Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Keith Olbermann: Why is Obama Favoring Wall St. Over the Car Industry

While Wall St. gets bailouts the U.S. industry gets strings attached with the aid they get. CEOs in the financial industry continue to get bonuses and American workers are told their contracts have to be torn up because they make too much money. Read the transcript of Olbermann's questioning of this double standard.

OLBERMANN: With us now, Dan Gross, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.

Much thanks for your time tonight, sir.

DAN GROSS, NEWSWEEK: Good to be here.

OLBERMANN: Obviously, the president did not forcibly take over either G.M. or Chrysler today. But to what extent does he now—in at least the political sense—own both of these car companies?

GROSS: He totally owns them, their short-term fate. And he really owns the workers as well—because what we saw today is a sense that these are going to be either broken up or severely shrunk and they‘re going to be tens—perhaps hundreds of thousands of people who will need to find other things to do. He got at that a little—toward the end of his remarks about what sorts of things the administration would be doing.

But I think we need to hear a lot more details about that.

OLBERMANN: Politico.com reported today that Mr. Obama has what they described as a more jaundiced view of the automakers than Wall Street. Given that G.M.‘s mistake was to keep feeding the American appetite for SUV, Wall Street‘s mistake was to, you know, cripple the entire global economy, how does Wall Street come out more favorably in this comparison in a view from any White House?

GROSS: Well, two reasons. One, you know, the genius of Wall Street was to screw thing up on such a massive, galactic scale that their demise would threaten western civilization as we know it and a lot of eastern civilization. Whereas, the car companies would just take down a lot of kind of blue collar people and dealerships in the Midwest.

The second reason is a kind of cultural fit. You know, there are a lot of people in the Democratic Party and this administration who are tight with people on Wall Street. These are their classmates from college.

When you are running for president you go to the Hamptons, you got to Upper East Side of Manhattan, you go to Martha‘s Vineyard, you rub elbows with these people. This is where you raise money from. It‘s one of the power bases. You are not in Birmingham and Southfield and the suburbs of Detroit. So, there‘s a kind of cultural fit here, too.

OLBERMANN: But—and exactly to that point. The same White House that argued it had to intervene and save the bonuses of AIG executives, because these are contractually obligated bonuses, is now telling middle-class union workers, not just these ones but ones essentially across the nation, they have to make some concessions even though those concessions might violate or render neutral their contracts.

I mean, how does the White House economic team which is—as you suggest—run by Wall Street veterans portray this as anything but, you know, another edition with new membership of the same rich boy‘s club in the same sort of action they‘ve taken for 70 or 150 years?

GROSS: Well, it will take some fancy footwork. But, you know, they might say in their defense that, yes, we are—you know, in AIG‘s case contracts were sacred. We‘re, you know, we are not a nation of laws without them. In this case, we have to look to rip up the union contracts but also the deals that the franchisees have, all the dealers, they have these laws. They want to rip those up as well.

And importantly, they are telling the bondholders, who are other rich people, that they might have to settle for less than they otherwise might expect to receive.

OLBERMANN: So, what next, Dan, for Detroit and for the White House?

GROSS: I think this is the beginning of a process rather than the end. I think you have to divide between Chrysler, which I think they have essentially given up on; and to be fair, Chrysler‘s owners, Cerberus, have probably come close to giving up on. We have Fiat coming in. They‘re going to get a big chunk of ownership for no money down basically. We‘re not sure if they‘re going to get the loans.

And truth be told, they are the fifth biggest automaker. Their departure would not be such a big deal. It‘s GM that we really have to worry about. Just as we have AIG and Citigroup problem, not a banking problem; we have a GM problem, not a car-making problem.

OLBERMANN: Dan Gross of “Newsweek,” author also of “Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation”—thank you, Dan.

GROSS: Thank you.

Taliban Leader Vows To Attack D.C. 'Soon'

Should we take this threat seriously. Remember: the last 2 al Qaeda terror attacks on the U.S. (WTC I and II) occurred early on in the tenure of the new President. And with the preoccupation with the economy maybe the government, and people, have ignored the terror threat as happened last time.

The top Taliban commander in Pakistan promised an assault on Washington "soon" - one he says will "amaze" the world.

"Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world," Baitullah Mehsud told The Associated Press by phone.

Mehsud also claimed responsibility for Monday's attack on a police academy outside the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, saying it was in retaliation for U.S. missile strikes against militants along the Afghan border.

Mehsud and other Pakistani Taliban militants are believed to be based in the country's lawless areas near the border with Afghanistan, where they have stepped up their attacks throughout Pakistan.

One year ago, CBS News security correspondent Bob Orr reported that U.S. intelligence officials were increasingly concerned that Mehsud could eclipse even Osama bin Laden as a threat to America.

The U.S. recently announced a $5 million bounty on Mehsud's head. Asked about it, he told the AP he would be happy to "embrace martyrdom."

Mehsud has made voluminous threats against the West for years, as he rose to his current stature as the head of the Taliban in Pakistan, and he gave no apparent specifics in his threat on the U.S. capital on Tuesday, notes CBS News' Sami Yousafzai in Peshawar.

The attack on the police academy outside Lahore left at least seven police officers and two civilians dead on Monday.

Determining who actually carried out Monday's brazen assault on the police may prove difficult, if not impossible, in a country where numerous militant groups and tribes overlap and cooperate - both in acts of terror and claims of responsibility.

Conflicting Mehsud's claim, Pakistani intelligence officials based in Lahore told CBS News' Farhan Bokhari on Tuesday that Mehsud and the Taliban may not have been directly involved in the siege, based on ongoing interrogations of militants apprehended after the incident.

Security agents have not ruled out the possibility that militants from the banned group Lashkar-e-Taiba may have carried out the attack with some support from Mehsud, but the extent of any such link remains unclear.

A Taliban source told Yousafzai on Monday, meanwhile, that a group of militants called the Fedayeen al-Islam have been trying for some time to stage high-profile hostage takings to demand the release of Taliban and other militants held by the Pakistani government.

And it could be a cyber attack. We are certainly vulnerable to such methods (read about non-Qaeda cyber threats, like Conficker).
The United States often cannot quickly or reliably trace a cyber attack back to its source, even as rival nations and extremists may be looking to wage virtual war, a top official warned Tuesday.

"It often takes weeks and sometimes months of subsequent investigation," said US intelligence director Dennis Blair, "and even at the end of very long investigations you're not quite sure" who carried out the offensive.

China, Russia and other countries already could be potent online foes and terrorists may find it easier in the future to hire hackers to target key systems, Blair told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Terrorists are interested in using cyberweapons, just the way they're interested in using most any weapon they can use against us," notably to target systems critical to the high-tech driven US economy, he said.

"We currently assess that their capability does not match their ambitions in that area, although that's something we have to work on all the time because things become more widespread, terrorists can find hackers to work for them," he said.

The mess in Pakistan is the key to whether al Qaeda/Taliban will succeed against us:
Two high profile guerrilla attacks in Lahore in the space of a month have heightened fears of Islamist militancy engulfing Pakistan, despite U.S. promises of support for the year-old civilian government.

The assault by gunmen on a police academy in Lahore on Monday and another on the Sri Lankan cricket team in the city four weeks earlier brought home the depth of insecurity in Pakistan, while television channels carried the images worldwide.

"The government and the military are facing a crisis of credibility," said Ahmed Rashid, author of "Descent into Chaos", a book chronicling Pakistan's slide into the grip of militant religious extremists.

"There is no strategic plan or vision over how to deal with extremism and terrorism."

Nuclear-armed, and a hiding place for al Qaeda, Pakistan has become a foreign policy nightmare for the United States and other allies in the West.

U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled last Friday results of a strategy review for Pakistan and Afghanistan that made the annihilation of al Qaeda the principle objective.

A centrepiece of Obama's approach to Pakistan was the promise of billions of dollars in aid to help build state institutions, and improve the social and economic welfare to give people faith in President Asif Ali Zardari's civilian government.

The Pakistanis need all the help they can get.

"This incident definitely raises very serious questions about the capacity of our intelligence agencies and security apparatus to deal with these groups," Lahore-based security analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi said after the attack on the police academy.

Monday, March 30, 2009

60 Minutes on the Conficker Worm Threat: Transcript (3-29-09)

How serious a threat is the Conficker Worm. Or just computer hackers in general. Read the 60 Minutes transcript.

The Internet is infected. Malicious computer hackers have been creating more and more weapons that they plant on the Internet. They call their weapons viruses and worms - they're creepy, crawly toxic software that contaminate our computers without our ever knowing it. You can be infected by simply visiting your favorite Web site, or just by leaving your computer on, overnight while you're asleep.

And the problem is growing, exponentially. Last year the number of infections tripled. And an entire industry of computer security professionals is in a race to keep the hackers from their goal, which is usually to steal your money.

One of the most dangerous threats ever, a computer worm known as "Conficker," is spreading through the Internet right now. By some estimates, 10 million computers have been infected worldwide.
CNET Conficker FAQ
At Symantec, the company that makes Norton anti-virus software, engineers have been tracking Conficker since last November as it worms its way across the globe.

"This map is showing a visual representation of where all of the known infections of Conficker are across the world," explained Steve Trilling, a Symantec vice president who says the worm is now living on millions of computers, mainly in corporations.

