it’s a serious concern. I’m going to check some of the Egyptian blogs today to see what they are saying.

  2. mablue2 says:

    From the world of conspiracies:
    The 15 Most Powerful Members Of ‘Skull And Bones’

    The most famous secret society in America, Skull and Bones was co-founded at Yale in 1832 by the father of a future president and has come to signify everything that attracts and repulses the public about “The Elite.”

    Rumor has it that Yale junior class members are tapped for membership each fall by some measure of leadership, influence and breeding.

    Among the business titans, poets, politicians and three US Presidents that are rumored to be members

  3. cwaltz says:

    Does anybody else here picture Barack Obama sitting in the oval office rocking back and forth saying “what do I do, what do I do?”

  4. Sima says:

    Looks like the conservatives (who would probably be to the left of our Democrats on many things) in Germany are losing control. They lost big time in a local election in Hamburg.

    The article says these results have to do with local issues, but points out that the conservative christian democrats have had lowered results in 17 consecutive regional elections.

  5. Sima says:

    Interesting article on AlJazeera about justice in small towns in Guerrero Mexico.

    It seems as though the town elders have dispensed with corrupt state police and gone back to indigenous ways. They’ve cut crime by 90% in some places.

  6. cwaltz says:

    The House defunded planned parenthood. Don’t worry they’re for responsible horse husbandry though.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Some historical info on Libya under Gaddafi

  8. Sima says:

    And finally, completely off the subject but interesting nonetheless, a survey of what is current theory about the origin of bog bodies, with a cool picture of some Iron Age plaid clothing…

    • bostonboomer says:

      I’m fascinated by bog bodies! I have a couple of books about them.

      • Sima says:

        Me too! I collect tidbits about them, little stories in archaeology journals and such. I remember reading one, from a journal from Victorian times with lurid descriptions of the clothing and accoutrements of the body and how the man found himself lost and dying in a Yorkshire Moor. What was great about the really descriptive prose was the colors. The guy was wearing bright red and black plaid and other colors, like bright mustard yellow and some pink, if I remember correctly. About a day after the body was found, all the colors faded to shades of brown. So disappointing!

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’ve even read detective stories about them.

  9. Beata says:

    Today’s song from Woody. To hell with the union-busters and all their ilk. They are mean, mean, mean…

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Open letter to Lara Logan from another woman journalist–very moving and heartfelt.

  11. Pat Johnson says:

    Proving once again that the American public is stupid beyond words: Ronald Reagan has won a poll stating that he is the greatest president ever! Add this bonus that Barack Obama was “The One” to lead us out of this muck and mire and I think I have made my point. Then include the admonition that Sarah Palin has the “qualities to lead” and I rest my case.

    Feel free to discourage my thesis but I stand by it. The nation consists of a majority of dimwits overcome by glitz and glitter.

    A nation not to far in the distant future who will be stumped when it comes to knowing the greatness of FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton.

    Who broke up the monopolies and saved the national parks? Who created the New Deal? Who left the nation a surplus that could have been better spent?

    Amid silence and head scratching history is made.

  12. dakinikat says:

    Georgia Representative Wants To Investigate All Miscarriages:

    • UGH, how low can they go.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      I don’t think I can take anymore!

      The Lunatic Fringe is now in charge of this nation and you can’t really run for cover since they are everywhere!

      For those “critical thinkers” back in November who thought it was “good politics” to send a message to the Dem Party (not that they did not deserve it!) by electing more Right Wing nutjobs to office, this is what you get.

      Is this really what “the American people want”? Apparently so.

    • Sophie says:

      I don’t even know where to begin on this guy. Perhaps we should investigate every nocturnal emission…that coulda been a life, you know.

      These are the same types who run those ads criticizing the “Nanny State” for imposing a tax on high fructose corn syrup beverages (even though there is no such tax!) Yeah, keep the state out of my soda pop so they can investigate vajayjays.

      How come no one introduces legislation to investigate all child births that result in the death of the woman?

  13. Pat Johnson says:

    The GOP Utopia:

    1. No regulations
    2. No oversight
    3. No taxes on the rich
    4. No privacy
    5. No safety nets
    6. No accountability
    7. No unions

    A nation of low wage earners with little privacy and corporations setting the table as we stumble backward into legislative servitude.

    A nation taught that dinosaurs romped with humans, that slavery wasn’t “all that bad”, that history can be rewritten sans facts, that individual rights are usurped by the government, and that an appeal to “god” will solve every problem.

    This should solve the immigration issue since who in their right mind would prefer to live in this country with those practices on display?

    • Silent Kate says:

      I received a response on my FB account from my very conservative Republican brother. Here it is…

      Education in Michigan is funded largely through property taxes. Farmers and home ownwers are for the most part exempt from school taxes (18 mils). When property changes hands, that is when someone dies or sells out, property tax rates may rise 10-fold, property that was taxed at $2,000 may be taxed at $20,000. The effect of this is the investors will not invest in Michigan, and when parents die their children cannot keep the property. Those who rent houses have to raise rental fees to compensate for the increased taxes.
      Teachers in the state are compensated substantially better and their benefits are better than their private sector counterparts.
      I know of noone in the private sector who expects to work 9 months a year, 25-30 years in a lifetime, and live well all their life.
      Race to the Top is a joke. If the parents are not intelligent and caring it is like planting fruit on a poor site, you will get a good crop once in a while, but not often. You will be successful with these children sometimes, but not often. Getting unions to make concessions is like taking a bone from a dog- it is a challenge even if there is no meat on the bone. The dog will not give it back, he will bury it someplace.
      In the private sector if the unions will not make concessions the company will go broke or move to another state or country. You then bury both the dog and the bone.
      In the public sector it will be interesting to see what happens. In the case of the dog, if he will not give up the bone and gets mean and threatens to bite, you take the dog to the pound and get another dog.

