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Archive for February, 2011

So That’s Why Walker is Welding the Windows Shut

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Found this at the AFL-CIO NOW Blog (with some help from the guy who runs Eschaton):

This from AFL-CIO Political Communications Director Eddie Vale who’s on the ground in Madison, Wis.

As we speak, Gov. Scott Walker & the Senate R’s are literally having the windows of the capital welded shut to keep people from passing food into the building to the people inside.

Our attorneys are collecting affidavits from the people who witnessed this, along with people who have been illegally denied access to a public, government, building.

We will be filing for a TRO [temporary restraining order] to open the Capitol.

It is a sad for democracy when Governor Walker and his R Senate allies are locking the people of Wisconsin out of their own state capitol.

Written by slothropia

February 28th, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Capitol Police Blocking Wi Protestors from Capitol Buliding: Firedog Lake

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This was posted earlier this morning by David Dayen at Firedog Lake:

Just got an alert from the Capitol City Leadership Committee (which is what the protesters who held the building last night have taken to calling themselves). The Capitol Police were supposed to open the building to the public at 8am. Two hours later they are still not letting anyone into the building. It’s particularly cold out in Madison today, with big crowds outside trying to enter. The media relations person for the CCLC, Thomas Bird, told me that one lady, who has been coming to the Capitol from the beginning, has colon cancer, and it took a long time for them to finally persuade the police to get her in.

Crowds outside the Capitol are chanting “Let them in!” as the police block the entrances.

The Department of Administration released new rules this morning about building access…

(see the post at FDL for detailed list of new access rules)

As you can see, they are really cracking down on access, and particularly what can be brought into the building. They have tried to make it very uncomfortable for people to stay, forcing them to sleep on jackets or the bare floor. They have restricted medical supplies and slowed the supply of food. But according to the CCLC, they are going well beyond these rules and basically blocking access to the building. And this comes after the police told protesters that they would be allowed back in at 8am.

Blocking access to the Capitol building is illegal under the Wisconsin state Constitution:

Article I, §4 – ANNOT.
The legislature cannot prohibit an individual from entering the capitol or its grounds. 59 Atty. Gen. 8.

Article I, §4
Right to assemble and petition. Section 4. The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.

This is all tied to the joint legislative session on the budget on Tuesday. Governor Walker really doesn’t want to have to deliver the budget in a building under occupation. I think initially he planned to move locations, but that would not have been legal under Wisconsin state law. So instead of mass arrests and the negative publicity that would have went with it, Walker is going for the slow squeeze.

Local union leaders and the ACLU are working on the issue as we speak. More when I get it…

Written by slothropia

February 28th, 2011 at 11:01 am

Wisconsin Update With Eyewitness Account

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The Governor of Wisconsin wants to clear demonstrators form the state Capitol building. Last night TPM reported:

Madison, WI — In a major victory for the protesters at the Wisconsin state Capitol — who were supposed to clear out at 4 p.m. CT today, but have remained inside in the hundreds — Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs has announced that those protesters still in the building will be able to stay the night.

Protesters will be able to sleep on the ground floor, as cleaning is done of the upper floors. Tubbs said there had been no decisions made yet on what the policy would be for successive nights.

“There will be no arrests, as we said before, there will be no use of force,” Tubbs said. “We want the people to continue to cooperate and work within the guidelines and the laws of the state of Wisconsin. So there’ll be no one asked to leave the Capitol tonight.”

Michael Perillo of the Peoria Area Peace Network was in Madison yesterday and here is what he saw:

Sun, February 27, 2011 8:07:30 PM
Protesters in Madison Capitol Building

I’m in Madison, WI right now. I left the Capitol building not too long ago after police gave the last warning for everyone to leave. I thought I wasn’t going to make it out. From what I’ve heard, the police decided not to arrest those who stayed behind to risk arrest. Instead, they are staying together as one. The police are even handing out bedding for the protesters to sleep on. I’m still trying to figure out in my head what I just saw. I will always remember what happened in that rotunda today, until the day I die.

I’m at a local radio station and using their computer. I have to leave in a hurry, but I just filmed a lot of what happened in the rotunda of the Capitol Building and will share more of it later this week. I have two of those videos posted at youtube. These activists are standing strong, and though it did get heated for a moment between the each other, there was no violence. Please circulate these videos.

Also courtesy of Michael, here are two videos of events in the capitol building.