So far, the bad guys who created it haven't triggered Conficker. It's just sitting out there like a sleeper cell.

"Imagine a network of spies that has infiltrated a country. And every day, all of the spies are calling in for their instructions on what to do next," Trilling explained.

Asked what the worm is being asked to do, Trilling told Stahl, "That's the interesting thing. The only thing the worm is being asked to do is to ask for further instructions."

For several months, Trilling says the worm has just been sitting there, awaiting instructions.

It's that ominous, because once the hackers issue instructions, Conficker could turn menacing in an instant.

With one click, the worm's creator can instruct it to suck sensitive data, like bank passwords and account numbers, out of millions of computers, or launch a massive spam attack to clog up the works.

The newest targets of worms are social networking sites. Trilling demonstrated to Stahl how it might work.

Looking at a real Facebook page, Trilling explained, "We added your friend and colleague Morley Safer, you can see down there on the left."

He says a worm can crack into a Facebook account, like Morley's, and send a message to anyone on his friends list.

It's a message a friend or colleague, like Stahl, would be sure to open since it comes from a trusted friend. Stahl took the bait and clicked on what looked like Morley's video link.

"Something looks a little off," Trilling remarked. "You're already infected."

As Trilling demonstrated on a second screen, the hacker "owned" Stahl's online movements. "From here on out, everything you do, gonna show up on the hacker's machine," he explained.

So when Stahl typed her username and password into a bank Web site, it appeared instantaneously on the hacker’s screen, along with her bank account details.

"Every single keystroke you hit, in fact, if you make a mistake and hit a backspace, that shows up in the window," Trilling explained.

The hacker then followed her around, as she browsed the Internet from CBS News to Amazon.com.

"So, if I buy something, they’re gonna have my credit card," Stahl remarked.

"Everything you type in, your address, your credit card, it’s all gonna show up in that window," Trilling warned.

- Related Link:

Obama Statement on the Auto Industry: Transcript (3-30-09)

Read the full transcript. Excerpt below:

One of the challenges we've confronted from the beginning of this administration is what to do with the state of the struggling auto industry. In recent months, my Auto Task Force has been reviewing requests by General Motors and Chrysler for additional government assistance, as well as plans developed by each of these companies to restructure, to modernize, and to make themselves more competitive. Our evaluation is now complete. But before I lay out what needs to be done going forward, I want to say a few words about where we are and what led us to this point.

It will come as no surprise that some Americans who have suffered most during this recession have been those in the auto industry and those working for companies that support it. Over the past year, our auto industry has shed over 400,000 jobs, not only at plants that produce cars, but at the businesses that produce the parts that go into them and the dealers that sell and repair them. More than one in 10 Michigan residents is out of work -- the most of any state. And towns and cities across the great Midwest have watched unemployment climb higher than it's been in decades.

The pain being felt in places that rely on our auto industry is not the fault of our workers; they labor tirelessly and desperately want to see their companies succeed. It's not the fault of all the families and communities that supported manufacturing plants throughout the generations. Rather, it's a failure of leadership -- from Washington to Detroit -- that led our auto companies to this point.

Year after year, decade after decade, we've seen problems papered over and tough choices kicked down the road, even as foreign competitors outpaced us. Well, we've reached the end of that road. And we, as a nation, cannot afford to shirk responsibility any longer. Now is the time to confront our problems head-on and do what's necessary to solve them.

We cannot, and must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish. This industry is like no other -- it's an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America's success. It's what helped build the middle class and sustained it throughout the 20th century. It's a source of deep pride for the generations of American workers whose hard work and imagination led to some of the finest cars the world has ever known. It's a pillar of our economy that has held up the dreams of millions of our people. And we cannot continue to excuse poor decisions. We cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of taxpayer dollars. These companies -- and this industry -- must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state.

And that's why the federal government provided General Motors and Chrysler with emergency loans to prevent their sudden collapse at the end of last year -- only on the condition that they would develop plans to restructure. In keeping with that agreement, each company has submitted a plan to restructure. But after careful analysis, we've determined that neither goes far enough to warrant the substantial new investments that these companies are requesting.

And so today I'm announcing that my administration will offer GM and Chrysler a limited additional period of time to work with creditors, unions, and other stakeholders to fundamentally restructure in a way that would justify an investment of additional taxpayer dollars. During this period they must produce plans that would give the American people confidence in their long-term prospects for success.

Geithner, McCain on Meet the Press: Transcript (3-29-09)

John McCain refused to get on the Palin bandwagon. Read the transcript. Excerpt below:

MR. GREGORY: All right, we've defined our terms a little bit, now let's talk about the big news this week, your plan to help save the banks. The bank stabilization plan. We've come up with an example here and we'll role-play a little bit, because I think this is the easiest way to explain this. So here's how a transaction would work. Bank USA, we're calling it, has a loan, a toxic asset, and it's valued on their books for $100 million. And it's for sale, right? So there's going to be an auction here and investors like me could come in, and I'm going to come in and I've got--my highest bid is for $70 million, OK? That's the price for the $100 million loan that I'm actually going to pay. Now, here's how the transaction actually works, right? I'm the investor, I put in $5 million. You, the Treasury Department--you're really the taxpayer--put in $5 million, and then the government in the form of the FDIC is going to provide 60 million at very good terms, going to guarantee that loan. So the government's on a hook for a lot of this. That's called leverage, right? How does it work and what's the upside?

SEC'Y GEITHNER: David, let me just step back for one second. Part of what's, what's causing this problem in our financial system is banks made a bunch of bad loans, many of them backed by real estate; residential, commercial real estate. Those loans are now sitting on the books of the financial system and they're taking up room, preventing banks from extending new credit on the scale they need. And we have two choices in this context. We can leave it as it is, hope banks will earn their way out of this process over time, and I am certain that will create the risk of a deeper, longer recession. Again, the classic lesson in financial crises, if governments wait to act, they wait too late and that means more damage to the economy, higher deficit in the future, greater cost to the taxpayer. We're not prepared to take that approach.

Another approach many people advocate is that the government itself come in...


SEC'Y GEITHNER: ...and buy these assets, take on all the risk itself. The government would set a price for the assets and bear all the losses and all the costs in that context. Our judgment is that would be much more expensive for the taxpayer, create much greater risk for the taxpayer, and we're not prepared to take that approach.

MR. GREGORY: And the point in our model, if we can just put that slide up again, where you see investor puts in five million, Treasury puts in five million, the FDIC guarantees it at $60 million in terms of providing the loan. There's upside there. In other words, if the value of that loan goes up, the taxpayer wins, the investor wins.

SEC'Y GEITHNER: Right. The investors are taking risk. Their money is at risk and at stake. They're the ones that set the price for which this transactions will take place. So using their self-interest to get the price better, better than what the government would do in that context.


SEC'Y GEITHNER: We're using their expertise to help manage these assets. And the--and as you said, the taxpayer will share in the upside. This is a relatively conservative structure. It's not very different from when your family buys a house. It's a more conservative structure than a bank typically operates. But the key thing is it allows the government to work with the private investor to help get through this crisis.


SEC'Y GEITHNER: That we don't want the government taking on all the risk and all the losses.


SEC'Y GEITHNER: We need to work with the private sector to help get this, get this recovery going again.

MR. GREGORY: All right, but here's the key point. The investor presumably is on board because, you know, they stand to gain a lot. The government wants to get all of these toxic assets off the banks' balance sheets. It's been estimated between $1.5 and $3 trillion of bad stuff out there. But will the banks participate? And here's my question based on our example. Hundred million dollar loan, but the auction price is $70 million. Well, if you're the bank and you say, "Hey, wait a minute. This is really worth $90 million or $80 million. I'm not going to sell that for $70 million and take that loss on my books." Are you going make them sell?

SEC'Y GEITHNER: Banks already hold reserves against that $100 million. So the gap is not between 100 and 70, for example, it's a narrower gap. Now, banks are going to have an incentive because they want to raise, go raise private capital from the markets. And it's going to be easier for them to do that if they can show their investors a cleaner balance sheet. And that'll help improve the incentive for banks to participate.

MR. GREGORY: But you can't make them sell, can you?

SEC'Y GEITHNER: Well, you can make it compelling and economic for them to sell. And again, if you think about the markets today, if you had to sell your house tomorrow, in a market where no one can get a mortgage, then the price you would get if you sold in that market would be a tiny fraction of its basic value in a more normal. And our markets are not working today. People, in effect, in these securities markets, can't raise financing. And there is a very good case in that context for the government to provide financing on appropriate terms to help provide a market for these assets. And by doing that, we're going to make it more likely that interest rates come down and, and the financial system has the capacity to provide the credit, the oxygen.

[...]MR. GREGORY: Do you think that the banks will need more government money, and would you be willing to support that?

SEN. McCAIN: I would not unless I certainly saw a way that it would not be used the--as the first TARP money was. I think that's the general opinion throughout the Congress on both sides of the aisle. There's got to be more transparency. You didn't ask him, but the secretary of Treasury I understand will not reveal is how much money is left in TARP 1. Don't you think the American people should know that? There--we still don't have the transparency and oversight.

