Friday, April 17, 2009

Green Shoots and Glimmers

Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, sees “green shoots.” President Obama sees “glimmers of hope.” And the stock market has been on a tear.

So is it time to sound the all clear? Here are four reasons to be cautious about the economic outlook.

1. Things are still getting worse. Industrial production just hit a 10-year low. Housing starts remain incredibly weak. Foreclosures, which dipped as mortgage companies waited for details of the Obama administration’s housing plans, are surging again.

The most you can say is that there are scattered signs that things are getting worse more slowly — that the economy isn’t plunging quite as fast as it was. And I do mean scattered: the latest edition of the Beige Book, the Fed’s periodic survey of business conditions, reports that “five of the twelve Districts noted a moderation in the pace of decline.” Whoopee.

2. Some of the good news isn’t convincing. The biggest positive news in recent days has come from banks, which have been announcing surprisingly good earnings. But some of those earnings reports look a little ... funny.

Wells Fargo, for example, announced its best quarterly earnings ever. But a bank’s reported earnings aren’t a hard number, like sales; for example, they depend a lot on the amount the bank sets aside to cover expected future losses on its loans. And some analysts expressed considerable doubt about Wells Fargo’s assumptions, as well as other accounting issues.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs announced a huge jump in profits from fourth-quarter 2008 to first-quarter 2009. But as analysts quickly noticed, Goldman changed its definition of “quarter” (in response to a change in its legal status), so that — I kid you not — the month of December, which happened to be a bad one for the bank, disappeared from this comparison.

I don’t want to go overboard here. Maybe the banks really have swung from deep losses to hefty profits in record time. But skepticism comes naturally in this age of Madoff.

Oh, and for those expecting the Treasury Department’s “stress tests” to make everything clear: the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, says that “you will see in a systematic and coordinated way the transparency of determining and showing to all involved some of the results of these stress tests.” No, I don’t know what that means, either.

3. There may be other shoes yet to drop. Even in the Great Depression, things didn’t head straight down. There was, in particular, a pause in the plunge about a year and a half in — roughly where we are now. But then came a series of bank failures on both sides of the Atlantic, combined with some disastrous policy moves as countries tried to defend the dying gold standard, and the world economy fell off another cliff.

Can this happen again? Well, commercial real estate is coming apart at the seams, credit card losses are surging and nobody knows yet just how bad things will get in Japan or Eastern Europe. We probably won’t repeat the disaster of 1931, but it’s far from certain that the worst is over.

4. Even when it’s over, it won’t be over. The 2001 recession officially lasted only eight months, ending in November of that year. But unemployment kept rising for another year and a half. The same thing happened after the 1990-91 recession. And there’s every reason to believe that it will happen this time too. Don’t be surprised if unemployment keeps rising right through 2010.

Why? “V-shaped” recoveries, in which employment comes roaring back, take place only when there’s a lot of pent-up demand. In 1982, for example, housing was crushed by high interest rates, so when the Fed eased up, home sales surged. That’s not what’s going on this time: today, the economy is depressed, loosely speaking, because we ran up too much debt and built too many shopping malls, and nobody is in the mood for a new burst of spending.

Employment will eventually recover — it always does. But it probably won’t happen fast.

So now that I’ve got everyone depressed, what’s the answer? Persistence.

History shows that one of the great policy dangers, in the face of a severe economic slump, is premature optimism. F.D.R. responded to signs of recovery by cutting the Works Progress Administration in half and raising taxes; the Great Depression promptly returned in full force. Japan slackened its efforts halfway through its lost decade, ensuring another five years of stagnation.

The Obama administration’s economists understand this. They say all the right things about staying the course. But there’s a real risk that all the talk of green shoots and glimmers will breed a dangerous complacency.

So here’s my advice, to the public and policy makers alike: Don’t count your recoveries before they’re hatched.

Obama Says He Seeks ‘New Beginning’ With Cuba

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) -- Trading their warmest words in a half-century, the United States and Cuba built momentum toward renewed ties on Friday, with President Barack Obama declaring he ''seeks a new beginning'' -- including direct talks -- with the island's communist regime. As leaders of the Americas gathered for a summit in this Caribbean nation, the head of the Organization of American States even said he'll ask his group to invite Cuba back after 47 years.

In remarks kicking off the weekend gathering of nations -- of which Cuba was the only country in the region not represented -- Obama repeated the kind of remarks toward the Castro regime that marked his campaign for the presidency.

