Monday Reads: Interesting (and scary) times

Good Morning! We sure do live in interesting times. There is so much happening in the news today that there is no way I could cover all of it. As I see it, the most disturbing news is that world events are spiraling out of control, while the U.S. President dithers and does as little as possible–fiddling while the world burns.


Japan is struggling with an overwhelming natural disaster and a massive humanitarian crisis, and at the same time they–and the rest of us–face a nuclear emergency. No one knows for sure yet how bad it is, but I can’t help but suspect that we are not getting the whole story.

From Reuters:

Officials confirmed on Sunday that three nuclear reactors north of Tokyo were at risk of overheating, raising fears of an uncontrolled radiation leak.

Engineers worked desperately to cool the fuel rods in the damaged reactors. If they fail, the containers that house the core could melt, or even explode, releasing radioactive material into the atmosphere.

How bad could it get? Here’s what nuclear experts told Scientific American:

“Reactor analysts like to categorize potential reactor accidents into groups,” said Bergeron, who did research on nuclear reactor accident simulation at Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico. “And the type of accident that is occurring in Japan is known as a station blackout. It means loss of offsite AC power—power lines are down—and then a subsequent failure of emergency power on site—the diesel generators. It is considered to be extremely unlikely, but the station blackout has been one of the great concerns for decades.


Bergeron explained the basics of overheating at a nuclear fission plant. “The fuel rods are long uranium rods clad in a [zirconium alloy casing]. They’re held in a cylindrical-shaped array. And the water covers all of that. If the water descends below the level of the fuel, then the temperature starts going up and the cladding bursts, releasing a lot of fission products. And eventually the core just starts slumping and melting. Quite a bit of this happened in TMI [Three Mile Island], but the pressure vessel did not fail.”

So what if the worst happens and there is a meltdown?

“They’re venting in order to keep the containment vessel from failing. But if a core melts, it will slump to the bottom of the reactor vessel, probably melt through the reactor vessel onto the containment floor. It’s likely to spread as a molten pool—like lava—to the edge of the steel shell, and melt through. That would result in a containment failure in a matter of less than a day. It’s good that it’s got a better containment system than Chernobyl, but it’s not as strong as most of the reactors in this country.”

Basically, we’re talking about The China Syndrome. Except if a Japanese nuclear plant melts down, the core won’t be headed for China.

Read the rest of this entry »

Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! There’s quite a lot of news happening, so I probably won’t be able to cover everything. I’m hoping you can help me out in the comments. Anyway, here are some stories that caught my eye.

The Guardian UK: 2 US airmen killed in Frankfurt airport shooting

Two U.S. airmen were killed and two others were wounded at Frankfurt airport when a man opened fire on them at close range with a handgun, the first such attack on American forces in Germany in a quarter century.


The alleged assailant, identified as a 21-year-old Kosovo man, was taken immediately into custody and was being questioned by authorities, said Frankfurt police spokesman Manfred Fuellhardt.

Family members in Kosovo described the suspect as a devout Muslim, who was born and raised in Germany and worked at the airport.

The attacker got into an argument with airmen outside their military bus before opening fire, killing the bus driver and one other serviceman, and wounding two others, one of whom was in life-threatening condition, Fuellhardt said. He said the attacker also briefly entered the bus.

The suspect has been identified as “Arif Uka, a Kosovo citizen from the northern town of Mitrovica.” There is quite a bit more information about him at the Guardian link. The victims had not yet been identified when I wrote this.

I’m sure you heard that yesterday the Supreme Court decided that the Wesboro Baptist Church is within their First Amendment Rights when they protest homosexuality at servicemen’s funerals. However, there are some limits on the decision, according to USA Today.

The court majority made plain that states may regulate funeral protests in some situations. Roberts observed that since the 2006 Snyder funeral, the Maryland Legislature has enacted a law prohibiting picketing within 100 feet of a funeral. Roberts also noted that Westboro’s picketing would have complied with that restriction.

The chief justice said demonstrations may be regulated as long as laws are neutral — that is, not aimed at any particular views — and narrowly crafted.

In recent years, Congress and 46 states have enacted laws to minimize picketing near cemeteries during a funeral, according to a brief filed at the court by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and 40 other senators who sided with Snyder. They said state personal-injury laws, such as the Maryland one Snyder invoked to sue Phelps, supplement government picketing restrictions.