      When you realize that my brother is a retired Veterinarian, it is scary. I’m a teacher here in Michigan and so were both of my parents. I cannot believe what he has written about putting down an old dog and the part about children. His attitude is like why bother. It’s contemptible. He also has much money has received thousands and thousands of federal money for poor cherry crops which he grows as a gentleman farmer during his retirement. BTW, they spend half of the year living in New Zealand.
      Here is a link to the post that made him angry enough to respond on his wife’s FB.
      I hope you don’t mind me posting this in response to Ed’s video but I needed to vent and I’m not about to give him the satisfaction of a reply.

      • dakinikat says:

        arghh! Unions make concessions all the time. They’ve done nothing but make concessions since the 1980s. I have no idea where these crazy memes come from. Unions haven’t had the upper hand since the mid 1970s. Most of them have even bargained away their right to strike. The misinformation is appalling. They’ve had to make all kinds of concessions just to keep jobs.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Teachers work only 9 months out of the year? OMG! I’m so sick of that argument. My father struggled to get summer teaching jobs, and early in his career when he couldn’t, my parents had to get by on one paycheck for three months. I’ve done it myself.

        When you are teaching, preparation takes up many hours outside of the classroom. Teaching is very hard work. And it is physically and mentally exhausting work. No one who has not worked in teaching can imagine how demanding and how exhausting the work is.

  14. Beata says:

    Thousands have gathered at the Indiana Statehouse today to protest the GOP’s anti-union bills, despite the pouring rain:|mostview

  15. Minkoff Minx says:

    Just saw this at AJE.

    Colonel sentenced for DRC mass rape – Africa – Al Jazeera English

    A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo has sentenced an army colonel to 20 years in prison, convicting him of crimes against humanity in the most prominent sexual violence case ever held in the country where thousands are brutally raped each year.

    The mobile court held in the lakeside village of Baraka on Monday marks the first time that a commanding officer has been tried for such a crime.

    Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Lieutenant-Colonel Mutuare Daniel Kibibi, 46, who was accused of ordering his troops on New Year’s Day to attack the village of Fizi where doctors later treated 62 women for rape.

    One woman testified that Kibibi himself raped her for 40 minutes.

    As the defendants were being led away in handcuffs, hundreds of people jeered at them, booed and shook their fists. Some shouted, “Kibibi! You thought you could get away with this! Now you are going to jail!” and “You must pay for your crimes!”

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      Thank god, there is a thing called justice. But personally I think they should string these men up by there balls and let them hang while the victims have a pinata party.

      • Sima says:

        Yea. That’s all I can say.

        I’m very glad to hear he was tried and convicted. Don’t know if it’ll send a message or not, but we can hope it will.

  16. HT says:

    you are being far too compassionate. They should be raped, castrated in the public square and then hung up. If they think that rape is a weapon, then let them be brutalized the same way. I’m usually not so brutal, but I’ve been raped.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      I’m usually not so brutal, but I’ve been raped.

      Me too HT…so you can guess that would be my source of my own brutality in the statement above. Oh and to all our male readers, I am sorry for any fearful shrinkage that may come to your vitals as you read my comment above. Let’s just say that I am bias when it comes to these sort of crimes.

      • HT says:

        It’s not bias. It’s an honest response to brutality that has so far gone unchecked. Most men do not participate in these crimes, but those that do get off scott free. While I commisserate with the men who are not guilty, why have they not come together en masse to decry and address these type of crimes, when their right wing brethern come together constantly to deny women their rights? I don’t know anymore. If you don’t actively fight it, are you complicit?

      • Sima says:

        HT said: ‘If you don’t actively fight it, are you complicit?’

        Tough question, but in the case of these things that were/are ‘accepted’ as normal by society, I would say yes, you are complicit if you don’t stand up against it. Stand up against slavery, or be complicit in it. That doesn’t mean putting your whole life and well-being into the fight against slavery (although for some it might), it means calling it out and saying it’s bad, disapproving of those who traffic in humans, refusing to use the service of prostitutes that may be slaves, and so on.

        Everyone will say, ‘yea, that’s exactly what I do’, about slavery. But can they say it about rape?

  17. dakinikat says:

    Just wanted to post this here and say that I am who I am today because of public school teachers who went out of their way to see that I got a decent education. I had teachers spend tons of after school hours and summers on me. I learned how to ski and scuba dive that way. I also had two teachers over the period of two years who let a group of us girls study women’s history and women’s literature in an evening session.

    Only 5 states do not have collective bargaining for educators and have deemed it illegal. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores (UMKC School of Law) are as follows:

    South Carolina – 50th
    North Carolina – 49th
    Georgia – 48th
    Texas – 47th
    Virginia – 44th

    If you are wondering, Wisconsin, with its collective bargaining for teachers, is ranked 2nd in the country.

    • Sophie says:

      Incredible! (No, actually, quite credible. Too bad the general public cannot be convinced by math and science! Surely you can come up with a short slogan…)

    • Sima says:

      Wow, that series of stats is telling!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thank you for that information, Dak. Wisconsin citizens should be embarassed that they are going to join those states.

    • Seriously says:

      Great post, bb. I just read the most amazing article that because public sector unions support politicians, they have a vise grip over government, with their beholden employers giving them everything they want. Honestly, do they grow article writers in hermetically sealed bubbles these days? I’m beginning to think they never actually encounter other humans. It’s good to know that the public sector never shrinks as we’re laying off half our public school teachers, public universities are failing to replace retirees and using more and more temps, co-pays are going up, benefit packages are shrinking.