''The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba,'' he said at the Summit of the Americas opening ceremony. ''I know there is a longer journey that must be traveled to overcome decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day.''

Analysts cautioned that the week's developments were encouraging but do not necessarily mean normalized relations are around the corner.

''This is a thaw, but it's a thaw that's going to take some time,'' said Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. ''I wouldn't look for any dramatic breakthroughs. There's a lot of distrust.''

Still, President Cristina Fernandez of Argentina, in her remarks to the summit's inaugural session, won applause when she called on the United States to lift the ''anachronism that the embargo means today,'' a reference to the nearly half-century-old U.S. ban on trade with Cuba.

''Let's not miss the chance,'' she said, to build a new relationship with Cuba.

The flurry of back-and-forth gestures began earlier this week when Obama dropped restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, challenging his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, to reciprocate. Obama noted those moves and renewed his promise for his administration to engage with the Cuban government ''on a wide range of issues,'' including human rights, free speech, democratic reform, drugs, immigration and the economy.

''Let me be clear: I am not interested in talking for the sake of talking,'' the president said. ''But I do believe that we can move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new direction.''

To that end, Obama met with Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez, a Cuban ally and fierce critic of the United States. The two met ahead of the summit's opening ceremonies. The Venezuelan presidency released a photograph of the pair shaking hands and described it as a friendly encounter.

In a diplomatic exchange of the kind that normally takes months or years, Castro had responded within hours to Obama's policy changes this week. He extended Cuba's most open offer for talks since the Eisenhower administration, saying he's ready to discuss ''human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners -- everything.'' Cuban officials have historically bristled at discussing human rights or political prisoners, of whom they hold about 200.

The United States replied Friday, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton offering: ''We welcome his comments, the overture they represent, and we are taking a very serious look at how we intend to respond.''

And OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza said he would ask the 34 member nations to invite Cuba back into the fold. Analysts doubted Insulza -- known for his political caution -- would have done so without a nod from Washington, which contributes a huge portion of the OAS budget.

''We're going step by step,'' Insulza said. He called on the group to annul the 1962 resolution that suspended Cuba because its ''Marxist-Leninist'' system was incompatible with OAS principles. If two-thirds of foreign ministers agree at a meeting in Honduras next month, the communist government will be reinstated.

Obama, in his remarks, rejected what he called a false choice ''between sticking to inflexible policies with regard to Cuba or denying the full human rights that are owed to the Cuban people.''

However, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs made clear that while Castro's new openness to change was welcome, the U.S. wasn't abandoning its demand for Cuba to start making concrete moves toward freedom.

''They're certainly free to release political prisoners,'' he said aboard Air Force One as Obama flew into Trinidad. ''They're certainly free to stop skimming money off the top of remittance payments as they come back to the Cuban island. They're free to institute a greater freedom of the press''

And Castro didn't retreat from his criticism of U.S. policy, recalling Thursday that the United States has long tried to topple the government that he and his brother Fidel have presided over for 50 years.

''That's the sad reality,'' he said.

Said Peter DeShazo of the Center for Strategic and International Studies: ''These are very preliminary steps, but they are significant.''

The U.S. severed all diplomatic ties with Cuba on Jan. 3, 1961, just three months before exiles launched their disastrous invasion of the Bay of Pigs.

The last significant effort toward talks were secret negotiations between an aide to then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and an emissary from the Cuban Communist Party at a crowded coffee shop at New York's La Guardia Airport on Jan. 11, 1975. Negotiators met in New York hotels and private homes over several months, but the move died when Castro sent troops into Angola.

Obama was criticized during his campaign for saying he'd meet with Castro without preconditions, and Castro said during a November interview with actor-director Sean Penn that he would meet with Obama, suggesting the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay as a venue.

Any possible talks are likely to include involvement of senior Cuban diplomat Jorge Bolanos, head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. Bolanos and Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez greeted members of the Congressional Black Caucus when they visited Havana this month.

Although neither side has set conditions to simply talk, Obama insists Cuba make another move before the U.S. takes more action. Castro, meanwhile, demands the U.S. trade embargo on the island be abolished, something Obama has said will not happen without Cuban moves toward democracy.