Bruce Springsteen and Tom Merello played Madison a few days ago in support of the effort there. Here is a video of the two of them performing “The Ghost of Tom Joad” in 2009:

Written by slothropia

February 28th, 2011 at 10:37 am

Wisconsin Solidarity Rally, Peoria Illinois, 2/24/2011

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Went to the demo at the Peoria County Courthouse this evening in support of the public sector workers in Wisconsin, as well as collective bargaining rights everywhere. I think everyone there was also taking a stand in the class warfare the oligarchy has been waging against the middle class and the poor.

I have attended one or two demos since I got to the Peoria area a few years ago, but this was the largest I’ve seen. I would guess about 300 to 500 were there. I could be wrong since I was in the middle of the crowd, but that’s my estimate.

There were public sector workers there (like from AFSCME) but it seemed to me that most of the union members there were from the private sector (UAW, Teamsters and many more).

Lots of socializing a little bit of music from the PA system and speeches by local labor leaders. It was cold but I had about five layers on and really thick, warm gloves.

There was a lot of anger about what the Right is trying to do, not just in Wisconsin but across the U.S. Still, morale seemed high. It was almost easy to forget that the middle class and working peolpe in the U.S. are fighting for a way of a life, a decent standard of living and hope for their kids’ future. But that is exactly what this current battle is all about.

Hey, how about a musical chaser. Here’s Billy Bragg wit a Woody Guthrie tune “All You Fascists Are Bound to Lose”. Now I’m not calling Scott Walker of John Kasich fascists, but if the jack boot fits I am sure they will try it on, just to see if it goes with their new brown shirts.

Or maybe “Which Side Are You On?”

Written by slothropia

February 24th, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Aaron (Schock) and Me

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So I went to my email inbpox and found a newsletter from Aaron Schock (R- IL 18). Here it is:

Dear Friends,

Last week was a busy week in the House of Representatives. On Monday, we received President Obama’s budget for the next fiscal year and we voted to approve a funding measure called a Continuing Resolution.

Most of last week was consumed by debating and voting on amendments related to the Continuing Resolution. A “CR” as its called in Washington is a short-term resolution to keep the federal government operational. If you are asking why we would have to pass such a resolution, you would not be alone. Last year, for the first time since the 1970’s, the Democratic majority in the House failed to pass a budget. This is not something to be proud of or the way our government should operate.

However, I am proud of the work we did last week in regard to the CR for two main reasons. We were successful in cutting $100 billion from the President’s proposed FY 2011 budget, and we kept the process open and transparent so that everyone could watch and participate. This being the case it took all week and many late nights to accomplish our goal, but its the way Washington should and needs to work.

I was able to play an instrumental role in our debate by successfully stopping additional stimulus funds from being used to produce more signs to promote stimulus related projects. In my opinion, we were able to save the taxpayers more than $20 million from a continuing self-promotion effort by the current Administration.

Last week’s CR began what will be a series of steps to rein in government spending that has produced record debt levels that are unsustainable. We are literally operating on maxed out credit cards at this point, and struggling just to keep up with the interest payments.

The budget that was proposed by the President needs a lot more work; even the New York Times said last week in an editorial that “[President] Obama’s budget is most definitely not a blueprint for dealing with the real long-term problems that feed the budget deficit.” While our discretionary spending (the funding of programs, departments and agencies) is a relatively small part of the overall federal budget, is an important starting point to cut away the wasteful spending that has been going on for decades. The real issue, and the one the President failed to address, is entitlement reform – social security, medicare and medicaid. These three entitlements alone make up 60 percent of our federal budget and will only consume more over time.

I know there is no silver bullet and no easy solutions, but our entitlement programs are a huge drag on our economy. We are well beyond debating the seriousness of reforming these institutions. We must begin acting now to shore up these programs. House Republicans will be offering their budget in April and we will be picking up where the president left off by offering viable solutions to reforming our entitlement systems and making our budget a more lean and efficient guide to federal spending. As a member of the Ways and Means committee and the subcommittee on Social Security, I intend to play a leading role in these debates.

We have a long road ahead of us, but I’m confident that if we begin the conversation now, we can have the kind of impact that we need to restore and rebuild the confidence that is sorely needed in our Federal government and economy. I will keep you posted as this debate continues.

Respectfully,
Aaron

Here is my reply

I received your newsletter by email this evening. Thank you for the update.

I am afraid, however that I do not agree with you on a number of the topics you touched on in the newsletter mentioned above. For one thing, you are incorrect when you imply that Social Security contributes to the deficit. You said, “We are well beyond debating the seriousness of reforming these institutions.” That is incorrect, sir. The debate has not even properly begun.

The Social Security program, as you must know, is in surplus and will be for at least 25 years. But if you think Social Security benefits (which people earn by paying payroll taxes) should be cut please let your constituents know what you think the retirement age should be or how much you would like to slash benefits.

