March 19th, 2009
11:57 AM ET

Mexico meltdown II – are we serious yet?

Program Note: AC360° will be reporting live from Mexico next week where we'll have full coverage on the situation in Mexico.

Bay Buchanan

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Could America finally be getting serious about our southern border?

On March 6, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Mexico to offer military assistance in their escalating war against the drug lords. This after several U.S. intelligence reports found that Mexico now presented as worse threat to our national security than Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan. Now President Obama says he’s considering putting troops on the border.

According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Mexico now appears ready to accept the kind of help they shunned only months ago. Last week on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Gates said, “ I think we are beginning to be in a position to help the Mexicans more than we have in the past…..I think some of the old biases against cooperation between militaries and so on, I think, are being satisfied.”


Filed under: Mexico • Raw Politics
March 19th, 2009
11:56 AM ET

As funny as the times allow

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Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

Tonight, Barack Obama will appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Will President Obama be funny? "As funny as the times allow," said a White House official. How funny do these times allow one to be? We asked a similar question after 9/11. When can we laugh again? Following are some answers from Aristotle to Ackerman.

You can't get funnier, given the times, than New York Congressman Gary Ackerman. Read what he said yesterday at the congressional hearings on the insurance giant AIG. He's hilarious about the investment device that helped bring AIG and so much of the world economy to its knees - the credit default swap, based on collateral from subprime mortgages, which was pitched as a form of insurance.


March 19th, 2009
11:51 AM ET

The real AIG scandal

Eliot Spitzer
For Slate.com

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Everybody is rushing to condemn AIG's bonuses, but this simple scandal is obscuring the real disgrace at the insurance giant: Why are AIG's counterparties getting paid back in full, to the tune of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars?

For the answer to this question, we need to go back to the very first decision to bail out AIG, made, we are told, by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, then-New York Fed official Timothy Geithner, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last fall. Post-Lehman's collapse, they feared a systemic failure could be triggered by AIG's inability to pay the counterparties to all the sophisticated instruments AIG had sold. And who were AIG's trading partners? No shock here: Goldman, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, and on it goes. So now we know for sure what we already surmised: The AIG bailout has been a way to hide an enormous second round of cash to the same group that had received TARP money already.


March 19th, 2009
11:44 AM ET

Pittsburgh, according to the Pittsblogger

Editor's Note: As part of AC360°'s Road to Rescue, we went to Pittsburgh to take a look at how Pittsburgh has rebuilt it's economy. You can read Randi Kaye's blog on the subject here.

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Mike Madison

The possible collapse of Detroit-centered American automobile manufacturing has put Detroit at the front of national conversations about de-industrialization and urban failure and renewal. The buzz has it that Pittsburgh went through this process and has come out the other side, successfully. CNN called me on Monday to ask if I would be part of a segment, shot here on Tuesday, that would look at Detroit from Pittsburgh's perspective. (CNN found me via this blog. I'm not sure how they found this blog, though perhaps it's because I was quoted in a similar story last year in the Detroit Free Press.) The story pitch: Pittsburgh is doing pretty great. How did it happen, and what lessons should Detroit learn? The producer planned to shoot my piece of it at the Waterfront. Massive steel mill becomes shopping mall. How better to illustrate an American story of urban renewal?

On Wednesday afternoon, we did meet at the Waterfront, and we spent an hour or so taping an interview. The piece was shot on a strip of grass right next to the Courtyard by Marriott, by the Gantry, just west of the Homestead bridge. The camera guys wanted to have the river and the bridge in the shot. The reporter (oops - in TV speak, the correspondent) was Randi Kaye.


Filed under: Road to Rescue
March 19th, 2009
10:53 AM ET

Morning Buzz: Anderson Goes To College

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Penny Manis
AC360° Senior Producer

Anderson presents his show live from Hofstra University in Long Island, NY as he continues his USA road trip bringing you stories about how the economy is affecting Americans in different pockets of the country.

You will hear about college bargain hunting- are more parents and students setting their sights on state schools vs. private schools, given the former are less pricey? That said, state schools may be seeing their budgets cut too these days, and are scholarships and financial aid tougher to come by?


Filed under: Penny Manis • The Buzz
March 19th, 2009
10:50 AM ET

Our must-win war

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John McCain and Joseph Lieberman
The Washington Post

Later this month, the Obama administration will unveil a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. This comes as most important indicators in Afghanistan are pointing in the wrong direction. President Obama's decision last month to deploy an additional 17,000 U.S. troops was an important step in the right direction, but a comprehensive overhaul of our war plan is needed, and quickly.