One other thing we need, we do need a select committee in Congress to look at what happened so people can--this train hit them without any knowledge. They still don't know what happened. Why did it happen? So then they would have some more confidence on, in what actions we might take in the future to prevent it from happening again.

MR. GREGORY: And what is your take on the anger, the populist anger in the country? Do you think it's justified, or do you think it's been overblown? Has the president showed leadership in standing up to it?

SEN. McCAIN: I think the president was trying to walk a careful line between reflecting public anger--which is all justified. It's all justified, ranging from the extreme of Madoff to just outright greed and people who knew better. So I think he was trying to walk a fine line between rechanneling and reflecting anger, at the same time not bashing people that are innocent. I think that, that what we need to do here is understand, too, that sometimes Congress overreacts. I share all that anger. My constituents share that anger. It's, it's real, it's palpable and it's justified. But bills of attainder, basically going back and taxing people for what they've already by contract earned or are going to earn, I think is a dangerous course of action as well.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Transcript: Obama On "Face The Nation" (3-29-09)

Read the full transcript. Excerpt below:

Schieffer: This has really now become your war, hasn't it?

President Obama: I think it's America's war. And it's the same war that we initiated after 9/11 as a consequence of those attacks on 3,000 Americans who were just going about their daily round. And the focus over the last seven years I think has been lost.

What we want to do is to refocus attention on al Qaeda. We are going to root out their networks, their bases. We are gonna make sure that they cannot attack U.S. citizens, U.S. soil, U.S. interests, and our allies' interests around the world.

In order for us to do that, we have to ensure that neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan can serve as a safe haven for al Qaeda. And, unfortunately, over the last several years what we've seen is, essentially, al Qaeda moving several miles from Afghanistan to Pakistan but effectively still able to project their violence and, and hateful ideologies out into the world.

[...]Schieffer: Are you giving our commanders now in Afghanistan a green light to go after these people even if they're in what used to be safe havens in Pakistan?

President Obama: Well, I haven't changed my approach. If we have a high-value target within our sights, after consulting with Pakistan, we're going after them. But our main thrust has to be to help Pakistan defeat these extremists.

Now, one of the concerns that we've had building up over the last several years is a notion I think among the average Pakistani that this is somehow America's war and that they are not invested. And that attitude I think has led to a steady creep of extremism in Pakistan that is the greatest threat to the stability of the Pakistan government - and ultimately the greatest threat to the Pakistani people.

What we want do is say to the Pakistani people, you are our friends, you are our allies. We are going to give you the tools to defeat al Qaeda and to root out these safe havens. But we also expect some accountability. And we expect that you understand the severity and the nature of the threat.

In addition, what we want do is to help Pakistan grow its economy, to be able to provide basic services to its people, and that I think will help strengthen those efforts. If the Pakistan government doesn't have credibility, if they are weakened, then it's gonna be much more difficult for them to deal with the extremism within their borders.

Schieffer: But you're talking about going after them. Are you talking about with American boots on the ground -

President Obama: No.

Schieffer: - pursuing these people into these so-called safe havens?

President Obama: No. Our plan does not change the recognition of Pakistan as a sovereign government. We need to work with them and through them to deal with al Qaeda. But we have to hold them much more accountable. And we have to recognize that part of our task in working with Pakistan is not just military. It's also our capacity to build their capacity through civilian interventions, through development, through aid assistance. And that's part of what you're seeing - both in Afghanistan and Pakistan I think is fully resourcing a comprehensive strategy that doesn't just rely on bullets or bombs but also relies on agricultural specialists on doctors, on engineers, to help create an environment in which people recognize that they have much more at stake in partnering with us and the international community than giving into some of these -

Schieffer: Help me out here -

President Obama: - extremist ideologies.

Schieffer: How do you - what if they can't do it? What if they won't do it? I mean, we have reports now about members of Pakistan's intelligence service actually actively helping the Taliban and al Qaeda.

President Obama: Well, some -

Schieffer: What if they don't do it?

President Obama: Some of those reports aren't new. There are a whole host of contingencies that we've gotta deal with. I mean, this is gonna be hard, Bob. I'm under no illusions. If it was easy, it would have already been completed. And so we're gonna have to go with a strategy that is focused, that is narrowly targeted on defeating al Qaeda. We think that if you combine military, civilian, diplomatic, development approaches, if we are doing a much better job of coordinating with our allies, then we can be successful.

But we recognize there are gonna be a lot of hurdles between now and us finally having weakened al Qaeda or destroyed al Qaeda to the point there - it cannot, it doesn't pose a danger to us. And we will continue to monitor and adjust our strategies to make sure that we're not just going down blind alleys.

8-Year-Old Girl Missing in Tracy

Let's hope for the best. But let's find her. I'm sick of hearing these stories. Time to execute child molesters:

Tracy Police Department along with the FBI are conducting a large scale search for an eight year old girl who went missing on Friday afternoon.

Sandra Cantu left a friend's house at Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park but never returned home on Friday. A security camera recorded her image about 4. p.m. according Tracy Police. Authorities and volunteers searched the mobile home park with dogs and by helicopter with no luck. They have also contacted all of Cantu's friends and no one has seen her.

On Saturday, FBI agents checked all vehicles entering and leaving the mobile home park which is less than a half a mile from Highway 580.
Some facts:
Here are some of the realities of child abduction:
  • Most kids who are reported missing have run away or there has been a misunderstanding with their parents about where they were supposed to be.
  • Of the kids and teens who are truly abducted, most are taken by a family member or an acquaintance; 25% of kids are taken by strangers.
  • Almost all kids kidnapped by strangers are taken by men, and about two thirds of stranger abductions involve female children.
  • Most abducted kids are in their teens.
  • Kids are rarely abducted from school grounds.
Strategies for Preventing Abductions

About 2,100 missing-children reports are filed each day. Many cases might be solved more easily if parents can provide a few key pieces of information about their kids, like: height, weight, eye color, and a clear recent photo. And make sure your kids have the safety information that could help prevent an abduction.

These strategies may help:

* Make sure custody documents are in order.
* Have ID-like photos taken of your kids every 6 months and have them fingerprinted. Many local police departments sponsor fingerprinting programs.
* Keep your kids' medical and dental records up to date.
* Make online safety a priority. The Internet is a great tool, but it's also a place for predators to stalk kids. Be aware of your kids' Internet activities and chat room "friends," and remind them never to give out personal information. Avoid posting identifying information or photos of your kids online.
* Set boundaries about the places your kids go. Supervise them in places like malls, movie theaters, parks, public bathrooms, or while fundraising door to door.
* Never leave kids alone in a car or stroller, even for a minute.
* Choose caregivers — babysitters, childcare providers, and nannies — carefully and check their references. If you've arranged for someone to pick up your kids from school or day care, discuss the arrangements beforehand with your kids and with the school or childcare center.
* Avoid dressing your kids in clothing with their names on it — children tend to trust adults who know their names.

Spain to Prosecute Bush Torture Facilitators

If the United States government won't prosecute the criminal Bush gang, then the World will do it. Someday you could see Cheney or George W. before the World Court being tried on war crimes charges.

Two years ago, former Bush Administration Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hurriedly fled France, fearing he would be arrested by French authorities for "ordering and authorizing" the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the U.S. facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In Spain, prosecutors are taking steps toward opening criminal investigations of six Bush-era officials to determine whether they violated international law by authorizing torture at Guantanamo Bay, reports the New York Times. The Spanish prosecutors' case is strong, say NYT's sources—especially since "crusading investigative judge" Baltasar Garzon (famous issuing an outstanding order for the arrest of Chilean tyrant Augusto Pinochet) is on the case. Bushies under review include former Attorney General Alberto Gonzelez, former Justice Dept. lawyer John Yoo, and former under-secretary of defense Douglas Feith. Spain's claim of jurisdiction arises from five Spanish Gitmo prisoners who say they were tortured there.

And no doubt that Cheney was the architect:
[article from 2005] A former top State Department official said Sunday that Vice President Dick Cheney provided the "philosophical guidance" and "flexibility" that led to the torture of detainees in U.S. facilities.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Larry Wilkerson, who served as former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, told CNN that the practice of torture may be continuing in U.S.-run facilities.

"There's no question in my mind that we did. There's no question in my mind that we may be still doing it," Wilkerson said on CNN's "Late Edition."

"There's no question in my mind where the philosophical guidance and the flexibility in order to do so originated -- in the vice president of the United States' office," he said. "His implementer in this case was [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Department."

At another point in the interview, Wilkerson said "the vice president had to cover this in order for it to happen and in order for Secretary Rumsfeld to feel as though he had freedom of action."

And does anybody doubt the testimony of the Red Cross:
The International Committee of the Red Cross concluded in a secret report that the Bush administration's treatment of al-Qaeda captives "constituted torture," a finding that strongly implied that CIA interrogation methods violated international law, according to newly published excerpts from the long-concealed 2007 document.

The report, an account alleging physical and psychological brutality inside CIA "black site" prisons, also states that some U.S. practices amounted to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." Such maltreatment of detainees is expressly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

The findings were based on an investigation by ICRC officials, who were granted exclusive access to the CIA's "high-value" detainees after they were transferred in 2006 to the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The 14 detainees, who had been kept in isolation in CIA prisons overseas, gave remarkably uniform accounts of abuse that included beatings, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and, in some cases, waterboarding, or simulating drowning.

