ThinkFast: February 22, 2011

Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi continues to face massive pro-democracy protests, as large parts of the country have been taken over by opposition protesters. After Qaddafi responded by using the military against demonstrators, numerous Libyan diplomats have resigned, including the Libyan ambassadors in Tunis and France and the envoy to the United States.

Meanwhile, a key hard-line Shiite leader in Bahrain has called for an end of the country’s ruling monarchy, escalating tensions there. Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh rejected calls for his resignation. And in Egypt, military and civilian leaders took “high-profile” steps yesterday to assure Egyptians that the move to civilian rule would be rapid.

Wisconsin Republicans are pledging to go forward with their agenda in the absence of Senate Democrats, who fled the state last week to stop a vote that would cripple the state’s public employee unions. The legislature can take up any bill that isn’t a fiscal measure, and they will not make any attempt to pass the controversial bill.

As the Indiana legislature debates “right-to-work” legislation that would gut the ability of unions to organize, thousands of “steelworkers, auto workers and others” protested at the state capitol. Some Democratic legislators are now debating doing a Wisconsin-style walkout in order to protect collective bargaining in the state.

Taliban members have said that war weariness and recent defeats are “creating fissures between the Taliban’s top leadership based in Pakistan and midlevel field commanders.” “I have talked to some commanders, and they are reluctant to fight,” said one unnamed Taliban commander, adding, “Definitely there is disagreement between the field commanders and the leaders over their demands to go and fight.”

Under pressure to address racial issues swirling around a potential presidential bid,” Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) finally said he won’t sign a bill to honor a former KKK leader with a state-issued license plate. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee had defended his fellow Republican on the issue this weekend before Barbour backed down.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is standing firm in his opposition to federal funds for high-speed rail in his state, saying that assurances from the government that it won’t cost state taxpayers any money are mere “hypotheticals.” Federal and city officials announced a new effort, however, that will attempt to take over responsibility for the project from the state.

A new tell-all memoir from an embittered former aide to Sarah Palin portrays her as “nearly obsessed with her political adversaries and consumed with every slight, real or perceived” against her in the media. The unpublished manuscript reveals, among other things, that Palin penned letters-to-the-editor in praise of herself, only to be sent under other names.

And finally: While many travelers have been frustrated by the TSA’s security policies, one Alaska state lawmaker took a stand, returning home from Seattle via boat to avoid an airport patdown. “I had the choice to say no, this twisted policy did not have to be the price of flying to Juneau,” explained state Rep. Sharon Cissna.