The U.S. could balk at Castro's offer to free the about 200 political prisoners held on the island, along with their relatives, and send them all to the United States in exchange for five Cubans serving long sentences on espionage charges. On the list are several people convicted of violent acts, including two Salvadorans sentenced to death for Havana hotel bombings that killed an Italian tourist. Cuba currently has a moratorium on the death penalty.

The number of political prisoners held on the island has dropped by a third since Raul Castro assumed power from his ailing elder brother in July 2006. The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation then counted 316 prisoners but as of Jan. 30 documented 205 such inmates, including 12 since freed on medical parole.

Another stumbling block toward normalization is the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which forbids U.S. officials from restoring full diplomatic relations with Cuba as long as either Fidel or Raul Castro is in charge.THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

What if Fox News threw a tea party and nobody came?

While millions of people were scrambling to make it to the post office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, far, far fewer showed up at Fox News' Tax Day Tea Parties. Media Matters for America extensively documented the incessant promotion of the tea parties by Fox News and its anchors and contributors. In fact, in the 10 days leading up to the protests, Fox News aired 107 ads promoting them. And in addition to encouraging its viewers to attend the protests, Fox News announced that viewers who couldn't attend could attend "a virtual tax day tea party" at

Well, tax day arrived, and Fox News didn't disappoint. Reporting from a protest in Boston, Fox Business Network anchor Cody Willard stated, "I'm on your side. I'm trying to take down the Fed." He also asked, "Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?" At a protest in front of the Alamo, Glenn Beck hosted unofficial NRA head Ted Nugent, who played guitar while Beck interviewed Joe Horn, who was identified by a Fox News graphic as having "shot 2 illegals burglarizing home." Of course, Beck wasn't covering the protest so much as leading it. Meanwhile, John Gibson expressed his "hope[]" that "millions of people" would participate in the protests, while Neil Cavuto appeared to inflate the numbers at the rally he was attending in Sacramento. Cavuto stated of the Sacramento tea party: "They were expecting 5,000 here, it's got to be easily double, if not triple that." However, moments earlier, before Cavuto went on the air, a microphone caught Cavuto stating to a producer "There's gotta be 5,000" -- not "double, if not triple" that number.

Geraldo Rivera was not impressed, asserting, "The grand total of all of the tea party demonstrators" was less than the number "at that immigration rally in 2006 in the city of Chicago alone." Rivera added that the immigration rally was a "truly spontaneous demonstration," while the tea parties "may have had aspects of spontaneity."

While Bill O'Reilly was defending Fox News' coverage of the tea parties, calling it "vastly superior to anything else around," other networks were calling out Fox News for its support of the protests. On CNN, reporter Susan Roesgen grilled a Chicago protester who referred to President Obama as a "fascist" and said the protests were "highly promoted by the right-wing conservative network Fox." On the CBS Evening News, reporter Dean Reynolds cited Beck and Cavuto as among the "rightward-leaning commentators" who "embraced the cause." On ABC's World News, reporter Dan Harris said the protests were "cheered on by Fox News and talk radio." And CNN's Howard Kurtz asserted: "I don't think I've ever seen a news network throw its weight behind a protest like we are seeing in the past few weeks with Fox and these tea parties."

But Stephen Colbert summed it up best: "I would like to throw my support behind this grassroots effort by Fox News Corporation."

Conservatives freak out about a report on extremist hate groups

Overshadowing the tea-party protests was the leaking of an April 7 Department of Homeland Security intelligence assessment of right-wing extremism. Several conservative media figures chose to align themselves with the violent and racist hate groups mentioned in the report rather than the DHS. The report sought to identify factors -- such as the economic downturn and an African-American president -- that these extremist groups would use to target new recruits. Rush Limbaugh claimed: "[Y]ou have a report from Janet Napolitano and Barack Obama Department of Homeland Security portraying standard, ordinary, everyday conservatives as posing a bigger threat to this country than Al Qaeda terrorists or genuine enemies of this country like Kim Jong-Il." And Sean Hannity stated that the DHS "is warning law enforcement officials about the rise in right-wing extremist activity" and asserted that the department "would define it as people that maybe think we're not controlling our borders, people that have pro-life bumper stickers." And Lou Dobbs asked his viewers: "Do you think a person concerned about borders and ports that are unsecured, illegal immigration, Second Amendment rights, or a returning veteran from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is likely or even possibly probable, as the Department of Homeland Security suggests, to be a right-wing extremist?" Of course, the report doesn't actually say that, but Dobbs' point was echoed ad nauseam in the conservative media. Rather than explaining that the report focused on how certain views are used as tools by hate groups to recruit, the DHS report was portrayed as an indictment of anyone who holds those views.