As the administration finalizes its policy review, we are troubled by calls in some quarters for the president to adopt a "minimalist" approach toward Afghanistan. Supporters of this course caution that the American people are tired of war and that an ambitious, long-term commitment to Afghanistan may be politically unfeasible. They warn that Afghanistan has always been a "graveyard of empires" and has never been governable. Instead, they suggest, we can protect our vital national interests in Afghanistan even while lowering our objectives and accepting more "realistic" goals there - for instance, by scaling back our long-term commitment to helping the Afghan people build a better future in favor of a short-term focus on fighting terrorists.


Filed under: Afghanistan • John McCain • War on Terror
March 19th, 2009
10:34 AM ET

Teens overdose on Facebook ‘drug’

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Jonathan Zimmerman
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Imagine a drug that made American teenagers think and talk more about the timeless concerns of adolescence: who’s cool, who’s cute and who’s going out with whom. Then imagine that millions of teens were taking this drug, every day.

Actually, you don’t have to. The drug already exists, and it’s called “MySpace.” There’s a competitor drug, too, known as “Facebook.” Between one-half and three-quarters of American teens already have a profile on an Internet social networking site, where they spend hours per week — nobody really knows how many — sharing pictures, gossip and jokes. And we should all be worried about that, although not for the reasons you might suspect.

That’s because the newspapers keep reminding us about “online predators” and other malfeasance on the Net, which makes us miss the digital forest for the trees. In this medium, the real danger doesn’t come from depraved adults. It’s much subtler than that, and it comes from teenagers themselves — specifically, from their insatiable desire to hang out with each other.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Internet
March 19th, 2009
10:01 AM ET

FDR's conservative 100 days

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George Bittlingmayer and Thomas W. Hazlett
The Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration's opening policy sprint - massive deficits and bailouts, with sweeping health-care and education reform, plus cap and trade to come - has been likened by the president himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous first 100 days.

But FDR did not launch his New Deal with a program that roiled financial markets. On the contrary, his first step was to stem the banking panic with a national bank holiday (many states had already imposed their own). He closed troubled institutions, injected capital into the healthy ones, and reassured Americans that their deposits would be safe.

His approach met with quick success. The New York Stock Exchange, closed during the bank holiday, opened up 15% on March 15. By July 3, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 93% above its close on March 3, the day before Inauguration Day in 1933. FDR's fast start, embraced by Wall Street, provided him with early, and crucial, political capital when his agenda later veered left.


Filed under: Economy • First 100 Days • President Barack Obama
March 19th, 2009
10:00 AM ET

How Obama can repair AIG damage

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Drew Westen
Special to CNN

In getting the nation's economy back on its feet and pursuing an agenda aimed at keeping it there for the next 40 years, the White House has to do two things at once: implement effective policies and keep the public behind the president long enough to keep implementing them until they work.

As the president learned in the stimulus debate, even the best policies don't sell themselves, especially when the other side is aggressively attacking them. President Obama's inspiration, Abraham Lincoln, noted that without public opinion behind you, good governance is impossible.

In this sense, the AIG debacle, in which the government has handed nearly $200 billion of taxpayers' money to one of the corporate Leviathans whose misadventures have cost many taxpayers their jobs, homes and savings, is both instructive and destructive.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: AIG • Bailout Turmoil • President Barack Obama
March 19th, 2009
09:43 AM ET

Dear President Obama #59: The hard cash culture clash

Reporter's Note: President Obama has asked Americans for any ideas they might have to help him run the government. I am writing a letter a day to the White House, and I’m not even asking for a bonus.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Like cops, I have had the opportunity over the years to meet many criminals. Murderers, armed robbers, burglars, and people who wear white shoes after Labor Day. If you sit down with these types (and as long as you’re dealing with Congress, odds are you will…ha!) one of the things you’ll notice is that each one can make a pretty good case as to why the crime he was convicted for was really not his fault.

But usually all the rationalization that follows (“the guy made me mad; the door was open; they shouldn’t have built a bank there!”) can not hide a worrisome fact: Far too many of them are destined for more problems in the future, because they don’t really believe they’ve done anything wrong. And that appears to be the core problem you are facing with the big money crowd now. I know you want to keep these financial wizards (ahem…) in the loop to sort out the Gordian knot they have wrapped around the loan and investment business. But the skills you are buying seem like they are being undermined by the rumble that arises from that crowd every time they trot out in front of Congress asking for money.


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