POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - Libya Unrest Grows

02/22/2011 06:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Jon Huntsman's new website would be more effective if didn't look like the Internet portal for a W Hotels competitor. Budget hawks and pimps named Hawk found common cause when Harry Reid managed to alienate both parsimonious conservatives and practitioners of the world's oldest profession. And then there was all that civil unrest: While Midwestern activists tried to keep the union strong, Muammar al-Qaddafi tried to keep his people at bay by delivering a speech so incoherent that an entertainment reporter with a really bad migraine would blanch at it. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011:

LIBYA IN CHAOS: QADDAFI REFUSES TO STEP ASIDE - Helicopters and pickup trucks filled with African mercenaries are slaughtering people with machine guns in the streets of Tripoli, where it is the middle of the night now. HuffPost Hill spoke with a man whose dozens of Libyan family members have been updating him roughly every few hours. He said that Muammar Qaddafi has lost almost all of his support but the gangs of hired guns continue to mow down any group that appears to be gathering in size. The Libyan people are poorly armed but are still determined to storm Qaddafi's palace. "The action happens at night. The Libyan people have decided it's time to finish this and they're trying to do it tonight. The only way to end this is to storm the fortress," he said through tears. "The only way they're going to end this is if they commit suicide. The only hope we have right now is if somebody close to him shoots him. They need to kill him now." In a rambling, barely coherent speech, Qaddafi declared that he would not step down under any circumstances. Qaddafi's own interior minister has defected to the opposition and demanded that the government respect their "legitimate demands." Our Libyan source isn't happy that the U.S. is standing on the sidelines. "We have no problem sending 130,000 people to Iraq but we can't spare a few fucking planes? I thought America was better than this. America is just going to let it happen. This is a lunatic with soldiers from Sierra Leone." [HuffPost Liveblog]

Should Qaddafi decide to quit, he can always try his luck on K Street, where his government has conducted a fair amount of business. "The government of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who has been in control after he took over in 1969, hired DC lobby shops Blank Rome, The Livingston Group and White and Case for over two million dollars to lobby on their behalf in 2008 and 2009, Foreign Agent Registrant Act (FARA) records show. In May through July of 2009, the Libyan government's lobbyists contacted Representatives David Scott, D-Ga., Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. and former Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., who were all on the House Foreign Affairs Committee at the time. Lobbyists also directly contacted the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the U.S. Department of State. FARA records show that these meetings were regarding the 'status of U.S. Libyan relations.'" [Sunlight Foundation]

PULLING A WISCONSIN, INDIANA DEMOCRATS FLEE STATE - Someone get the penicillin because there is a nasty case of walkout burning its way through the Midwest! After whirlwind week of passion among liberals in that part of the country, Democrats in the Indiana legislature caught the bug and have fled to Illinois. Their decision stems from a bill in the statehouse aimed at bleeding unions dry by, as The Fort Wayne Journal puts it, "prohibit[ing] employees from being required to pay union dues or representation fees as a condition of employment." Republicans control 60 of the 100 seats in the state's lower chamber but need two-thirds to call a quorum. GOP Governor Mitch Daniels today requested that Republicans in the legislature pull the bill, citing the backlog of legislation that would build up should Democratic lawmakers remain at-large. [HuffPost Liveblog]

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will broadcast a fireside chat tonight to make the case for his anti-collective bargaining bill. The address will be broadcast at 6 pm local time, 7 pm EST. While the FDR-approved "fireside chat" connotes a cozy fireplace in a comfortably adorned living room, the governor might do well to sit/stand beside an oil drum fire so as to acclimate state workers to their new lifestyle should his bill pass. Fingerless gloves and a stovepipe hat with the top flopping about never hurts, either.

Wisconsin's pension fund is among the nation's strongest. From Zach Carter: "Despite GOP hype over super-generous retirement funding for Wisconsin public employees, the state's pension fund is actually among the strongest in the nation. If it had to liquidate today, the pension fund has enough money right now to fund decades worth of pension benefits to every eligible state worker. Nevertheless, Republican Governor Scott Walker is asking public employees to shoulder an enormous portion of the load in reducing the state's $137 million budget deficit. In addition to killing collective bargaining rights over pensions for public employees, Walker wants to raise about $30 million this year by hiking taxes on public employees for their pension fund. There's simply no need. The pension plan's 'funding ratio' is 99.8 percent, meaning the plan's current assets will cover 99.8 percent of all future expenses, without any adjustments. The Government Accountability Office says an 80 percent ratio is considered healthy, while Fitch Ratings targets 70 percent." [HuffPost]

Polls in Chicago close at 8 pm EST. The torrent of jokes about the dead voting and Rahm Emanuel swearing a lot begin at 8:01 pm EST.