Medicare and Medicaid are more problematic, but perhaps a universal health care and health insurance program would be a solution. Counties like France and Britain spend about half what the U.S.pends on health care and have better outcomes and, of course, universal coverage (By the way I would truly love to know how you would make sure everyone in this country has health insurance).

I am reliably informed that you and your Republican colleagues have only manged to cut $61 billion from the federal budget, which of course has not passed Congress and been signed into law by President Obama. Whatever the actual level of cuts that are implemented, can you tell me how the next budget will increase employment. As I am sure you are aware, unemployment is still above 9% in the U.S., but I don’t hear you talking much about how to solve that problem.

I guess the shorter way of posing this question is to ask, Where are the jobs?

But since Republicans do not want to talk about jobs, choosing instead to talk only about the federal debt and deficit. (looking new ways to undermine Roe v Wade and threaten women health), perhaps you should keep in mind the causes of the current budget shortfalls. The Bush tax cuts, of course, stripped revenue from the budget, while two wars were fought without being paid for in the federal budget. Years of financial deregulation then led to the financial crisis in 2008, just as a major recession was getting underway. Since these are the well documented causes of the federal budget crisis, why are they not addresses in an effort to find a solution fair to all that will strengthen the economy?

Again, thanks for your newsletter. I would eagerly welcome a detailed reply.

Written by slothropia

February 24th, 2011 at 10:32 pm

More Madison Musings from Krugman, Lakoff and Rich

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Here’s what Krugman had to say today about the Wisconsin uprising:

Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin’s new union-busting governor, Scott Walker — demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday — Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.”

It wasn’t the smartest thing for Mr. Ryan to say, since he probably didn’t mean to compare Mr. Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did — after all, quite a few prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that President Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it.

In any case, however, Mr. Ryan was more right than he knew. For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.

I laughed when I saw Paul Ryan compare Madison to Cairo, clearly trying to pant both with an unflattering brush. Progressives should always be grateful when the Right helps make their case for them. Why, it’s almost as if Congressman Ryan and his party are hostile to democracy. Which in fact they are. As I and many others have said many times before, the raison d’etre of the modern Republican Party is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a small number of plutocrats.

George Lakoff has written recently about conservative rhetoric in an article titled “What Conservatives Really Want”:

Conservatives really want to change the basis of American life, to make America run according to the conservative moral worldview in all areas of life.

Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility. They don’t think government should help its citizens. That is, they don’t think citizens should help each other. The part of government they want to cut is not the military (we have 174 bases around the world), not government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the part that helps people. Why? Because that violates individual responsibility.

But where does that view of individual responsibility alone come from?

The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family (by winning competitions in the marketplace), and to teach his kids right from wrong by disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of force is necessary and required. Only then will children develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And only with such discipline will they be able to prosper. And what of people who are not prosperous? They don’t have discipline, and without discipline they cannot be moral, so they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the prosperous people. Helping others takes away their discipline, and hence makes them both unable to prosper on their own and function morally.

With all due respect to Professor Lakoff, what he is describing is the rhetorical means by which the ruling elites intend to enhance their power, the world view of rank and file conservatives who do the dirty work of getting elected and abusing political power.

Frank Rich thinks he sees cracks in the GOP armor resulting from rhetorical and political overreach:

THE G.O.P. has already reached its praying-for-a-miracle phase — hoping some neo-Reagan will emerge to usurp the tired field. Trump! Thune! T-Paw! Christie! Jeb Bush! Soon it’ll be time for another Fred Thompson or Rudy groundswell. But hardly had CPAC folded its tent than a new Public Policy Polling survey revealed where the Republican base’s heart truly remains — despite the new civility and the temporary moratorium on the term “job-killing.” The poll found that 51 percent of G.O.P. primary voters don’t believe that the president was born in America and that only 28 percent do. (For another 21 percent, the jury is still out, as it presumably is on evolution as well.)

The party leadership is no less cowed by that majority today than it was pre-Tucson. That’s why John Boehner, appearing on “Meet the Press” last weekend, stonewalled David Gregory’s repeated queries asking him to close the door on the “birther” nonsense. (“It’s not my job to tell the American people what to think,” Boehner said.) The power of the G.O.P.’s hard-core base may also yet deliver a Palin comeback no matter what the rest of the country thinks of her. In the CNN poll nearly two weeks after Tucson, Republicans still gave her a 70 percent favorable approval rating, just behind Huckabee (72 percent) and ahead of Romney (64 percent).