From the news reports, it sounds like the protests in Libya are starting to turn into a full-fledged war. Late last night Voice of America reported serious “clashes” in eastern Libya:

The fighting included ground clashes and airstrikes by Libyan military planes.

Witnesses said pro-Gadhafi forces stormed into the town of Brega on the Gulf of Sirte and briefly seized its oil installations and an airstrip. Opposition fighters say they recaptured both sites. Later, Western media reported loud booms that they linked to at least two bombings from Libyan aircraft.

Witnesses say military forces carried out an airstrike in the nearby town of Ajdabiya. Both towns are on the western edge of the region of eastern Libya that is now largely under opposition control.

Gadhafi is still delusional:

The fighting occurred on the same day that Gadhafi delivered a televised speech to supporters in Tripoli. He said he could not resign because he holds no political office in a system that he said puts all power in the hands of the people.

There is a lot of pressure on President Obama to do something other than mumble meaningless cliches. At CNN, they seem to be rooting for military intervention (h/t Minkoff Minx). I’m sure CNN has visions of improving their ratings by presenting lots of carnage live and in color, like they did during the two Iraq wars. But Secretary of Defense Gates is doing his best to stifle such talk.

With rebels in Libya calling for Western airstrikes on forces supporting Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates warned Congress on Wednesday that even a more modest effort to establish a no-flight zone over Libya would have to begin with an attack on the country’s air defenses and would require “a big operation in a big country.”

Mr. Gates’s caution illustrates the chasm between what the rebels and some leading members of Congress are calling for and what President Obama appears willing to do in Libya. Mr. Obama and his aides have argued that it is not yet clear that the insurgents need the help — and they have warned that the use of American airpower could fuel the arguments of those in the Middle East who see a Washington conspiracy behind homegrown uprisings.

But others disagree.

…even some members of the president’s own party sounded unconvinced on Wednesday. Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and one of the president’s chief foreign policy allies in Congress, argued that “a no-fly zone is not a long-term proposition” and warned that other nations and NATO should not be “on the sidelines” as Colonel Qaddafi’s jets begin to attack the antigovernment insurgents.

“We ought to be considering a wide range of responses, and a no-fly zone ought to be an option,” Mr. Kerry said late Wednesday. “We have a number of tools, and we should not remove any of them from the table.”

Of course no one is screaming about the deficit now or about how much all this military action would cost–that only happens when there is talk of helping pregnant women, children, the elderly, and other powerless groups.

Here’s an article by a law professor that explains the legal implications of the U.S. getting involved in military action in Libya.

It’s possible the situation in Wisconsin could continue for months with ongoing protests and the Democratic State Senators remaining in exile. This is what happens when you elect a governor who doesn’t believe in compromise and simply wants to behave like a tyrant.

The governor isn’t budging. AWOL Democrats aren’t planning to come back. And, despite talk of deadlines and threats of mass layoffs, the state doesn’t really have to pass a budget to pay its bills until at least May. Even then, there may be other options that could extend the standoff for months.

“This is a battle to the death,” said Mordecai Lee, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “Unless one party can come up with a compromise that the other party will buy, which I doubt, this really could go on indefinitely. I could see this going on until the summer.”

We have a union contract dispute going on here in the Boston area with a lot of parallels to the one in Wisconsin. The local PBS/NPR station, WGBH, which produces much of the best content for public TV stations around the country, is playing hardball with their unionized employees, who have been working without a contract since October.

Managers of the giant Boston-based public broadcast operation and officials of the Association of Employees of the Educational Foundation, Communications Workers of America, Local 1300, have been seeking a new three-year contract to replace an agreement that expired at the end of October.

WGBH employs 850 people; Local 1300 represents 280 writers, editors, production workers, and marketing employees who enjoy using automated out reach software like Apollo.

Management has been seeking concessions that include cutting in half the company’s match for employee retirement plans and is demanding authority to redefine job descriptions. That would allow WGBH to assign employees to work across various media platforms, including TV, radio, and the Web.

Union officials said they are willing to make some concessions to preserve jobs and WGBH’s financial health, including cuts in company contributions to retirement plans. But they are not willing to go along with such provisions as allowing WGBH to outsource work without negotiations, or to terminate on-air talent without cause. Union officials said they do not want WGBH to be able to assign members to perform work outside their job description.

