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Archive for February 21st, 2011

Bahrain/Libya Update

Firedoglake- By: David Dayen

Monday February 21, 2011 7:50 am

Let’s play a little catchup on the two most deadly flashpoints in the Arab uprising right now. In Bahrain, scene of a dastardly attack on protesters while they slept in Pearl Square, the attempt at repression backfired almost immediately. The Shiite al-Wafiq movement left the Parliament and demanded the resignation of the government. Protests grew in size. Sen. Patrick Leahy called for the application of a law he wrote to deny aid to Bahrain for violating human rights. And the protesters took back the square, with police and the Army withdrawing.

The latest is that the government is being pressured to negotiate:

Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim ruling family came under increased pressure to open in-depth negotiations with the Shiite-led opposition, as protesters erected more tents on the capital’s Pearl Square.

Dozens of workers also joined the protesters, and more than 1,000 medics marched on the square to demand the resignation of the health minister, whom they accused of slowing aid to protesters during a deadly police crackdown.

After nightfall, an AFP correspondent reported thousands more people converging on the roundabout, which has been the focal point of demonstrations that have rocked the small but strategic Gulf kingdom since February 14.

The opposition has also called a large protest for Tuesday afternoon in the hope that tens of thousands of people will converge on Pearl Square, according to the INAA, Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition group.

Crown Prince Salman, the heir to the throne in Bahrain, is supposed to be leading reconciliation talks. Bahrain has a Sunni minority in power over a Shiite majority, with predictable results. This is a really good backgrounder from Foreign Policy. In an epic example of bad timing, the State Department praised Bahrain just a few months ago for its movement toward democracy.

Then there’s Libya, where it’s hard to really get a full picture, with most foreign media unable to enter the country. We know there has been a massacre; the extent is not well known. Moammar Gadhafi’s son went on state-run television and vowed to “fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet.” He gave a long, rambling address, blaming Islamists for the provocation, saying that the country was on the brink of civil war, which threatened their oil output and risked colonization by an invading force, summoning up images of Iraq. Protesters have apparently taken control of Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city, and were clashing with police in the capital of Tripoli.

The latest can be found at Al Jazeera’s live blog. Foreign service personnel and even the minister of security have resigned their posts. Protests have become widespread throughout the country. This is the town of Misurata:

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How John Birch Society Extremism Never Dies: The Fortune Behind Scott Walker’s Union-Busting Campaign

Think Progress- By Lee Fang at 10:00 am

Over 68,000 people have mobilized in Madison and progressive organizers are planning solidarity efforts across the country to denounce Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) radical attempt to bust Wisconsin’s public sector unions. So far, Walker has refused to compromise, even though Wisconsin labor leaders are already coming to the table with large concessions. How can Walker press on, even with public opinion beginning to turn against him? Much of Walker’s critical political support can be credited to a network of right-wing fronts and astroturf groups in Wisconsin supported largely by a single foundation in Milwaukee: the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a $460 million conservative honey pot dedicated to crushing the labor movement.

Walker has deeply entwined his administration with the Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation’s CEO, former state GOP chairman Michele Grebe, chaired Walker’s campaign and headed his transition. But more importantly, the organizations lining up to support Walker are financed by Bradley cash:

The MacIver Institute is a conservative nonprofit that has provided rapid-response attacks on those opposed to Walker’s power grab. MacIver staffers produced a series of videos attacking anti-Walker protesters, including one mocking children. Naturally, the videos have become grist for Fox News and conservative bloggers. In addition, MacIver created studies claiming that Wisconsin teachers and nurses are paid too “generously” and other reports claiming that collective bargaining rights hurt taxpayers. The Bradley Foundation has supported MacIver with over $300,000 in grants over the last three years alone.

– The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is a major conservative think tank helping Walker win support from the media. The Institute has funded polls to bolster Walker’s position, and like MacIver, produced a flurry of attack videos against Walker’s political adversaries and a series of pieces supporting his drive against the state’s labor movement. Over the weekend, the Institute secured a pro-Walker item in the New York Times. The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is supported with over $10 million in grants from the Bradley Foundation.