An opposition this adrift from reality — whether about Obama’s birth certificate, history unfolding in the Middle East or the consequences of a federal or state government shutdown — is a paper tiger. It’s a golden chance for the president to seize the moment. What we don’t know is if he sees it that way. As we’ve learned from his track record both in the 2008 campaign and in the White House, he sometimes coasts at these junctures or lapses into a pro forma bipartisanship that amounts, for all practical purposes, to inertia.

Obama’s outspokenness about the labor battle in Wisconsin offers a glimmer of hope that he might lead the fight for what many Americans, not just Democrats, care about — from job creation to an energy plan to an attack on the deficit that brackets the high-end Bush-era tax cuts with serious Medicare/Medicaid reform and further strengthening of the health care law. Will he do so? The answer to that question is at least as mysterious as the identity of whatever candidate the desperate G.O.P. finds to run against him.

I think we are at least all agrees that the crisis represented and signified in Wisconsin is growing more acute. The stakes for the 98% of U.S. resident not in the ruling elite are growing higher with each right wing outrage. Been a long time coming and the end is not in sight.

Bonus factoid: This was posted in one of the comments to Krugmans’s column, cited and quoted above:

Only 5 states do not have collective bargaining for educators and have deemed it illegal. Their ranking on ACT/SAT scores:

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

Wisconsin is currently ranked 2nd. Welcome to the race to the bottom.

Written by slothropia

February 21st, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Ich Bin Ein Cheesehead

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The title of this post, when translated from Low German, means roughly, “I am a Wisconsinite.” I joke but in strong sympathy to the Wisconsin protesters. And I seem to have a lot of company. Good Old Ed Schultz for one.

I must confess I am only an occasional Ed Show viewer. I rarely disagree with Ed but he doesn’t know how to move the dial down form 11. When he started broadcasting from Madison at the beginning of the week, I was grateful but didn’t know if he would get much of an audience, talking to real working people, along with the usual cast of pundits and insiders. I still have no idea of Ed’s ratings this week, but it feels like his show has made a measurable contribution to the still growing support for Wisconsin labor.

Consider this snippet from The Nation’s John Nichols (shamelessly lifted from Crooks and Liars):

Nichols: Governor Walker is clearly cornered at this point. I can tell you as somebody who’s covered him for a long time. This man doesn’t want to be where he’s at. He would love to have a way out. That’s one of the reasons why the tea party is coming to town tomorrow. They’re going to rally here. They’re going to do that for a reason. And that is because they’re trying to shore the governor up.

They’re trying to scare him from backing down. The fact of the matter is these people are winning. On Thursday, these people are winning. On Thursday, they connected with the state Senate in such a powerful way that 14 Senators made the ultimate sacrifice for Wisconsinites. They went for a weekend in Illinois.

Now today, today they connected with the Assembly sufficiently that the Assembly adjourned action. These are victories each day and there’s simply no question. The power here right now is in the streets, not in the capital.

There are plenty of others of course.

Here’s Peter at Crooks and Liars:

Marginalization and dismissal are the two chief weapons of the GOP when it comes to workers and unions. But it’s kind of hard to ignore bagpipes playing in the capitol’s rotunda to the cheers of hundreds or thousands of protesters.

Imagine a small business owner talking about his or her employees in public in the manner in which the GOP speaks of government workers: “My employees are rude, pushy, demanding, overpaid, and lazy. Some of them are incompetent, but I can’t get rid of them. . . . Say, it’s almost lunchtime. I’ve got a great restaurant here — why don’t you all come by for a meal?”

Yeah, that’ll work. The employees will really respond well to a boss like that, the customers will flock in, and business will go through the roof.

Or, you know, not.

At Daily Kos, Chris Bowers has been on fire.

For those who still trust it, Huffpo has been all over the story.

I recommend this post by Digby:

Joshua Holland at Alternet has compiled all the information necessary for liberals to make the arguments about Wisconsin. (Please click the link for all the background and linkage)

And here are Naomi Klein and Chris Hayes discussing the link between Wisconsin and Klein’s Shock Doctrine:

Even people without high profile blogs are tweeting and facebooking their support. One of my facebook friends found this photo at Hullabaloo.

Egyptian Protester with Support for Wisconsin

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that people in the Middle East are rising up just as the Teabaggers are provoking some resistance in the U.S. Or maybe something big is happening.

Written by slothropia

February 19th, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Egypt: It Can’t Happen Here – Or Could It?

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Last Friday morning I shared the relief, if not the ecstatic joy, that the people of Egypt must have felt when Mubarak’s resignation was suddenly and tersely announced. “At last,” I thought, “Our long international nightmare is over.” Having obsessed over developments in Egypt for two weeks I thought that I could think about something else for awhile – like my 2010 tax return for example.