We brought you a pretty gloomy look at the lack of progress in Afghanistan last time, because that's what we do. Nathaniel Fick and John Nagl of the Center for a New American Security write in The New York Times that, really, we've turned a corner.

PARANOID SELF-LOATHING GOP LOBBYIST HATES RICH LIBERALS - Our favorite Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist is having some kind of allergic reaction to Democrats' complaints about heartless GOP budget cuts. "It's irritating to listen to rich white liberals complain that the GOP hates women, poor people, children, especially in light of the fact that Obama, who will raise a billion dollars for his reelection, won't give a penny to these worthwhile causes," wrote PSLGOPL, who actually created a fictitious Facebook account to post disparaging comments about himself. "Joe Biden gave less than one percent of his income last year to charity. In short, I hate rich liberals, the only rich liberal I would respect is one that has given away most of their money, so they're no longer rich." Thanks, PSLGOPL! FWIW: President Obama gave $329,100, or 5.9 percent of his income, to 40 different charities in 2009.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Democratic lawmakers have fled the Indiana Statehouse to prevent passage of Republican-backed anti-union legislation, copying a tactic used by Wisconsin state Democrats last week to block similar legislation. In the face of the walkout, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels suggested Republicans drop the bill on Wednesday. They don't wanna. A spokeswoman for Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma told HuffPost simply that Bosma would attempt to reconvene the Statehouse at least twice more Wednesday evening. "He's hoping the Democrats will show up to do the job they're elected to do. We have a total 23 bills that risk being killed." [HuffPost]

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HARRY REID TO INTRODUCE 30-DAY BUDGET WITHOUT CONCESSIONS - The Senate Majority leader announced that the stop-gap budget proposal will be introduced next week. While the bill does contain $41 billion in cuts, those are in line with the budget introduced by President Obama. Mitch McConnell was quick to denounce it: "Washington Democrats can't find a single dime of federal spending to cut, insisting on the status quo, even for a short-term spending bill," he said in a statement. "But keeping bloated spending levels in place and, predictably, proposing even more tax increases, is simply unacceptable." House Speaker John Boehner has said that his conference will oppose any budget proposal, however temporary, that doesn't contain more substantial cuts. [WaPo]

Sam Stein: "For all the dramatic rhetoric, however, the prospects for a short-term agreement aren't entirely remote, according to a Senate Democratic aide. Both sides understand, the aide said, that negotiations surrounding the longer-term funding measure will require more than the next two weeks, and are willing to give themselves more time to talk." [HuffPost]

Meanwhile, Reid is pursuing an anti-jobs agenda...so to speak. After It was reported that Reid's address to the Nevada legislature today would include critical remarks about the effects of legalized prostitution on Nevada's rural communities, advocates for the world's oldest profession showed up to the statehouse to press their case. You can't make this stuff up: "Brothel owner Dennis Hof has arrived at the Nevada Legislature with half a dozen prostitutes in tow to speak to the cameras about Reid's expected condemnation of the industry today. 'Harry Reid will have to pry the cat house keys from my cold dead hands,' he said. [Las Vegas Sun]

@MPOTheHill: Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) escaped harm during the earthquake in New Zealand, where he was visiting http://bit.ly/fC1ZyA

JOHN THUNE WON'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT - In a post on his Facebook page today, the South Dakota Republican told his supporters that he will not seek the presidency in 2012, a decision that 201 of his supporters "liked" when we checked late this afternoon. "There is a battle to be waged over what kind of country we are going to leave our children and grandchildren and that battle is happening now in Washington, not two years from now," his statement read. "So at this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America's future here in the trenches of the United States Senate." Thune's announcement leaves Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul as the only remaining speculative 2012 contenders currently serving in Congress and leaves the Senate completely unrepresented in the field. [HuffPost]

Jon Huntsman's PAC has unveiled its website, giving prognosticators a glimpse at the former Utah governor's electoral strategy. Horizon PAC's site -- a crisp, minimalist thing that could just as easily promote a fusion Thai restaurant as it could a presidential candidate -- features a rotating list of mostly bi-partisan, feelgood messages. "What happened to decency? To reason?," its "About" page reads. "What happened to common goals? To calm? To respect? What happened to actual, lasting solutions to problems?" The tone suggests that Huntsman will try to cast his tenure as President Obama's China ambassador as an indicator of bipartisanship and not a betrayal of his party and the conservative movement. On a completely unrelated note, HuffPost Hill is experiencing a sudden craving for pad see ew. [Real Clear Politics]

POLL: PUBLIC FAVORS COLLECTIVE BARGAINING - According to a USA Today/Gallup poll, a strong majority of Americans support the collective bargaining rights of unions. 61 percent of those queried would oppose a law in their state like that being proposed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. [USA Today]