– As ThinkProgress has reported, the powerful astroturf group Americans for Prosperity not only helped to elect Walker, but bused in Tea Party supporters to hold a pro-Walker demonstration on Saturday. In 2005, the Bradley Foundation earmarked funds to help Koch Industries establish the Americans for Prosperity office in Wisconsin. From 2005-2009, the Bradley Foundation has given about $300,000 to Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin (also called Fight Back Wisconsin).

It should be no surprise that Walker’s radicalism is boosted by Bradley money. Today, the Bradley Foundation is controlled by a group of establishment Republicans, along with Washington Post columnist George Will. However, the Foundation’s agenda still reflects the extremist views of its founder, Harry Bradley. Although he passed away in 1965, Harry, a member of one Wisconsin’s most powerful families and a key financier of nationalist hate groups, would have eagerly applauded Walker’s union-busting agenda.

MORE HERE

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Democratic Strategy In Wisconsin: Kill The Bill, Then Recall Republicans From Office

HuffPost- Amanda Terkel

First Posted: 02/19/11 05:39 PM Updated: 02/19/11 07:13 PM

MADISON, WIS. — Final passage of Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-Wis.) controversial proposal to strip away collective bargaining rights from public employees is currently stalled, thanks to Senate Democrats who left the state in order to prevent their GOP colleagues from reaching a quorum needed to move forward.

But many remained worried that once they come back, Republicans will push through the legislation anyway. Democrats, however, haven’t given up yet and say they have a two-pronged strategy for moving forward.

In an interview with The Huffington Post on Saturday, freshmen Democratic Assembly Member Brett Hulsey said that until the legislation passes, they’re trying to put as much grassroots pressure as possible on Republicans.

“What we’re telling people is to call people you know in Republican districts,” said Hulsey. “Tell them to call their senators and Republican members at home. When you see them at church and at the grocery store, tell them to kill the bill.”

The second strategy will come only if Republicans decide to stick with Walker. According to Wisconsin law, voters can recall any elected official in the state, as long as they’ve been in office for at least a year. This process involves collecting signatures for a recall position and then holding an election with the incumbent against any other candidates who jump in. As ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser has reported, there are eight Republicans who could currently be recalled.

“We’ve seen what happens when Scott Walker and the Republicans have total control: You get dictatorial power,” said Hulsey. “The tyranny of the majority, as [James] Madison spoke of in the Federalist Papers.”

“Recall Walker” is a popular chant amongst protesters in Madison, although Walker just took office in 2011 and therefore is not eligible to go through the process yet. (Most protesters who talked with The Huffington Post admitted that they knew about this technicality but wanted to join in the chanting anyway.)

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Wisconsin Democratic Senators: We’re Staying In Illinois Until Gov. Walker Agrees To Negotiate

HuffPost- Amanda Terkel
First Posted: 02/20/11 09:33 PM Updated: 02/21/11 10:32 AM

WASHINGTON — It’s day four of exile for Wisconsin’s Democratic state senators, who crossed state lines in order to stall the expedited passage of Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) budget proposal. Although many of the governor’s supporters have called on them to come back to Madison, Democrats are ready to stick it out in Rockford, Ill. until Walker agrees to negotiate.

(Scroll down for the latest updates)

“We’ll be here until Gov. Walker decides that he wants to talk,” said state Sen. Tim Carpenter (D) in an interview with The Huffington Post on Saturday. He added that so far, the governor refuses to meet with them or even return the phone calls from members of the Democratic caucus.

“He’s just hard-lined — will not talk, will not communicate, will not return phone calls,” said Carpenter. “In a democracy, I thought we were supposed to talk. But the thing is, he’s been a dictator, and just basically said this is the only thing. No amendments, and it’s going to be that way.”

“Clearly, we offered a viable compromise at the end of last week,” said state Sen. Robet Wirch (D), who is in northern Illinois, but not in Rockford with other members. “We wanted the clergy to come in and mediate this thing. But the governor just has his feet in cement.”

Walker’s office did not respond to The Huffington Post’s request for comment.

On Friday, union leaders in Wisconsin agreed to the part of Walker’s bill that would require public employees to double their health insurance contributions and contribute 5.8 percent of their salary to their pensions. Walker has argued that concessions by public workers are necessary in order to help the state’s financial situation.

MORE HERE

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