At least five copies of the report were shared with the CIA and top White House officials in 2007 but barred from public release by ICRC guidelines intended to preserve the humanitarian group's strict policy of neutrality in conflicts. A copy of the report was obtained by Mark Danner, a journalism professor and author who published extensive excerpts in the April 9 edition of the New York Review of Books, released yesterday. He did not say how he obtained the report.

NorCal Plant Pulls Spices In Salmonella Scare

We still need to worry about our food supply. Although this President is a major departure from his amoral predecessor:

California public health officials are warning people not to eat a dozen spices packaged at a Union City plant under the Lian How brand name.

A salmonella outbreak that has sickened 33 people in California and nine people in three other states caused the Union International Food Company to voluntarily recall of its pepper, paprika, curry, onion powder and other products.

The state health department said Saturday that most of the people who got sick appeared to have been exposed to salmonella white eating at Asian restaurants that used the company's white and black peppers.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Exclusive Report: The GOP is the Party of Big Government

Despite all the propaganda about the Republicans being the party of small government. Government has actually grown under Republican Presidents:

  • Federal government expenditures, as a percentage of the economy (source) were the highest of any President since WWII during the Reagan/Bush I administrations (22.2%). During that same period the budget deficit grew to an average -4.1% of GDP. It had only been -2.4% under Jimmy Carter. We went from near budget surpluses (-.8) under Clinton to massive budget deficits under George W. Bush (-2.1).
  • Under Bill Clinton expenditures were only slightly higher than under George W. Bush (19.9 to 19.6). This is still higher than under the Kennedy/Johnson administrations (18.9).
  • How is this being paid for (or not being paid for)? Not with corporate taxes. Corporate taxes as percent of total Federal expenditures are lower today (source) than there were under every President since the Great Depression. It began with the Reagan administration when it was 9%. Corporate taxes went up under Clinton (11%). Before it went back down again under W. Bush (9.5%)
Bottom line: Republicans might be the party of big business but they are certainly not the party of less government. They prefer to borrow and spend as opposed to Democrats that seem to tax and spend. Either solution is no solution.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Britain Complicit in Bush-Cheney Torture Conspiracy

It makes sense. Bush-Cheney could not have pulled off their rendition campaigns without the complicity of foreign governments in Europe. It is an international scandal.

The attorney general is to be asked to investigate two more cases of alleged MI5 complicity in torture of men detained in Pakistan. Lawyers representing Rangzieb Ahmed and Salahuddin Amin are to ask Lady Scotland to consider possible criminal wrongdoing.

The move comes after Scotland called in the Metropolitan police to investigate allegations that MI5 colluded in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, who was held for almost seven years in Pakistan, Morocco, Afghanistan, and finally Guantánamo.

There are also reports that MI5 and MI6 have admitted there are other cases in which their officers raised concerns about the possible torture of detainees in US custody in Afghanistan during the conflict that followed the 9/11 attacks.

Citing "security sources", today's Daily Telegraph reports that "senior officials in both MI5 and MI6 have reviewed their files and fear that 15 similar cases could also lead to police investigations".

However, lawyers for British citizens held in Pakistan and Egypt, and allegedly tortured, say the official policy, known to have been devised to allow UK intelligence officers to interrogate detainees shortly after 9/11, was later employed to facilitate the torture of people held during British-led counter-terrorism operations.

President Obama Internet Townhall Transcript: 3-26-09

Read the full transcript. Excerpt below:

DR. BERNSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. President. Our first question comes from Boston, Massachusetts, on the topic of education: "The Founding Fathers believe that there is no difference between a free society and an educated society. Our educational system, however, is woefully inadequate. How do you plan to restore education as a right and core cultural value in America?"

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's a great question, and -- let me see if this mic works so that I'm not stuck at this podium. I'm here only because of the education I received. I wasn't born into wealth, I wasn't born into fame, but I had parents who cared about education and grandparents who cared about education, and I was lucky enough, through scholarships and sacrifice on the part of my family, to get the best education that America has to offer.

Too many of our children aren't getting that kind of education. It's not because their parents don't believe in the value of education; it's not because these young people are less talented. It's because of two reasons: One, in many cases, our schools are under-resourced. There aren't enough teachers; the teachers aren't getting enough of the training they need for the classroom; there's a shortage of supplies. Some of the schools that I visited during the course of traveling around the country just shock the conscience. There are schools that I've seen that were built in the 1850s that are still being used but haven't been upgraded the way they need to.

Now, there's a second problem, though, and it's one that money alone cannot solve, and that is that we have a school system that was designed for the agricultural era -- there's a reason why we've got three months off during the summer. That's supposed to be when everybody is working on -- out on the farm and bringing in harvest. And it's not just the amount of time our kids are spending, it's how our classrooms are designed, how curriculums are structured, how things like teacher promotion and training happen.

So a lot of times in Washington we get an argument about money versus reform. And the key thing to understand about our education system is we need more resources and we need reform. If we just put more money into a system that's designed for the 19th century and we're in the 21st, we're not going to get the educational outcomes we need. On the other hand, if we talk a lot about reform but we're not willing to put more resources in, that's not going to work.

So let me give you just a couple examples of what we need to do. Early childhood education we know works. Let's invest in that. That's what my budget calls for -- substantial investment; every dollar we invest in early childhood education, we get potentially $10 back in improved reading scores, reduced dropout rates, reduced delinquency rates and so forth.

Number two, let's focus on the most important ingredient in the school, and that's the teacher. Let's pay our teachers more money. Let's give them more support. Let's give them more training. Let's make sure that schools of education that are training our teachers are up to date with the best methods to teach our kids. And let's work with teachers so that we are providing them measures of whether they're effective or not, and let's hold them accountable for being effective.

Now that doesn't mean just a single high-stakes standardized test. It also means that we're working with teachers to determine, what's the best way to discipline -- maintain discipline in a classroom? What's the best way to get kids excited about science? Giving them the time and the resources to improve, but also having high standards of expectation in terms of their performance.

If we do early childhood education, if we focus on teacher training, if we invest in math and science education, which is vital -- and we're falling behind other countries on that front -- then I actually feel pretty confident that we can out-compete any country in the world. But it's going to take more money and it's going to take more reform and it's going to take, by the way, openness to innovation on things like charter schools or performance pay. There are a whole range of things that may work, in some cases may not work, but we've got to try some new things because right now too many of our kids are stuck, and we can't afford to lose them.

DR. BERNSTEIN: The next question is on homeownership, from Heather from Ohio: "President Obama, what benefits from the stimulus plan are there to those of us who are paying our mortgages but living paycheck to paycheck?"

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I mentioned this in the opening remarks. This is something that I really want everybody to understand. Our housing plan -- and we're devoting $50 billion to it -- has a number of different components. One component is setting up a mechanism where people who just can't afford their mortgage right now are able to renegotiate with banks, and the banks lower their interest, and the homeowner assures that they're going to make a commitment to pay a certain amount every month, and the government helps to step in to bridge the gap. But the point is, it's going to be cheaper, not only for that family but also potentially for the entire community, if they stay in their home.

And so that's -- that part of the housing plan is targeted for folks who are really in distress. They're getting close to the point where they might be losing their home.

But there are a whole bunch of folks out there who are not about to walk away from their home, but are getting killed right now because their home values have dropped drastically; they're still making payments, but they're in trouble. And for that huge set of responsible homeowners out there, I want people to understand what we've done is created mechanisms in the credit markets that have lowered mortgage rates down to historic levels, and what we've done is we've opened it up so that FHA loans that used to be only for people with a certain mortgage level, that we are using FHA and other mechanisms to open up refinancings to a whole bunch of homeowners who previously weren't qualified.

So now what you've got is a situation where 40 percent of the people sitting here, 40 percent of the people who are participating in this virtual town hall, could potentially refinance their mortgage. And they've got to take advantage of that. We are providing additional support from the government in order to facilitate those refinancings. We're starting to see refinancings go up significantly.

So you have the potential to cut your monthly payments, but you've got to take advantage of it. And if you need more information, you can go on our web site, whitehouse.gov, or you can contact your local bank and find out whether you qualify to participate in this refinancing.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

U.S., Mexico to Intensify Fight Against Violent Drug Gangs

Nothing will work unless the supply of guns going into Mexico from the U.S. and the supply of drugs coming into the U.S. are reduced dramatically. Hillary is right. It is the U.S. craving of drugs that fuels the cartels.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that Mexico and the United States had agreed to develop a "checklist" of tasks for both sides to intensify the fight against Mexican drug gangs engaged in a bloody turf war.

Speaking near the end of a two-day visit, Clinton said the list would include timelines committing the United States to speed up delivery of drug-fighting aid and getting Mexico to move faster on reforming its judicial and law enforcement institutions.

[...]More than 7,000 people have been killed since January 2008 in attacks by traffickers on their competitors and security forces.

Clinton called on Mexicans to support their government's fight against the gangs and urged students to use the Internet to send tips on illegal activity to authorities.