“If they retain the ability to outsource anything and everything, it would tend to make moot all the gains we made in other areas of the contract,’’ said Jordan Weinstein, president of the AEEF/CWA, Local 1300, and local host of public radio’s “All Things Considered,’’ the weekday news program. “This is not the warm and friendly way to deal with your employees.’’

That’s all I’ve got for now. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Late Night Open Thread, Is it spring yet?

Fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, note the ladders that only go up to the sixth floor.

Good evening everyone, I thought I would post a few new links to catch up on the nights news.  At the end of the post check out the link to an episode of American Experience about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.  Perfect timing for this episode in that this year is the 100 year anniversary of the fire, which occurred on March 25th, 1911….perfect timing in that there is a union fight going on right now in  Wisconsin. We will get to this later.

First off, it looks like a poll was done and what do you know…the voters in Wisconsin would have voted for the Democrat if they could have a do over. Can I mention that saying about hindsight being 20/20?

Public Policy Polling: Do over?

We’ll have our full poll on the Wisconsin conflict out tomorrow but here’s the most interesting finding: if voters in the state could do it over today they’d support defeated Democratic nominee Tom Barrett over Scott Walker by a a 52-45 margin.

The difference between how folks would vote now and how they voted in November can almost all be attributed to shifts within union households. Voters who are not part of union households have barely shifted at all- they report having voted for Walker by 7 points last fall and they still say they would vote for Walker by a 4 point margin. But in households where there is a union member voters now say they’d go for Barrett by a 31 point margin, up quite a bit from the 14 point advantage they report having given him in November.

It’s actually Republicans, more so than Democrats or independents, whose shifting away from Walker would allow Barrett to win a rematch if there was one today. Only 3% of the Republicans we surveyed said they voted for Barrett last fall but now 10% say they would if they could do it over again. That’s an instance of Republican union voters who might have voted for the GOP based on social issues or something else last fall trending back toward Democrats because they’re putting pocketbook concerns back at the forefront and see their party as at odds with them on those because of what’s happened in the last month.

This next link is also about the above poll, however it is going to Keith Olbermann’s new website, FOK News: February 28, 2011 | FOK News Channel Just thought I would send you over to check it out, I had completely forgotten that he was launching it.

Okay the next few links are to recent articles about Unions that you might have missed.

Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Unions –

The Fight for Unions in Wisconsin : The New Yorker

Sandy Banks: Cutbacks send the wrong message on unions –

Earlier today Dakinikat wrote a post on the Republican war on nearly everybody. If you did not see it, please check it out. There is a new report out that discusses the problems with the GOP plans for spending cuts.  Seems to me that a loss of jobs in not the direction we should be going in….I do not know how accurate this Moody’s report is, I will leave that up to Dak to explain. It just seems the GOP is out to get everyone who isn’t filthy rich or a crazy religious nut case. Why are they going after women, unions, and the working class?  Anyway, here is an article from the Washington Post,  GOP spending plan would cost 700,000 jobs, new report says.

A Republican plan to sharply cut federal spending this year would destroy 700,000 jobs through 2012, according to an independent economic analysis set for release Monday.

The report, by Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, offers fresh ammunition to Democrats seeking block the Republican plan, which would terminate dozens of programs and slash federal appropriations by $61 billion over the next seven months.

Zandi, an architect of the 2009 stimulus package who has advised both political parties, predicts that the GOP package would reduce economic growth by 0.5 percentage points this year, and by 0.2 percentage points in 2012, resulting in 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of next year.

So, on to the American Experience that aired tonight. It was damn good. To see actual photos and hear accounts of the fire and stories from the families read out loud really makes a statement. Chilling is all I can say about this episode. Here is a review of it from the New York Times. Triangle Fire Remembered on PBS and HBO –

As demonstrations in support of Wisconsin’s public-employee unions proliferate, PBS can pat itself on the back for scheduling the documentary “Triangle Fire” on Monday night — more than three weeks before the 100th anniversary of the New York garment-factory blaze it details, which figures so strongly in the imagination of the American labor movement.