A survey conducted by the AFL-CIO of Wisconsin voters indicates the state is largely supportive of the demonstrators protesting Gov. Scott Walker's proposed anti-collective bargaining bill. Sixty-two percent of respondents say they either "strongly agree" with or "somewhat agree" with the actions of the demonstrators. Only 43 percent of respondents agree, either "strongly" or "somewhat," with Gov. Walker's behavior. As HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal notes, the results should be taken with some skepticism given the fact that the AFL-CIO has an obvious dog in this fight. [HuffPost]

RICHARD LUGAR GETS PRIMARY CHALLENGER - Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock announced his candidacy for the Senate seat currently held by Lugar, who has held the seat since the late seventies. In an announcement video on his campaign website, Mourdock took aim at the veteran lawmaker, labeling him "Obama's favorite Republican." The video features a series of clips of Obama referencing his work with Lugar, all set to music typically reserved for the part of a Michael Bay movie where it looks like the robots are going to win. [NYT]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Reason # 4323 why renewable energy is good for America: You can attach a camera to a remote-controlled airplane and pilot it through a wind turbine.

A newly-released analysis of the 2010 Census indicates one-in-four U.S. counties is "dying.". That is, the rate of deaths outpaces the rate of births in roughly 25-percent of American municipalities. While this might be good news for aspiring black-and-white photographers who crave nothing more than the sharp contrasts and evocative scenery of abandoned mills, overgrown railroad tracks and unattended community centers, it's bad news for everyone else who has to contend with lower tax revenue and an aging, less nimble population. All in, 760 of the nation's 3,142 counties are witnessing their populations atrophy. The country as a whole grew by 9.7 percent between 2000 and 2010, the slowest decennial rate since the Great Depression. [HuffPost/AP]

@DCist_Updates: Walmart confirms that it won't be selling guns in D.C.: http://bit.ly/eFridf

JEREMY'S WEATHER REPORT -You call this cold? Seriously, it's not that cold. It's been in the high-30s, and though the wind chill has been pretty, well chilling, it's nothing to worry about. Tonight: will dip to low-20s, so it might actually be cold. It's temporary, though, as Tomorrow, we break into the 40s, and sunny skies should brighten everyone's day up. Thanks, JB!

COMFORT FOOD

- Seeing as how hipsters can already play shuffleboard and wear polyester plaid pants and light sensitivity glasses, it makes sense that Hipster bingo exists. [http://etsy.me/gbsjMg]

- Who needs a koozie or the chance to win Super Bowl tickets? An Australian beer company distributes stock in its company to any customer who buys a case of its brew. [http://bit.ly/h1Bppf]

- An Axl Rose impression isn't any easy thing to pull off. God bless you, guy in this video. [http://bit.ly/dKyfc8]

- A gorgeous, mesmerizing and kind of trippy short film on California's redwood forests [http://bit.ly/eKmIV1]

- The two best spoofs of Radiohead's "Lotus Flower" video thus far: http://youtu.be/vnjOUKXqm9Q and http://youtu.be/Nf7RI4Ka_CQ [http://bit.ly/hNRdbm and http://bit.ly/eg9FDL]

- We've concluded that having a playable Angry Birds birthday cake today is like having a playable Pogs birthday cake in 1993. [http://bit.ly/e3QbyC]

- NASA released a magnificent hi-res photo of the Milky Way galaxy over Switzerland. [http://bit.ly/hr1Brg]

- A collection of striking photographs taken by U.S. Army phtogrphers. [http://bit.ly/hH4UHf]

TWITTERAMA

@meredithshiner: Illinois to neighbors: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses... also, your Democrats."

@edhenrycnn: What budget crisis? Pool report notes Air Force One has new leather seats for the press cabin ...

@MattDuss: Then Gaddafi shouted I AM A GOLDEN GOD! and jumped into the pool.

@FakeAPStylebook: "Gaddafi," "Gadafi," "Gadhafi" and other variants are all incorrect. Instead, go with "Gadaf the Beige."

ON TAP

TONIGHT

6:00 pm - 8:00 pm: The Arlington Young Democrats host at networking happy hour. This being Arlington, we're guessing the leading topics of discussion will be Jim Webb's open Senate seat, the race for the governor's mansion and whether to get post-drinks food from Baja Fresh or Ruby Tuesday. [Ireland's Four Courts, 2051 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington].

7:00 pm - 9:00 pm: Washington, D.C., for those of you who don't stray outside of NW or Capitol Hill/Eastern Market, has a lot of issues. "The Other City," a documentary, examines the capital's struggle with the AIDS epidemic [Busboys and Poets, 1025 5th Street NW].

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