Geithner, Bernanke Congressional Testimony: Transcript (3-24-09)

The Treasury Secretary Geithner, and Fed Chairman, Bernanke, were grilled during Congressional testimony Tuesday. Also includes comments by CNN pundits and reporters. Read the transcript. Excerpt below:

GEITHNER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

As we've seen with AIG, the stress at large complex financial institutions can pose risks as dangerous as those that led the United States to establish a full framework of tools for dealing with banks.

We need to extend those protections and authorities to cover the risks posed by our more diverse and complicated financial system today. And we are proposing legislation the provide those tools and look forward to working with this committee and the Congress to pass such legislation as quickly as possible.

The proposed resolution authority would allow the government to provide financial assistance to make loans to an institution, to purchase its obligations or assets, to assume or guarantee its liabilities, and purchase an equity interest.

U.S. government as conservator or receiver would have additional powers to sell or transfer the assets or liabilities of the institution in question, to renegotiate or repudiate the institution's contracts, and prevent certain financial contracts with the institution from being terminated on account of conservatorship or receivership.

This proposed legislation would fill a significant void in the current financial services regulatory restructure in respect to these large complex institutions, and implementation would be modeled on the resolution authority that the FDIC has under current law with respect to banks.

This is an extraordinary time for our country, and your government has been forced to take extraordinary measures. We will do what is necessary to stabilize our financial system and, with the help of the Congress, develop the tools we need to make our economy more resistant -- more resilient and our financial system more stable and more just.

We need to work together to create an environment where it's safe to save and invest and where all Americans can trust the rules governing their financial decisions.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

FRANK: Mr. Bernanke?


Chairman Frank, Ranking Member Bachus and other members of the committee, I appreciate having this opportunity to discuss the Federal Reserve's involvement with AIG.

In my testimony, I will describe why supporting AIG was a difficult but necessary step to protect our economy and stabilize our financial system. I will also discuss issues related to compensation. I know of two matters raised by this experience that merit congressional attention.

We at the Federal Reserve, working closely with the Treasury, made our decision to lend to AIG on September 16th of last year. It was an extraordinary time. Global financial markets were experiencing unprecedented strains and a worldwide loss of confidence.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had been placed into conservatorship only two weeks earlier, and Lehman Brothers had filed for bankruptcy the day before. We were very concerned about a number of other major firms that were under intense stress.

AIG's financial condition had been deteriorating for some time, caused by actual and expected losses on subprime mortgage-backed securities and on credit default swaps that AIG's financial products unit, AIG-FP had written on mortgage-related securities.

As confidence in the firm declined and with efforts to find a private sector solution unsuccessful, AIG faced severe liquidity pressures that threatened to force it imminently into bankruptcy. The Federal Reserve and the Treasury agreed that AIG's failure under the conditions set for failing...

FRANK: Please, with all -- no, you understood. You had the sign up. The next one that holds a sign -- it is distracting to people. I understand that there are some people for whom rational discussion is not an appropriate means of expressing themselves.

You are entitled to do that in general, but not in a way that interrupts those of us who are trying to have rational discussions. So the next one that holds a sign will be ejected.

I do not know how you think you advance any cause to which you might be attached by this kind of silliness.

Mr. Bernanke, please proceed.

BERNANKE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Federal Reserve and the Treasury agreed that AIG's failure under the conditions then prevailing would have posed unacceptable risks for the global financial system and for our economy.

Some of AIG's insurance subsidiaries, which are among the largest in the United States and in the world, would have likely been put rehabilitation by their regulators, leaving policy holders facing considerable uncertainty about the status of their claims.

State and local government entities that had lent more than $10 billion to AIG would have suffered losses. Workers whose 401(k) plans had been purchased -- had purchased $40 billion of insurance from AIG against the risk that their stable value funds would decline in value would have seen that insurance disappear.

Global banks and investment banks would have suffered losses on loans and lines of credit to AIG and on derivatives with AIG-FP The banks' combined exposure exceeded $50 billion. Money market mutual funds and others that held AIG's roughly $20 billion of commercial paper would also have taken losses.

In addition, AIG's insurance subsidiaries had substantial derivatives exposure to AIG-FP that could have weakened them in the event of the parent company's failure.

Moreover, as the Lehman case clearly demonstrates, focusing on the direct effects of a default on AIG's counterparties understates the risk to the financial system as a whole. Once begun, a financial crisis can spread unpredictably.

For example, Lehman's default on its commercial paper caused a prominent money market mutual fund to break the buck and suspend withdrawals, which in turn ignited a general run on prime money market mutual funds with resulting severe stresses in the commercial paper market.

As I mentioned, AIG had about $20 billion in commercial paper outstanding, so its failure would have exacerbated the problems of the money market mutual funds.

Another worrisome possibility was that uncertainties about the safety of insurance products could have led to a run on the broader insurance industry by policy holders and creditors.

Moreover, it was well known in the market that many major financial institutions had large exposures to AIG. Its failure would likely have led financial market participants to pull back even more from commercial and investment banks and those institutions perceived as weaker would have faced escalating pressure.

Recall that these events took place before the passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act which provided the funds that the Treasury used to help stem a global banking panic in October.

Consequently, it is unlikely that the failure of additional major firms could have been prevented in the wake of a failure of AIG. At best, the consequences of AIG's failure would have been a significant intensification of an already severe financial crisis and a further worsening of global economic conditions.

Conceivably, its failure could have resulted in a 1930-style global financial and economic meltdown with catastrophic implications for production, income and jobs.

The decision by the Federal Reserve on September 16th, 2008 with the full support of the Treasury to lend up to $85 billion to AIG should be viewed with this background in mind.

At that time, no federal entity could provide capital to stabilize AIG and no federal or state entity outside of a bankruptcy court could wind down AIG.

Unfortunately, federal bankruptcy laws do not sufficiently protect the public's strong interest in ensuring the orderly resolution of non-depository financial institutions when a failure could pose substantial systemic risks, which is why I have called on the Congress to develop new emergency resolution procedures.

However, the Federal Reserve did have the authority to lend on a fully secured basis, consistent with our emergency lending authority provided by the Congress and our responsibility as the central bank to maintain financial stability.

We took as collateral for our loan AIG's pledge of a substantial portion of its assets, including its ownership in its domestic and foreign insurance subsidiaries.

This decision bought time for subsequent actions by the Congress, the Treasury, the FDIC and the Federal Reserve that have avoided further failures of systemically important institutions and have supported improvements in key credit markets.

Having lent AIG money to avert the risk of a global financial meltdown, we found ourselves in the uncomfortable situation of overseeing both the preservation of its value and its dismantling, a role quite different from our usual activities.

We have devoted considerable resources to this effort and have engaged outside advisers.

Using our rights as creditor, we have worked with AIG's new management team to begin the difficult process of winding down AIG-FP and to oversee the company's restructuring and divestiture strategy.

Progress is being made on both fronts. However, financial turmoil and a worsening economy since September have contributed to large losses at the company, and the Federal Reserve has found it necessary to restructure and extend our support. In addition, under its troubled asset relief program, the Treasury injected capital into AIG in both November and March. Throughout this difficult period, our goals have remained unchanged -- to protect our economy and preserve financial stability and to position AIG to repay the Federal Reserve and return the Treasury's investment as quickly as possible.

In our role as creditor, we have made clear to AIG's management, beginning last fall, our deep concern surrounding compensation issues at AIG. We believe it is in the taxpayers' interest for AIG to retain qualified staff, to maintain the value of the businesses that must be sold to repay the government's assistance.

Root Cause of Financial Collapse: Maddow Transcript

The Maddow show for 3-25 describes what could be the root cause of the current financial crisis:

MADDOW: For a country pretty much unanimously focused on a single subject, it`s amazing that stuff we are forgetting, they were just not factoring into the equation about why we ended up with this chicken fried, petrified, run-and-hide economy. Apparently, we are supposed to think that nobody could have seen this coming.


RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I think some of the best financial minds in the country didn`t see it coming.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: No, we didn`t see it coming.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: But I don`t really know of hardly anybody who exceptionally had said, "Wait a minute, this thing is getting completely out of hand."


MADDOW: Who could have possibly seen this coming? Nobody could have seen it. It was totally unforeseeable force majeure.


Join me now on a trip through the time machine, (INAUDIBLE), going back to 1999. All right, 10 years ago. The year the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was born. This bill was introduced by three Republicans: Gramm, Leach, Bliley, duh. And it removed a Great Depression era regulation that had said that banks, and investments banks and insurance companies all had to be separate.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley cleared the way for big financial companies to be all of those things wrapped into one. Big companies with huge internal incentives to take risks, companies that were so complicated they couldn`t really be regulated, and companies that were so big that the government felt that they could not be allowed to fail.

At the time, in 1999, when this was being debated, Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan from North Dakota saw it coming, like he should have a psychic show in Vegas-level saw it coming. On May 6th, 1999, on the Senate floor, Mr. Dorgan said, quote, "This bill will, in my judgment, raise the likelihood of future massive taxpayer bailouts." $1 trillion is massive, right?

Well, to the "New York Times" on November 5th, 1999, Senator Dorgan said, quote "I think we will look back in 10 years` time and say, we should not have done this, but we did because we forgot the lesson of the past, and that which is true in the 1930s is also true in 2010."

So here it is 2009, and I`m thinking -- dude, at the time we worried about Y2K.

Joining us now Cassandra, I mean, Democratic senator from North Dakota, Byron Dorgan.