…it’s the images of corpses stacked on the Greenwich Village sidewalks where they fell, as a crowd of thousands helplessly watched, that get to you, as dreadful now as they were a century ago, when they inspired a wave of workplace reform in New York State.

I think that is exactly what made this documentary an emotionally charged examination of what led up to the fire, and the heart-wrenching details from actual interviews with survivors and the families of those who lost their lives.

“Triangle Fire,” a presentation of “American Experience” on PBS, takes a more straightforward, strictly chronological approach and spends much more time on the progress of the labor movement in organizing garment workers, a tumultuous process that actually took place several years before the fire. This allows for the inclusion of piquant facts like the hiring of prostitutes to assault female pickets.

Here is the link to the website for American Experience on PBS. There is a wealth of information on the site, photos and even lesson plans. Please take a look and remember what Labor Unions did for workers, and how we are now going backwards when it comes to worker’s rights.  WGBH American Experience . Triangle Fire . Introduction | PBS

So what are you finding tonight? Go ahead and post some links.

Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Some of us have been watching Al Jazeera live on-line a lot lately. Suddenly Comcast wants to get into the act, so they are holding talks with the Arab network about putting them on U.S. cable TV.

Al Jazeera confirmed in a press release earlier this week it was meeting with Comcast on Tuesday about adding the 24/7 Al Jazeera English news network to Comcast’s cable lineup.

In 2006, the English-language version of Al Jazeera pushed hard get on Comcast’s lineup up but lost that battle.

Al Jazeera says it can also be seen in local markets in Vermont, Ohio and Washington, D.C. A deal with Comcast would give it a huge national imprint, and force Comcast’s competitors to follow suit.

Al-Jazeera’s Washington bureau chief Abderrahim Foukara made his own plea on Tuesday in Time magazine.

“The hope is that after what people have been able to see on Al Jazeera in its coverage of Egypt, that cable companies may not just see the material benefits of having Al Jazeera available, but also the wisdom,” he told Time in an interview.

Wouldn’t it be great if the channel *replaced* Fox News? Anyway, that’s my good news story for today.

Yesterday, Dakinikat posted audio of a prank phone call made to Wisconsin’s wacky governor, Scott Walker by a gonzo blogger from upstate NY who pretended to be David Koch of the notorious Koch brothers.

Now Horrible John Hinderaker at Powerline is fighting back (warning: right wing blog). The left is waging “war” against the Koch Brothers and Hineraker has set himself up as their defender.

The most extraordinary story in the news these days is the all-out assault that the Left is mounting against Charles and David Koch and their company, Koch Enterprises. A day doesn’t go buy–hardly an hour goes by–without some new attack being launched against these two lonely libertarians.

Why? Simply because they are rich–their company is one of the best-run and most successful in the world–and conservative. The Left is trying to drive them out of politics and, more important, to deter any other people of means from daring to support conservative politicians or causes.

Awwwww….those poor, poor babies.

According to the Washington Post, Walker himself is “urging others to take stands against unions.” I guess he doesn’t want to be out on that limb by himself, and he doesn’t realize that the more governors are out there with him, the sooner the limb will break off and send them all crashing to the ground. Oh, by the way, he did the urging during the aforsaid prank phone call in which he believed he was speaking to David Koch. ROFLOL! From the WaPo:

He said he communicates regularly with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and has spoken with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. And Walker has suggested that his counterparts in Michigan and Florida seek to address their budget problems in part by demanding major concessions from public workers.

“There’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big,” Walker said this week. “This is our moment.”

His comments about his GOP brethren came in an unusual forum: a recorded telephone conversation with a liberal blogger purporting to be conservative financier David Koch.

Oh man, Scott Walker will forever be a joke. And speaking of jokes, did you hear that Rick Santorum spoke out on the Wisconsin protests?

All-but-declared presidential candidate Rick Santorum is stirring the pot when it comes to government entitlements, comparing the pro-union protesters in Wisconsin to drug addicts in withdrawal.

“They are acting like their drug is being taken away from them,” Santorum told a small gathering of South Carolina Republicans Monday night, according to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.

The comments came the same day thousands of protesters rallied outside the Wisconsin state capitol for the second week, upset with Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to limit collective bargaining rights for public-sector employees. Walker says the plan is necessary to stem the state’s budget crisis while pro-union groups say the governor is trying to curb long-held labor rights under a guise of fiscal responsibility.