Conservative media also seized upon an aspect of the report -- that returning military veterans are likely to be targeted by extremist groups -- to claim that the report considered war veterans a threat. Cavuto claimed that the report "more or less states the government considers you a terrorist threat if you oppose abortion, speak out against illegal immigration, or you are a returning war veteran." In fact, the report concludes that "rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat."

More significantly, in reporting on this aspect of the report, Cavuto and others in the conservative media did not note that in reaching its conclusion about returning veterans, the DHS cited a 2008 FBI report -- authored during the Bush administration -- that stated, in the words of the DHS, that "some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups." But it should come as no surprise that conservative media figures would overlook the Bush administration's role in their efforts to portray the Obama administration as anti-military.

While decrying the partisan nature of the report, most media outlets also failed to note that the DHS issued an assessment on January 26 of left-wing extremism, which concluded that "a number of emerging trends point to leftwing extremists maturing and expanding their cyber attack capabilities over the next decade with the aim of attacking targets in the United States."

The paranoia persisted on Fox News, even after Shepard Smith and Catherine Herridge debunked the claims on which much of it was based. Herridge noted the January DHS report and said: "[E]ven at the end of last year, prior to the inauguration, the Homeland Security Department under the Bush administration was sounding the alarm about the potential for right-wing groups to act, specifically because of the economy, and also because America was going to have its first African-American president." Herridge also asserted: "I would point out that both of these assessments ... were commissioned under the Bush administration. It takes some time to do them. They only came out after he had left office."

Since the DHS report came to light on the eve of the tea parties, several media figures drew a link between those events and the DHS report, suggesting that the DHS would be watching the protesters. Limbaugh claimed: "When Obama's policies are the centerpiece then the people that showed up at the tea parties have to be monitored by Homeland Security." And ran the headline: "Is Homeland Security Targeting Tea Parties?"

Other noteworthy quotes this week:

Following a three-judge panel's ruling in the Minnesota Senate race that Democratic candidate Al Franken "won," Joe Scarborough asked, "[W]hen are the Republicans going to give up the ghost on this?" He continued: "Seriously. Norm [Coleman], I like you. You lost, OK?" He again added: "It's over. I'm sorry."
Bernard Goldberg, author of A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (and Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media, told Hannity: "I'm sorry, Sean ... but we have to stop going out of our way to find fault with every single thing he [Obama] does."
In an April 15 Spectator article, former Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote: "[T]o listen to Fox News and other conservative media, you'd think we were living in Czechoslovakia in the final hours before the 1948 communist coup."
On MSNBC, Chris Matthews called Texas Gov. Rick Perry a "bozo" and said, "I'm sorry ... you can't decide whether to stay in the Union or not." He added: "Why are you talking about secession? That is whack-job stuff."
On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Minneapolis radio host Chris Baker said of stimulus spending: "The craziest expenditure I've seen so far is Ed Rendell in Pennsylvania. To cheer up the people of Pennsylvania -- a World Series apparently didn't do it -- but they're hiring comics, magicians, and mimes. True. Check the facts." In fact, Baker was apparently the victim of an April Fools' Day joke by The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


JANEANE GAROFALO, ACTOR: speaching on the demos on tax day 4-15/09:

You know, there is nothing more interesting than seeing a bunch of racists become confused and angry at a speech they‘re not quite certain what he thinks. It sounds right to them, and then it doesn‘t make sense.

Let‘s be very honest about what this is about. It‘s not about bashing Democrats. It‘s not about taxes. They have no idea what the Boston Tea party was about.

They don‘t know their history at all. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of tea bagging rednecks. And there is no way around that. And, you know, you can tell these type of right-wingers anything and they‘ll believe it, except the truth. You tell them the truth and they become—it‘s like showing Frankenstein‘s monster fire. They become confused, angry, highly volatile.

That guy caused in them feelings they don‘t know because of their limbic brain—we‘ve discussed before, the limbic brain inside a right-winger or Republican or conservative or your average white power activist - - the limbic brain is much larger in their head space than in a reasonable person. And it is pushing against the frontal lobe. So their synapses are misfiring.

OLBERMANN: How do you break through that?