Senator Dorgan, thank you so much for joining us.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN, (D) NORTH DAKOTA: Hi, Rachel. How are you?

MADDOW: Great. Thank you.

You`ve been getting accolades in the blog world and now on this show, for having been right in 1999 when you rang alarm bells over the deregulation. At that time, when you were saying, we are going to look back at this in 10 years and say this was a big mess, did you really foresee there would be a crisis this big?

DORGAN: Well, I`m not -- I`m not necessarily sure I saw this big a crisis. But I said at the time, the banks -- I said, if you want to gamble go to Las Vegas. I mean, this was not about a crystal ball. It was just common sense at that time.

You know, in the 1930s, we saw banks merge with, you know, real estate and security risks and the whole thing collapsed, `20s and `30s, and -- so, we put in place, I wasn`t here, but they put in place laws like Glass- Steagall to prevent all of that. And then, 1999, we were told, that`s so old fashioned. Let`s strip that away and allow big financial holding companies, one stop financial shopping.

And I thought it was nuts. I mean, how on earth could we forget the lessons that were so important that we learned so well and with such pain about seven decades prior?

MADDOW: Ten years ago, when Gramm-Leach-Bliley passed and gutted that important -- that essentially gutted Glass-Steagall, an important law that just described, Lawrence Summers was treasury secretary at the time. And he said when that deregulation bill passed, that it was historic legislation that would enable American companies to compete in the new economy.

DORGAN: Yes, well .

MADDOW: I have to ask you, if it sort of freaks you out that he`s now one of the main guys trying to get us of out of the mess that this deregulation caused?

DORGAN: Well, I sat across the table from him at the White House two days ago. You know, there is a culture. And the culture is that Wall Street knows best. You know, there were only eight of us in the United States Senate that voted no. This was a huge deal to repeal the protections that were put in place after the Great Depression, a huge deal. Eight of us voted no.

This allowed these huge financial holding companies, allowed to bring significant risk into the banks, and, you know, they just ran hog wild. And now, we`re in a situation in 2009 where we`ve seen this financial crisis and collapse, massive taxpayer bailouts. You know, now, the question is: How do we put this back together and get out of this deep hole?

MADDOW: That`s exactly right. And what`s coming next is the discussion of not just how to rescue us but how to put the financial system back together in a way that it doesn`t happen again and that these lessons are learned.

I was struck in looking at the "New York Times" coverage of Gramm- Leach-Bliley passing in 1999, Phil Gramm of Texas who wrote that bill said, "We have a new century coming, we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century. Glass-Steagall came at a time when the thinking was that government was the answer. In this era of economic prosperity, we have decided that freedom is the answer."

That was what he said in 1999 when this passed. We know what the disastrous results of that were. Who is going to lead the cause, I think, of convincing the American people and really convincing Congress that we sort of need to believe sometimes that government is the answer? There is a philosophical status of this legislation .


MADDOW: . as well as just a strategic one.

DORGAN: Well, and the other thing, immediately after this legislation passed, it stripped away all those protections and allowed all the big banks to marry up and decide that they loved each other and want to get together and merge, immediately after that, George W. Bush came to town as a new president and he hired regulators who were willing to boast about being willfully blind. They didn`t want to regulate. They said, you know what, it`s a new day. There`s a new sheriff in town, the sheriff is not interested in watching what you do.

And the result is, we saw, you know, all of these credit default swaps and CDOs, all these exotic financial instruments, these derivatives -- you know, in 1996, I wrote the cover story for "Washington Monthly" magazine on the subject of derivatives and pointed out there were tens of trillions of dollars of derivatives out there. The title of my cover story for the "Washington Monthly" magazine was, "Very Risky Business."

And I had four different bills to try to regulate derivatives and hedge funds. I hope now, perhaps most people will understand in the Congress and, I think, the American people understand, we need regulation. It`s not a four-letter word. We need effective regulation.

MADDOW: I have this kooky idea that people who were right when everybody else was wrong and we did the wrong thing -- I have this kooky idea that the people who are right are the ones who should be allowed to decide what happens next time. So, could you like sort of being in charge of figuring out what regulations we need the next time around just when this comes up in the Senate a couple of times ?

DORGAN: I`d be happy to.

MADDOW: All right.

DORGAN: I`d be happy to. But let me tell you what else we need, we need a select committee in the United States Senate with subpoena power that gives us the narrative of what happens so that everybody understands what happened. We need a financial crimes prosecution task force down at the Justice Department right now, working on these issues, and we need to restore a portion of the Glass-Steagall Act to say to banks: You`re over here and the riskier things are over here and we are not going to bring you together again -- never again.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obama News Conference Transcript (3-24-09)

Read the complete transcript. Excerpt below:

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Your Treasury secretary and the Fed chair have been -- were on Capitol Hill today, asking for this new authority that you want to regulate big, complex financial institutions. But given the problems that the financial bailout program has had so far -- banks not wanting to talk about how they’re spending the money, the AIG bonuses that you mentioned -- why do you think the public should sign on for another new, sweeping authority for the government to take over companies, essentially?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind that it is precisely because of the lack of this authority that the AIG situation has gotten worse. Now, understand that AIG’s not a bank, it’s an insurance company. If it were a bank and it had effectively collapsed, then the FDIC could step in, as it does with a whole host of banks -- as it did with IndyMac -- and in a structured way renegotiate contracts, get rid of bad assets, strengthen capital requirements, resell it on the private marketplace.

So we’ve got a regular mechanism whereby we deal with FDIC-insured banks. We don’t have that same capacity with an institution like AIG, and that’s part of the reason why it has proved so problematic. I think a lot of people understandably say: Well, if we’re putting all this money in there, and if it’s such a big systemic risk to allow AIG to liquidate, why is it that we can’t restructure some of these contracts? Why can’t we do some of the things that need to be done in a more orderly way? And the reason is -- is because we have not obtained this authority.

We should have obtained it much earlier, so that any institution that poses a systemic risk that could bring down the financial system we can handle, and we can do it in an orderly fashion that quarantines it from other institutions. We don’t have that power right now. That’s what Secretary Geithner was talking about.

And I think that there’s going to be strong support from the American people and from Congress to provide that authority so that we don’t find ourselves in a situation where we’ve got to choose between either allowing an enormous institution like AIG, which is not just insuring other banks but is also insuring pension funds and potentially putting people’s 401(k)s at risk if it goes under -- that’s one choice -- and then the other choice is just to allow them to take taxpayer money without the kind of conditions that we’d like to see on it. So that’s why I think the authority’s so important. QUESTION: But why should the public trust the government to handle that authority well?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, as I said before, if you look at how the FDIC has handled a situation like IndyBank, for example, it actually does these kinds of resolutions effectively when it’s got the tools to do it.

We don’t have the tools right now.

[...]QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Some have compared this financial crisis to a war, and in times of war, past presidents have called for some form of sacrifice. Some of your programs, whether for Main Street or Wall Street, have actually cushioned the blow for those that were irresponsible during this -- during this economic period of prosperity or supposed prosperity that you were talking about.

Why, given this new era of responsibility that you’re asking for, why haven’t you asked for something specific that the public should be sacrificing to participate in this economic recovery?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me -- let me take that question in a couple -- couple of phases. First of all, it’s not true that we have not asked sacrifice from people who are getting taxpayer money. We have imposed some very stiff conditions. The only problem that we’ve had so far are contracts that were put in place before we took over.

But moving forward, anybody -- any bank, for example, that is receiving capital from the taxpayers is going to have to have some very strict conditions in terms of how it pays out its executives, how it pays out dividend, how it’s reporting its lending practices. So we want to make sure that there’s some stiff conditions in place.

With respect to the American people, I think folks are sacrificing left and right. They -- you’ve got a lot of parents who are cutting back on everything to make sure that their kids can still go to college. You’ve got workers who are deciding to cut an entire day and entire day’s worth of pay so that their fellow co-workers aren’t laid off. I think that across the board people are making adjustments, large and small, to accommodate the fact that we’re in very difficult times right now.

What I’ve said here in Washington is that we’ve got to make some tough choices. We got to make some tough budgetary choices. What we can’t do, though, is sacrifice long-term growth investments that are critical to the future. And that’s why my budget focuses on health care, energy, education -- the kinds of things that can build a foundation for long-term economic growth as opposed to the fleeting prosperity that we’ve seen over the last several years. I mean, when you have an economy in which the majority of growth is coming from the financial sector -- when AIG selling a derivative is counted as an increase in the gross domestic -- domestic product, then that’s not a model for sustainable economic growth.

And what we have to do is invest in those things that will allow the American people’s capacity for ingenuity and innovation, their ability to take risks but make sure that those risks are grounded in good products and good services that they believe they can market to the rest of the country, that those models of economic growth are what we’re promoting, and that’s what I think our budget does.

Poll: 61% Approve of President Obama's Handling of the Economy

The Republicans must be in a panic. The economy is not tanking and the public still supports the President.

For the first time since he became president, a significant number of Americans are expressing disapproval of Barack Obama’s actions in a specific area: His handling of the AIG bonus situation.

Despite the middling reviews for his handling of the bonuses, however, the president continues to get high marks overall for his job performance and his handling of the economy.