Meanwhile, Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who is widely expected to seek his party’s presidential nomination, added he thinks those who support government entitlements – including the recent health care law – are “no better than a drug dealer.”

“They give you a subtle narcotic to make you feel better as you do worse,” said Santorum.

Gee, why do I think Santorum’s White House bid is going nowhere fast?

Speaking of wingnuts (and we have been), Georgia legislator Bobby Franklin is waging an all-out war on women.

There’s a new bill on the block that may have reached the apex (I hope) of woman-hating craziness. Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin—who last year proposed making rape and domestic violence “victims” into “accusers”—has introduced a 10-page bill that would criminalize miscarriages and make abortion in Georgia completely illegal. Both miscarriages and abortions would be potentially punishable by death: any “prenatal murder” in the words of the bill, including “human involvement” in a miscarriage, would be a felony and carry a penalty of life in prison or death. Basically, it’s everything an “pro-life” activist could want aside from making all women who’ve had abortions wear big red “A”s on their chests.

Could that really pass–even in Georgia?

In more serious news, the carnage in Libya continues.

“It’s a massacre, you can never imagine what’s going on here,” says the man, who is in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Protests in Libya have been met with violent and brutal opposition by supporters of leader Moamar Gaddafi….

‘Amairr’ says that Libya is not a state and that Gadafi’s regime is ‘not a government’.

“It’s a militia, it’s a gang,” he says.

He says Gaddafi has brought in militias from Africa who are ‘shooting anyone who stands’.

He says the Libyan nation says it feels betrayed by other countries who are concentrating on getting their citizens out rather than helping Libyans.

Some are even calling it a potential genocide.

ISLAMABAD: “We are in the midst of a massacre here” a witness told Reuters. According to Franco Frattini, Italy’s Foreign Minister, “as many as 1,000 people have likely been killed in Libya as leader Muammar Qaddafi cracks down on protests against his rule.”

The Libyan army, air force and navy have completely fractured and there has been a de facto secession of the eastern half of the country. Al-Jazeera is reporting that some air force fighters loyal to Gaddafi have “opened fire on crowds of protestors.”

The Libyan Navy is reportedly firing on residential targets onshore and senior army officers still loyal to Qaddafi have been ordered to execute soldiers refusing to fire on unarmed protestors.

Qaddafi, the longest serving dictator on the face of the planet, continues to hold fort in Tripoli scheming to kill a million if need be to save his crumbling dictatorship. Anti-Qaddafi elements have already taken over Benghazi, Sirte, Tobruk, Misurata, Khoms, Tarhunah, Zentan, al-Zawiya and Zouara but most of these elements are unarmed and thus at risk of being slaughtered by heavily armed pro-Qaddafi forces.

The response from the West has been anemic at best. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “condemned” Libyan dictator

Muammar Gaddafi for ignoring his call to stop violence against protestors, which the UN chief stressed to the Libyan leader during a 40 minute conversation this week. “What he (Gaddafi) has d one is totally unacceptable,” Ban told journalists on Wednesday.

“After such long and extensive discussions and my strong urging, and even appeal to him, he has not heeded,” he added. “This is not acceptable.”

Ban warned that the volatile situation in the North African nation could take several directions—many of them dangerous.

“The situation is developing rapidly towards a very dangerous situation,” he said. “Therefore we need to very carefully monitor the situation.”

Um…how about actually doing something? Like maybe enforcing a no-fly zone or sending in UN peacekeeping troops as the Libyan’s have been pleading for you to do?

Reuters informs us that “the world grapples for a response.”

Yet, there seemed little cohesion and urgency in a global response, even as Washington and Brussels spoke of possible sanctions against a man whose 41 years in power have been marked by idiosyncratic defiance of the West.

“It is imperative that the nations and peoples of the world speak with one voice,” Obama said. “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous.”

The oil exports which Gaddafi used to help end his isolation in the past decade have given him means to resist the fate of his immediate neighbors, the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, who were brought down by popular unrest in the past few weeks.

It’s always about oil, isn’t it? Talk about people acting like drug addicts….

Anyway, I’ll keep my eye out for updates on the rapidly changing situation in Libya.

What are you reading and blogging about today?

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?