OTOH while the spotlight has swung away from Egypt’s closeup, the revolution there is far from complete. Heck, I don’t think even Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution™ is quite complete yet.

Egypt has taken a giant step forward but on a very hazardous path. What may facilitate a successful completion of the journey to a democracy is the manner in which the revolution has so far been conducted. The people of Egypt reached a consensus about the kind of change the country needs and then peacefully took to the streets in growing numbers. Mubarak never saw it coming and in the end had no way to resist the demand for change, starting with his resignation.

From here it looks like the people of Egypt are demanding two kinds of distinct but intertwined change. They want procedural and constitutional change, so that everyone has a say in the direction of the nation, but they also want outcomes and conditions to change. They want to be free of arbitrary persecution and prosecution and they want changes in the material conditions under which they live, meaning more employment opportunities and a higher standard of living.

The historic and remarkable element in the Egyptian is the relatively peaceful way in which a nation changed its direction. Contrast with conditions here in the U.S. Bob Herbert says , “We’re in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only.” :

While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.

So what we get in this democracy of ours are astounding and increasingly obscene tax breaks and other windfall benefits for the wealthiest, while the bought-and-paid-for politicians hack away at essential public services and the social safety net, saying we can’t afford them. One state after another is reporting that it cannot pay its bills. Public employees across the country are walking the plank by the tens of thousands. Camden, N.J., a stricken city with a serious crime problem, laid off nearly half of its police force. Medicaid, the program that provides health benefits to the poor, is under savage assault from nearly all quarters.

The newspapers – and cable news and talk radio – continue to go along for the ride. The corporate media continues its transformation into a Pravda for obscenely wealthy capitalists. The
rich own the media and make it serve their needs. As John Cole says:

One thing that even the dim bulbs in the media should understand by now is that there is in fact a class war going on, and it is the rich and powerful who are waging it. Anyone who does anything that empowers the little people or that threatens the wealth and power of the plutocracy must be destroyed. There is a reason for these clowns going after Think Progress and unions, just like there is a reason they are targeting wikileaks and Glenn Greenwald, Planned Parenthood, and Acorn. To a lesser extent the fail parade that was the Daily Caller expose on Journolist was more of the same.

You have to understand the mindset- they are playing for keeps. The vast majority of the wealth isn’t enough. They want it all. Anything that gets in their way must be destroyed. They don’t care if they poison every stream or crack the foundation to your house or if your daughter dies getting a back alley abortion or if every one in your mining town has an inoperable tumor. They just don’t give a shit.

Oh well; Happy Valentine’s Day everybody.

Written by slothropia

February 14th, 2011 at 10:42 am

Egyptian Revolution Update – Updated

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Optimistic signs from Egypt this morning (Central Time). Mubarak is going to speak to the nation sometime this evening, and there is some speculation, perhaps well founded, that he will resign. It looks as thought he military will take over in a care taker capacity while a new constitution is drafted and implemented and until free and fair elections can take place. Of course, this could all be a massive head fake so the protesters in Tahrir Square are going nowhere for now.

It will also be interesting to see how Suleiman fits in to whatever the transition is going to look like, and to see if the military will really relinquish power to an elected civilian government. There are still dangerous waters to navigate for the Egyptian democracy movement.

So all it takes to overthrow a dictatorship is a little patience – and a national consensus and desire for change.

Updated at 7:34 CST – Apparently it was a massive head fake. Military sources had promised the demonstrators that all their demands would be met but then none of them were. Someone with juice should tell Mubarak and the top brass in the Egyptian military that the longer they rty to delay the inevitable the worse it will be for them and the country

Written by slothropia

February 10th, 2011 at 11:44 am

Egyptian Revolution – Reliable Sources

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I am no Middle East expert. I speak and read a little French (which might help in Tunisia and Algeria) but have no Arabic, Pashtun or Farsi whatsoever. All I know is what I see on the tv or read in the papers and inter tubes. Like many others, I have been obsessively following recent events in Cairo and Egypt. Last night, anti Mubarak demonstrators in Tahrir Square took gun fire, apparently from Mubarak supporters. I know this because I am watching and listening to a live video stream from Al Jazeera English, which is probably the best source of news and information about the Egyptian crisis.

If you want detailed analysis, context and perspective, see Juan Cole at Informed Comment.

On Wednesday, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed Noam Chomsky about the implications of the Egyptian uprising for other dictatorships in the Middle East.

As of this moment it looks from as though pro Mubarak thugs have failed in their attempt to drive pro democracy demonstrators from Tirhar Square. Large demos are expected tomorrow after Friday prayers.

Written by slothropia

February 3rd, 2011 at 10:36 am