Forty-two percent of those surveyed disapprove of the president’s handling of the AIG bonuses, while roughly the same percentage - 41 percent - approve. Another 17 percent don’t know or aren’t sure.

Yet President Obama’s overall job performance rating appears unaffected by the AIG fallout. Sixty-four percent approve of the president’s performance, roughly the same as last week.

And ratings for the president’s handling of the overall economy are actually up slightly: Sixty-one percent now approve, up from 56 percent last week.

The poll numbers can be explained in part by the fact that most Americans do not think there was much the Obama administration could have done about the bonuses. Only 12 percent think the administration had a lot of control over the payouts, while more than half say the administration had little or no control.
The public is right. President Obama could have done a better job dealing with the AIG mess:
Even so, 56 percent of Americans say the administration ought to have found some way to stop the bonuses from being paid out. Thirty-four percent said it should not have.

And we don't think that Geithner is the problem:
While Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has been much-criticized in Washington for his handling of the bonus situation, that criticism is not shared by most Americans. About half express confidence in Geithner’s overall ability to deal with the nation’s economic crisis, though only 13 percent have a lot of confidence in him right now.

The President not spending enough time on the economy? It is the Congress that needs to spend more time on the crisis. And the media should stop hyping the AIG mess:
Nearly half of Americans say President Obama is spending the right amount of time dealing with the bonuses, and the rest are split on whether he is paying too much attention (24 percent) or too little attention (21 percent) to the issue.

Meanwhile, a majority of Americans - 53 percent - think Congress is spending too little time trying to solve the nation’s broader economic problems. And 40 percent believe the media is too focused on AIG and that they should be spending more time focused on other issues.

More bad news for the Republicans:
U.S. home prices rose 1.7% in January compared with December, the Federal Housing Finance Agency reported Tuesday. It was the first monthly increase in a year.

Home prices are down 6.3% in the past year and are down 9.6% from the peak in April 2006, the agency said. In December, the year-over-year decline was 8.8%.

Falling home values have helped to plunge the global financial system into chaos because of mortgage-backed securities. Homeowners have lost trillions of dollars of wealth.
The "unexpected rise" in January was partially due to stronger sales in some markets, FHFA said. The FHFA index attempts to control for such changes in sales patterns, but the adjustment is not perfect, the agency said. The agency warned that its estimate was uncertain and subject to large revisions.
December's index, originally reported as a 0.1% increase, was revised down to a 0.2% decline.
"While this is certainly good news, in our view it is too soon to call a turnaround in the cycle," wrote Charmaine Buskas, a senior economist for TD Securities. "We will have to see several consecutive months of improved prices before a true turnaround can be called, and a significant inventory overhang remains."
Prices rose or were flat in eight of nine regions in January; only the Pacific states registered a decline, down 0.9%. Prices rose 3.9% in the East North Central region, which includes most of the Great Lakes states. Prices rose 3.6% in the South Atlantic region (from Delaware to Florida).

In the past year, prices are down in all nine regions, led by the Pacific with a 21.1% decline. The smallest price decline has been the 0.4% drop in the West South Central (which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana).

Rush must be dejected:
Sales of existing homes jumped 15.6 percent in the Northeast last month, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors.

On a national level, existing home sales were up 5.1 percent in February, the report found.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Neocon Bill Kristol Calls Obama an "Embarassment"

Kristol is one of the architects of the invasion of Iraq. He pushed for war with Iran during the Bush administration. While appearing on FOX News Sunday Kristol insults the President. Read the complete transcript. Excerpt below:

WALLACE: That was a video message from President Obama in which he seemed to turn the page on President Bush’s policy in recognizing the government of Iran.

And we’re back now with Brit, Mara, Bill and Juan.

So, Bill Kristol, you have an editorial in the new Weekly Standard in which I think it’s fair to say that you do not applaud the president’s message to Iran or his new policy. What’s wrong with it?

KRISTOL: You know, it’s an embarrassment. There’s no statement of solidarity with the people of Iran -- the word “liberty,” the word “freedom,” the word “democracy,” the words “human rights” nowhere in the message.

He speaks to the leaders of Iran who have imprisoned Americans in the last couple of months and American journalists who -- an Iranian blogger died in prison last week -- not a word about that. But he speaks to the leaders of Iran and promises them respect.

And it’s a gesture -- it’s weak, and I think the Iranians took it as a weak statement since they immediately showed contempt for it and said, “Well, that’s nice talk. Now follow up with some actions. Remove the sanctions.”

And I suppose now Obama will be under pressure -- he’ll feel that to really be nice to the Iranians, he’s now got to -- you know, he doesn’t mention the nuclear program, incidentally, in the statement. No, it’s a weak and embarrassing statement by a president of the United States. I hope it doesn’t actually have damaging effects.

WILLIAMS: Well, I couldn’t disagree more. I mean, it seems to me this is the start of a new year there, and this was a new year statement and an attempt to sort of set forth new diplomatic opportunities to say we are going to view you as a government. He didn’t use the term regime of President Bush’s vintage. Instead, he says, “We view you as a government, but at the same time, you can only gain credibility in the international community by peaceful means, not through use of terror.” And I think he speaks very clearly, if not, you know, powerfully, to the idea that there are alternatives here for the U.S., but we now choose to try to engage you, to speak to you.

And their decision to, you know, come back, you know, with -- sort of disrespectfully -- I think that speaks to them, but it says to the international community the United States is trying its best to work this out peacefully and, therefore, Russia and the European community might do something with the United States.

WALLACE: Brit, one of the things that the foreign policy people have noticed is that twice in his address, he talked specifically about the Islamic Republic of Iran, which President Bush never did -- and see that as him taking regime change of the Islamic fundamentalists government there off the table.

HUME: Well, perhaps he did. You know, Condoleezza Rice said something to me last year that when she -- when she said it, I was surprised. She said almost no governments in the world practice diplomacy the way the United States does. “Huh?” I said. She said that is that we practice diplomacy always backed up by the possibility or even the threat of some force -- forceful action, whether it be economic or whatever.

She said most governments in the world think diplomacy -- you don’t do that. You talk, and then when that doesn’t work, you talk some more, and then you keep talking, and eventually you hope through diplomacy of this kind to persuade regimes that you’re having trouble with to behave differently.

Well, it appears that Barack Obama , by this statement, has joined the rest of the world. She said -- Rice told me -- she said the United States does it that way, the Brits do to some extent, and the Australians do. Well, it appears that President Obama has joined the rest of the world in practicing the diplomacy of talk.

WALLACE: Mara, let me -- the White House officials make two arguments to explain what President Obama did. They say, one, it’s important to play the diplomatic card first, to show good faith, so that if it fails, then you can go back to the allies and ask for tougher sanctions.

And two, they say there are Iranian presidential elections coming up this summer. This kind of moderate talk perhaps undercuts the hardliners.

LIASSON: Well, I don’t know about the second part. The first part I agree with. I don’t think the damage by this videotape is going to be great, and I do think it gives Obama a firmer leg to stand on when he tells the Europeans, “I tried this, I got no response. Now I want you to join with me in these tougher sanctions.”

Now, the second one, whether this kind of a statement can actually influence the Iranian elections -- I don’t know. I think that, you know, the initial reaction from Iran was very hostile, and it came from the ayatollahs, but what -- you know, we’re told by experts in Iran that sometimes it takes a couple weeks for them to actually formulate their response to...

HUME: The worst thing that...

LIASSON: ... something, and this is the placeholder.

HUME: The worst thing that could happen would be for the Iranian government to respond favorably and positively and want to engage and have a discussion. And then we would be on a track like that which will lead nowhere in the end.

I mean, it’s not as if there’s not enough evidence to figure out what kind of government this is and what its intentions are. That’s been abundantly clear for many, many years.

And a -- and a -- and an endless round of talk -- first, there’d be talks about talks, and then there’d be talks, and then there’d be talking, and in the meanwhile the Iranian regime would continue to do what it’s been doing, but everybody in the world would sit by nodding affirmatively that this is the right approach. It’d go nowhere.

WALLACE: But, Bill Kristol -- Bill Kristol, the -- President Bush didn’t recognize the Islamic Republic of Iran. He didn’t engage in diplomacy without preconditions. Where did that get us?

KRISTOL: It got us three rounds of sanctions agreed to by the U.N. and by the Europeans. Why did the Europeans...

WALLACE: But did the sanctions have any effect on Iran?

KRISTOL: Well, if not, then we have to consider the use of force. But if you want more sanctions -- the reason the Europeans went with sanctions is because we were threatening. It’s because we deposed Saddam Hussein, and that’s when they got interested in sanctions suddenly, in late 2003, and because they were worried that the Bush administration might actually do something.

With Obama taking the threat of force basically off the table, the willingness of the Europeans and certainly of the Russians to be serious about sanctions is going to diminish. Appeasement begets appeasement. Appeasement does not -- appeasement does not lay the groundwork for toughness among your allies who already are weaker.


WILLIAMS: Why do you think -- why do you think that he’s taken anything off the table? He simply offered...

KRISTOL: Here’s why.

WILLIAMS: ... an opportunity to have a discussion.

The second point to make is in terms of these elections that are scheduled, I think that you have to have some faith in the Iranian people that they are, in fact, hoping for some moderation and change and view this as an opportunity to isolate the hardliners.