GAROFALO: I don‘t think you do, for most of them. This is a pathological—it‘s almost pathological or elevated to a philosophy or lifestyle. Again, this is about racism. It could be any issue, any port in a storm. These guys hate that a black guy is in the White House, but they—they immigrant bash. They pretend taxes and tea bags—like I said, most of them probably couldn‘t tell you thing one about taxation without representation, the Boston Tea Party, British imperialism, whatever the history lesson has to be.

But these people always—unless there‘s some people with Stockholm Syndrome.

OLBERMANN: I didn‘t see them. They were in the back. They weren‘t near the cameras, which is bad strategy on the part of the people staging this at Fox.

GAROFALO: True. And Fox News loves to foment this anti-intellectualism. That is their bread and butter. If you have a cerebral electorate, Fox News goes down the toilet very, very fast. It is sick and sad to see Neil Cavuto doing this. They‘re been doing this for years. That‘s why Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch started this venture, is to disinform and to coarsen and dumb-down a certain segment of the electorate.

But what is really—I didn‘t know there were so many racists left. I didn‘t know that. As I said, the Republican hype in the conservative movement has now crystallized into the white power movement.

OLBERMANN: Is that not a bad long-term strategy. Even though—your point is terrifying there are that many racists left.


OLBERMANN: The flip side of it is there aren‘t that many racists left.

GAROFALO: You‘re the minority, literally tens of people showed up to this thing across the country.

OLBERMANN: But if you spear your television network or your political party towards a bunch of guys who are just looking for a reason to yell at the black president, eventually you will marginalize yourself out of market, won‘t you?

GAROFALO: No. Here‘s what the right-wing has—there are no shortages of the natural resources of ignorance, apathy, hate sphere. As long as those things are in the collective conscious and unconscious, the Republicans will have some votes, and Fox News will have viewers. What else have they got. If they didn‘t do that, who‘s going to watch?

I mean, they have tackled that elusive clam—I said clam—you know, the clam demo, the 18 to 35 clam demo. Klan, with a K, demo. Who else is Fox talking? What is it, urban older white guys, and the girlfriend—you know, the women who suffer from Stockholm Syndrome again. There‘s a lot of Stockholm Syndrome, is what I‘m saying, ultimately.

OLBERMANN: What if somebody was at one of these things hurts somebody.

GAROFALO: That is an unfortunate byproduct, since the dawn of time, of a volatile group like this of the limbic brain. Violence, unfortunately, may or may not ensue. It depends on immigrant bashing and hating the black guy in the White House. Will people act on that? It‘s not new. But, you know, Fox doesn‘t mind fomenting it. Michelle Bachmann doesn‘t mind fomenting it. Glenn Beck doesn‘t mine fomenting it.

** Your reaction?? Hk


An unemployed blogger named Jeff accepted an invitation to speak to
teabaggers in Florida. 4-15/09


I want to start, also by honoring the service of our veterans, our current service members. Thank you so much for all you‘ve done for this country.

I also want to say—a little history lesson here, back in 2000, there was a bunch of surplus in the country. And then in the next eight years, it was destroyed by the spending of the Bush administration. So here we are today—here we are today in a situation—here we are today. Here, if you make less than 250,000 dollars a year, just cheer.


Your taxes are going to be cut under the current budget. Congratulations. I was laid off in September because my employer had to make budget cuts. That‘s before the election, OK. So let‘s remember that if you‘re going to argue about lower taxes and less spending, to place the blame where the blame belongs, and that‘s squarely in the hands of the Republican—
--------------------------------------- Jeff then was booed by the teabagger haters and non-thinkers! JEFF they can't handle the truth or the logic!! hk

Family says Gallo isn't a 'monster'

Would you favor cars becoming non-operative
if there is alcohol detected at a certain level?
FULLERTON, Calif. -- Andrew Thomas Gallo, the man charged with killing Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others in a car accident April 9, is an alcoholic, his family told

But the family, in its first public interview, stressed that they feel Gallo is a good man who is being demonized by the media in the wake of the crash, which killed the 22-year-old Adenhart, Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson, and seriously injured Jon Wilhite. Wilhite is currently at UC Irvine Medical Center with serious internal injuries.

Andrew Gallo, right, talks with his lawyer at a court hearing April 13.

"It was an accident," Gallo's mother, Sandra Sagahon, said. "He never meant to hurt anybody, ever."

