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Popular Uprisings, From the Middle East to the Midwest : Democracy Now! Reports Feb. 22

02/22/2011 06:09 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"Nobody goes to jail," writes Matt Taibbi in the new issue of Rolling Stone magazine. "This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth."

In an interview with Democracy Now!, Taibbi explains how the American people have been defrauded by Wall Street investors and how the financial crisis is connected to the situations in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio.

In Ohio, tens of thousands flooded the State Capitol of Columbus today for a rally against Senate Bill 5. The measure would require state employees to abandon collective bargaining, pay more toward health insurance premiums, and switch to a so-called "merit-based" pay system. Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich has said public employees who go on strike should lose their jobs.

Ahead of the protest, Democracy Now! interviewed Donald Conley, operations director for Ohio Civil Service Association, the union that represents nearly 35,000 state employees in Ohio.

"So, the real question is, what are they really after? And the only real change--I mean, our people haven't had a raise in five years. We've voluntarily taken pay cuts for the last two years. The only real change they seem to be after, if you read the bill, which is 500 pages long, is that they want to take away collective bargaining rights for public employees," Conley says. "That's a power play. It's an attack on the middle class and basic human rights for people who work for government agencies, whether it's state, county or municipal government entities. There's no two ways about it. What they're saying in the media is not what they're actually going for."

In the heart of the resistance to the anti-labor legislation in Wisconsin, Democracy Now! interviews Peter Rickman, who has been part of the occupation of the State Capitol Building for more than a week to protest the bill.

"People understand that this is a fundamental attack on basic worker rights," says Rickman, an activist in the Teaching Assistants' Association at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "So, people like ... the firefighters, steelworkers and other folks--nurses, home care workers--who are joining us are doing this because this is a struggle for all working folks."

The famed civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson called in to Democracy Now! today as he walked a group of Madison students back to school as they reopen following a week of teacher protests. "It's no longer about workers making economic concessions," Jackson says. "It's about the Governor wanting to deny workers the right to collective bargaining."

Jackson continued, linking the Wisconsin protests to the uprising in Libya. "It's not workers' fault that we have a misadventure into Iraq and Afghanistan for a trillion dollars, or a trillion-dollar tax deal at Christmas time--you cut taxes for the wealthy and cut jobs for workers. Workers should not and must not be the scapegoat for this. Again, the beauty here in Madison is that--unlike places like Libya, they don't have the right to fight the right--in America, we do. Let's decide that right to fight for the right."

For a report from the streets in Libya where people are standing up for their rights to build a democratic nation, Democracy Now! spoke with Libyan-American activist Abdulla Darrat. "It really shows what over the last 40 years, [Libya] has become a country dominated by the megalomania of this one human being, who cares more for his self and his power than he cares for anybody in Libya," Darrat says.

For the complete transcripts of the interviews and for more information, visit Democracy Now! and sign-up for our daily news digest email. Join us on Facebook.

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