WALLACE: All right.

KRISTOL: If they could vote for someone who wasn’t a hardliner, they might vote for people. But they’re...

WALLACE: That’s change.

KRISTOL: It’s not a free country.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Without Video Tibet Resistance Ignored

For a brief period of time the plight of the Tibetan people was in the minds of humanity. But without video they've been once again relegated to non-relevance. The media in the West only cares about an issue if there are pictures. So it doesn't matter how many people are slaughtered (witness Rwanda, Zimbabwe, the AIDS plague, Darfur, etc.,etc.):

Police arrested nearly 100 monks after hundreds of Tibetans attacked a police station and government officials in northwestern China, state media reported.

All but two of the 95 arrested Sunday were monks, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The Tibetans were arrested for their involvement in a violent protest Saturday apparently triggered by the disappearance of a Tibetan who escaped from police custody in Qinghai province, Xinhua said.

A Tibetan exile said the protest involved as many as 2,000 people and was sparked by the apparent suicide of a monk under investigation for unfurling a Tibetan flag.

Barack Obama on 60 Minutes: Transcript (3-22-09)

Read the full transcript. Excerpt below:

"Were you surprised by the intensity of the reaction, and the hostility from the AIG bonus debacle?" 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft asked.

"I wasn't surprised by it. Our team wasn't surprised by it. The one thing that I've tried to emphasize, though, throughout this week, and will continue to try to emphasize during the course of the next several months as we dig ourselves out of this economic hole that we're in, we can't govern outta anger. We've got to try to make good decisions based on the facts in order to put people back to work, to get credit flowing again. And I'm not gonna be distracted by what's happening day to day. I've gotta stay focused on making sure that we're getting this economy moving again," President Obama replied.

The president ordered Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to use every legal means to recover the bonus money from AIG. If it is not repaid, it will be deducted from the company's next bailout payment. The House decided to extract its own revenge by passing a bill that would impose a tax of up to 90 percent on the AIG bonuses and on the bonuses of anyone making more than $250,000 a year who works for a financial institution receiving more than $5 billion in bailout funds.

"I mean you're a constitutional law professor," Kroft remarked. "You think this bill's constitutional?"

"Well, I think that as a general proposition, you don't wanna be passing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals. You wanna pass laws that have some broad applicability. And as a general proposition, I think you certainly don't wanna use the tax code to punish people," the president replied. "I think that you've got an pretty egregious situation here that people are understandably upset about. And so let's see if there are ways of doing this that are both legal, that are constitutional, that upholds our basic principles of fairness, but don't hamper us from getting the banking system back on track."

"You've got a piece of legislation that could affect tens of thousands of people. Some of these people probably had nothing to do with the financial crisis. And some of them probably deserve the bonuses that they got," Kroft said. "I mean is that fair?"

"Well, that's why we're gonna have to take a look at this legislation carefully. Clearly, the AIG folks gettin' those bonuses didn't make sense. And one of the things that I have to do is to communicate to Wall Street that, given the current crisis that we're in, they can't expect help from taxpayers but they enjoy all the benefits that they enjoyed before the crisis happened. You get a sense that, in some institutions, that has not sunk in; that you can't go back to the old way of doing business, certainly not on the taxpayers' dime," Obama said. "Now the flip side is that Main Street has to understand, unless we get these banks moving again, then we can't get this economy to recover. And we don't wanna cut off our nose to spite our face."

"Your Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has been under a lot of pressure this week. And there have been people in Congress calling for his head. …Have there been discussions in the White House about replacing him?" Kroft asked.

"No," Obama said.

Asked if Geithner had volunteered or asked whether to step down, Obama told Kroft, "No. And he shouldn't. And if he were to come to me, I'd say, 'Sorry, Buddy. You've still got the job.' But look, he's got a lot of stuff on his plate. And he is doing a terrific job. And I take responsibility for not, I think, having given him as much help as he needs."

Obama says Geithner is not only responsible for the banks, the bailouts and the automobile industry, he also has to make sure the money is being spent wisely and report to Congress. Yet nearly a dozen high level Treasury department jobs remain unfilled and Geithner still has no deputy. Two people under consideration for the post withdrew their names after going through the vetting process.

"You know, this whole confirmation process, as I mentioned earlier has gotten pretty tough. It's been always tough. It's gotten tougher in the age of 24/7 news cycles. And a lot of people who we think are about to serve in the administration and Treasury suddenly say, 'Well, you know what? I don't wanna go through some of the scrutiny, embarrassment, in addition to taking huge cuts in pay,'" Obama explained.

"Have you offered some of these high level positions [in] the Treasury to people who would have turned them down?" Kroft asked.

"Absolutely. Yeah. And not because people didn't wanna serve. I think that people just felt that, you know, that the process has gotten very onerous," Obama said.

"Your Treasury secretary's plan, Geithner's plan, and your plan really for solving the banking crisis was met with very, very, very tepid response. A lot of people said they didn't understand it. A lot of people said it didn't have any, enough details to solve the problem. I know you're coming out with something next week on this. But these criticisms were coming from people like Warren Buffett, people who had supported you, and you had counted as being your…," Kroft said.

"And Warren still does support me. But I think that understand Warren's also a big player in the financial markets who's a major owner of Wells Fargo. And so he's got a perspective from the perspective of somebody who is part-owner of a bank. You've got members of Congress who've got a different perspective. Which is, 'We don't wanna spend any more taxpayer money.' You've got a whole host of players, all of whom may have a completely different solution. Right?" Obama said.

Friday, March 20, 2009

President Obama on the Tonight Show: Transcript, Video (3-19-09)

This is the transcript for the program as provided by the White House. Excerpt and video below:

MR. LENO: And that was it. Big change?

MR. OBAMA: You know, I was mentioning earlier, we landed yesterday and then –- this is an example of life in the bubble. We landed at the fairground down in Costa Mesa. And I see the fairground where I think we're having this town hall and I said, well, why don't we walk over there? Secret Service says, no, sir, it's 750 yards. (Laughter.)

So I was trying to calculate –- well, that's like a five-minute walk? "Yes, sir. Sorry." (Laughter.)

Now, they let me walk on the way back. But, you know, the doctor is behind me with the defibrillator. (Laughter.)

MR. LENO: Wow.

MR. OBAMA: Michelle jokes about how our motorcade –- you know, we've got the ambulance and then the caboose and then the dog sled. (Laughter.) The submarine. (Laughter.) There's a whole bunch of stuff going on.

MR. LENO: Now it's only, what, 59 days now, right?

MR. OBAMA: Yes, 59 days.

MR. LENO: And so much scrutiny. Is it fair to judge so quickly? I mean –-

MR. OBAMA: Well, look, we are going through a difficult time. I welcome the challenge. You know, I ran for President because I thought we needed big changes. I do think in Washington it's a little bit like "American Idol," except everybody is Simon Cowell. (Laughter.)

MR. LENO: Wow. Wow. That's rough. (Applause.)

MR. OBAMA: Everybody's got an opinion. But that's part of what makes for a democracy. You know, it's contentious and people are hitting back.

I do think, though, that the American people are all in a place where they understand it took us a while to get into this mess, it's going to take a while for us to get out of it. And if they have confidence that I'm making steps to deal with issues like health care and energy and education, that matter deeply to their daily lives, then I think they're going to give us some time. (Applause.)

MR. LENO: Let me ask you about this. I know you are angry –- because, you know, doing what I do, you kind of study body language a little bit. And you looked very angry about these bonuses. Actually, stunned.

MR. OBAMA: Stunned. "Stunned" is the word.

MR. LENO: Tell people what happened. I know people have been over it, just –-

MR. OBAMA: Well, look, here's what happened. You've got a company, AIG, which used to be just a regular, old insurance company. Then they insured a whole bunch of stuff and they were very profitable and it was a good, solid company.

Then they decided –- some smart person decided, let's put a hedge fund on top of the insurance company and let's sell these derivative products to banks all around the world –- which are basically guarantees or insurance policies on all these sub-prime mortgages.

And this smart person said, you know, none of these things are going to go bust; this sub-prime thing, it's a great deal, you can make a lot of profit. So they sold a whole bunch of them –- billions and billions of dollars. And what happened is, is that when people started going bust on sub-prime mortgages you had $30 worth of debt on every dollar worth of mortgage –- and the whole house of cards just started falling down.

So the problem with AIG was that it owed so much and was tangled up with so many banks and institutions that if you had allowed it to just liquidate, to go into bankruptcy, it could have brought the whole financial system down. So it was the right thing to do to intervene in AIG.

Now, the question is, who in their right mind, when your company is going bust, decides we're going to be paying a whole bunch of bonuses to people? And that, I think, speaks to a broader culture that existed on Wall Street, where I think people just had this general attitude of entitlement, where, we must be the best and the brightest, we deserve $10 million or $50 million or $100 million dollar payouts.

MR. LENO: Right.

MR. OBAMA: And, you know, the immediate bonuses that went to AIG are a problem. But the larger problem is we've got to get back to an attitude where people know enough is enough, and people have a sense of responsibility and they understand that their actions are going to have an impact on everybody. And if we can get back to those values that built America, then I think we're going to be okay.