The Gallo family has temporarily left its home after receiving death threats in the week since Gallo was charged with three counts of murder, driving under the influence of alcohol and fleeing the scene of an accident. He could receive 55 years to life if convicted on all charges.

He remains in the Orange County jail, with bail set for $2 million. He is set to be arraigned on June 8. Police say he had nearly triple the legal blood-alcohol level at the time of his arrest.

"People think my son is a monster," says Thomas Gallo, Andrew's father and a real estate agent from San Gabriel, Calif. "He's not."

Andrew Gallo was born in Almonte, Calif., on Dec. 10, 1986, to Thomas and Sandra Sagahon. Andrew is the younger of two children, and lived in Baldwin Park, Calif., before Thomas and Sandra divorced when Andrew was 5.

According to his father, Andrew took the divorce especially hard. "I saw a lot of anger," Thomas Gallo said. "He was devastated."

Sandra moved the family to San Bernardino, Calif., when Andrew was 14. Sandra said she was growing her family with her new husband, and they wanted to be closer to his work.

Away from his friends and starting anew, Andrew found the move difficult, according to his mother. "Maybe he was lonely," Sagahon said.

Over the next few years, Andrew bounced between living with Sandra and Thomas, who also had remarried and lived in Covina, Calif. Always moving between two families, Andrew seemed to feel out of place, his family said.

At some point, he began drinking. Thomas Gallo does not allow alcohol in his home, so Andrew usually went out with friends and his stepbrother, Raymond Rivera, who is two years younger than Andrew.

Lilia Gallo, Andrew's stepmother, said Raymond Rivera -- who was with Gallo in the red minivan on the night of the crash -- is an alcoholic, and that Raymond and Andrew are often together. Andrew worked construction jobs while living at home with Thomas. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI for the first time in 2006.

"I didn't think he was out getting into trouble," Sagahon says. "It was an accident. It's not like he was a bad kid or a gang member."

As part of Gallo's plea deal on that arrest, he went to the Bible Tabernacle, a rehabilitation facility in Canyon Country, Calif., which is also a Christian ministry. Bible Tabernacle uses faith instead of therapy to heal. Mario Harper, who runs the facility, said its intent is to put discipline back into men's lives.

Gallo was required to stay at Bible Tabernacle for six months, waking each morning at 5:30, reading his bible for 90 minutes, then working each day as a grounds crew member, raking leaves and taking out trash, among other tasks.

In September, Gallo returned to the Bible Tabernacle. Harper says the family sent him through a friend of the church, but the Gallo family says he went on his own. They said they were shocked when he called them and said he was back in rehab.

At the time, Gallo was unemployed and trying to stay clean. Debra Rivera, Andrew's sister-in-law, says he would come to her house to escape.

"It was sort of a haven for him," she said.

Just a few months into his second stint at the Bible Tabernacle, Gallo was expelled. Harper says he was talking back to the staff, disrespectful of authority.

"A kid with an attitude like that usually ends up in jail," Harper said.

Gallo went home and lived with his father in San Gabriel.

On the night of April 8, he and Raymond Rivera borrowed Thomas Gallo's minivan to drop off a job application at a Sears. The two men then went to The Redwood Inn, a bar in a West Covina strip mall, sometime before 8 p.m. that night, according to Chuck, the owner of the bar who declined to give his last name. Gallo had a shot and a beer, according to Chuck, then left.

He and Rivera walked six doors down to The Well Bar, a watering hole where the bartenders wear bikinis. John Miles, one of the owners, confirmed that Gallo and Rivera were there, drinking Bud Light and leaving around 10 p.m.

Miles said the men "got hammered" elsewhere, and that his bar is not culpable for what happened. "It's a shame what happened to those people," Miles said. "Our system doesn't seem to work."

Where Rivera and Gallo went afterward is unclear. Just over two hours later, they were barreling down Orangethorpe Ave., in Fullerton, almost 30 miles south of West Covina. They collided with Courtney Stewart's silver Mitsubishi Eclipse around 12:20 a.m. PT.

"Those angels that [died] were good people," Sagahon said. "And so [is] my son. He's a wonderful kid.

"I don't want another tragedy like this," she said. "I don't wish this upon nobody, not those parents that lost their three little angels. Would someone want to be in my shoes right now? I don't think so and I don't wish it upon anybody ... We don't want to be there either, and unfortunately, we were put here and left here for a reason for people to see, to react and think before they do."

