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.