The Gallo family says Andrew was trying to pull his life together, that he told them he was set to start a new construction job on April 9 -- the day of the accident -- and was talking about long-term goals of owning his own construction company.

That means little to the families of the victims. When Gallo was in an Orange County court Monday, Carrie Stewart-Dixon, mother of Courtney Stewart, brought 16 friends and family with her. All of them were wearing T-shirts with Courtney's picture and her full name written underneath. Carrie entered the courtroom at 2:30 p.m. and walked to the front row, standing up to make sure Gallo saw her. Gallo, wiping his eyes, made eye contact, but never looked up again.

"I wanted him to see her mother," Stewart-Dixon said afterward. "I didn't feel sorry for him in the least. I'm sure his attorney told him to [cry]."

Stewart-Dixon scoffed at the notion this was an accident.

"Accidents happen; when you're drinking and driving it's murder," she said. "You know what you're doing."

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN

Mad as Hell at Teatime

Eugene Robinson
April 17, 2009

The cool, cerebral White House might logically conclude that Wednesday's decidedly uncool, uncerebral "tea bag" protests were intellectually and politically incoherent, and therefore not worth a second thought. That would be a dangerous mistake.

The made-for-television demonstrations in cities across the country were generally small, and the only thing they proved conclusively is that -- you might want to sit down -- some Americans don't much enjoy paying taxes. What the rallies suggested, however, is that opposition to the Obama administration is coalescing into what I would call a Howard Beale Faction, in honor of the choleric anchorman in the movie "Network" whose signature line now seems to have been elevated into philosophy: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Not going to take what anymore? Well, whatever. The occasion was Tax Day, April 15, and clearly there was a lot of anger about taxes. That can't have been the only source of ire, however, since President Obama's policies mean that the vast majority of Americans will be paying less in income taxes, not more. In terms of logical self-interest, only the wealthy should have come out to dump their tea bags and wave their pitchforks.

There was anger at hemorrhagic government spending, and this plotline in the mad-as-hell narrative at least made sense. A neutral observer might point out that the president who should have to answer for this year's astronomical $1.7 trillion deficit is George W. Bush, since this is his budget -- and since he's the one who hid the costs of our two faraway wars and demanded a king's ransom to bail out the banks. But it's not as if Obama is some kind of tightwad, given his decision -- which I support -- to push ahead with new spending on health care, education and energy. And anyway, in the worldview of the Howard Beale Faction, the important distinction isn't between one president and the next. It's between "us" and "them."

Some protesters were mad about measures they feared Obama and the Democratic majorities in Congress might take to strengthen gun control laws. Some were mad about illegal immigration, some about abortion, some about gay marriage. At times, the protests ventured into fantasyland. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, caught up in the excitement of the day, prattled nonsensically about Texas's onetime status as an independent country and how, purportedly, the state had reserved the right to secede.

The protests were all over the map and thus hard to take seriously. A reality check would show that Obama's approval rating is running higher than 60 percent in most recent polls. Surveys indicate that Americans blame Wall Street and the Bush administration for the woeful state of the economy. Generally speaking, the polls show that most Americans are willing to go along with the president's agenda, at least for now, and realize that it will take time to begin seeing results.

But the polls also point to what looks like a reservoir of simmering discontent. For example, according to a CBS News-New York Times survey released last week, 47 percent of respondents were willing to believe that the Obama administration's bailout assistance to the banks would ultimately benefit all Americans, as opposed to 40 percent who believed the money would just benefit the banks. But in that same poll, 58 percent of respondents said they disapproved of the administration's plans to provide financial aid to the banks. In other words: Maybe this is necessary, but we don't like it. Among self-described independent voters, 68 percent disapproved of how the administration was bailing out the banks.

I dwell on this one question buried deep inside one poll because I think it contains a quiet warning -- the same message that could be discerned amid the random noise of the Howard Beale shoutfests. When the economy begins to rebound, Wall Street will come back first -- already, we're seeing some big banks, still bloated with taxpayer funds, reporting healthy profits. After recovery begins, unemployment will almost certainly continue to rise for months until it hits its peak. The mad-as-hell faction may thrive and multiply.

A growing sense of us vs. them, of the little guy vs. the big guy, is out there waiting to be exploited by anyone clever enough to fashion a sophisticated populist critique of the Obama administration's policies. I know it seems crazy to use words like "clever" and "sophisticated" in connection with today's Republican Party, but stranger things have happened.