Archive for the ‘capitalism’ Category

Can American Capitalism Survive?

March 23, 2009

The story of American capitalism is, among other things, a love-hate relationship. We go through cycles of self-congratulation, revulsion and revision. Just when the latest onset of revulsion and revision began is unclear. Was it when Lehman Brothers collapsed? Or when General Motors pleaded for federal subsidies? Or now, when AIG’s bonuses stir outrage? No matter. Capitalism is under siege, its future unclear.

By Robert J. Samuelson
The Washington Post

Schumpeter, one of the 20th century’s eminent economists, believed that capitalism sowed the seeds of its own destruction. Its chief virtue was long-term — the capacity to increase wealth and living standards. But short-term politics would fixate on its flaws — instability, unemployment, inequality. Capitalist prosperity also created an oppositional class of “intellectuals” who would nurture popular discontents and disparage values (self-enrichment, risk-taking) necessary for economic success.

….

Successful capitalism presupposes three conditions: first, the legitimacy of the profit motive — the ability to do well, even fabulously; second, widespread markets that mediate success and failure; and finally, a legal and political system that, aside from establishing property and contractual rights, also creates public acceptance. Note that the last condition modifies the first two, because government can — through taxes, laws and regulations — weaken the profit motive and interfere with markets.

….

Still, the present populist backlash may not end well. The parade of big companies to Washington for rescues, as well as the high-profile examples of unvarnished greed, has spawned understandable anger that could veer into destructive retribution. Congressmen love extravagant and televised displays of self-righteous indignation. The AIG hearing last week often seemed a political gang beating.
If companies need to be rescued from “the market,” why shouldn’t Washington permanently run the market? That’s a dangerous mindset. It justifies punitive taxes, widespread corporate mandates, selective subsidies and meddling in firms’ everyday operations (think the present anti-bonus tax bill). Older and politically powerful companies may benefit at the expense of newer firms. Innovation and investment may be funneled into fashionable but economically dubious projects (think ethanol).

Government inevitably expands in times of economic breakdown…..

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co
ntent/article/2009/03/22/AR200903220
1507.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

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Obama Doesn’t Understand What Many Americans Are Thinking

March 8, 2009

“First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

Words from Barack Obama?  Hardly.  Those are words from Franklin Roosevelt’s first inaugural address.

See:
http://historymatters.gmu.e
du/d/5057/

I am disappointed in my president, our president.

He has changed some really great rhetoric like FDR’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” into this:

“I don’t think that people should be fearful about our future.  I don’t think that people should suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions.”

“I don’t think” indicates an Obama-centric view of the financial turmoil of Americans — not a “people centric” view.

And by guessing at what Americans really do fear, “financial institution,” Obama is saying it is these evil “financial institutions” that many of us do fear.

Well, maybe in Obama World and Obama’s White House, people fear financial institutions because they have no understanding of capitalism, business, the stock market and the American dream.

I am afraid that President Obama has no clue….That’s my fear.  And I resent Him telling me what I think.

I believe generally that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and I also believe in JFK’s famous challenge: “Ask not, what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.”

I also believe in Ronald Reagan’s exoration: “Government is not the solution.  Government is the problem.”

I am afraid now because President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and a lot of other well meaning folks think the government is the solution.

America’s founders wrote down the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the other parts of our national fabric because they were living in fear of a far off all knowing and uncaring English Government.

And their spirit lives today in the saying, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”  Many of us fear such naive, ignorant hubris.

I am starting to fear Washington.  Obama’s Washington.  A far off, all knowing and uncaring government about five miles from my house, which is surrounded by other foreclosed houses.

I really do fear that Obama and many Democrat’s don’t get it.

Just last week, on Tuesday, President Obama, while speaking about the economy and the stock market, mentioned the “profit to earnings ratio.”

And I thought he went to Harvard.  There is no “profit earnings ratio.”  There is a “price to earnings ratio” or PE.  Investors care more about their return on the dollar, reflected in the price they paid and the earnings that resulted.

Tom Petruno wrote in the Los Angeles Times on March 7, “He didn’t get the lingo right, assuming he meant to say ‘price-to-earnings ratios,’ a measure of stock prices relative to earnings per share. That flub caused snickering among market pros.”

See:
Obama, Socialism, Fear, Lack of Confidence: Tanking Stocks, Skyrocketing Debt, Recovery Doomed This Year

I was even more disappointed when the president repeated this ignorant flub in a New York Times interview late in the week.  That meant to me that nobody in the White House was smart enough to straighten out the president by holding a little school call on him.  Or maybe they just don’t know; and don’t read.  They certainly don’t listen.

But they’re thinking about curing all my education and health care problems, undoutedly….

So Obama’s lack of stock market lingo doesn’t mean to me that he slept through high school: it means he has no idea what drives capitalism because he was reading socialist doctrine instead of paying attention to America, as he himself indicates in his books.  Maybe he never invested in anything but himself.

*****

What is wrong with America?  Everything, in Obama World:

“Look, I wish I had the luxury of just dealing with a modest recession or just dealing with health care or just dealing with energy or just dealing with Iraq or just dealing with Afghanistan,” Obama said. “I don’t have that luxury, and I don’t think the American people do, either.”

Related:
From CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITIC
S/03/07/obama.interview/index.html

Related:
 NYT Interviews Obama; No Economic Recovery This Year
.
NYT: After March 6 Economic News, “2009 is Probably a Lost Cause”

Related:
Obama: Crisis is time of ‘great opportunity’

 President Pelosi?

 Obama, Socialism, Fear, Lack of Confidence: Tanking Stocks, Skyrocketing Debt, Recovery Doomed This Year
.
Can Democracy Fail With Obama’s Socialist Help?

*****

It seems to us that the attacks on Rush Limbaugh fromTeam Obama are an effort to tell Americans what to think and what not to think.  This kind of arrogance often manifests itself in unusal ways: Limbaugh’s radio show ratings doubled.

So I really do fear that President Obama and his guys don’t get it….

Democratic Attacks On Limbaugh Boost His Ratings — But He’s Not The Problem

********

I fear that the president doesn’t understand that many of us don’t want to pay more taxes, however they are hidden or veiled and whatever thay are for, many of us DO MIND paying for por, even though Chick Schumer thinks we don’t, and many of DO want to further understanding of the good news/bad news behind such huge spending on health care and other Obama projects.  And I certainly DO WANT to understand how all this government debt will degrade American growth and quality of life in the future.  I don’t like sending money for oil to Saudi Arabia and I don’t like sending debt/interst payments to China eaither….

****************

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama offered his domestic-policy proposals as a “break from a troubled past.” But the economic outlook now is more troubled than it was even in January, despite Obama’s bold rhetoric and commitment of more trillions of dollars.

And while his personal popularity remains high, some economists and lawmakers are beginning to question whether Obama’s agenda of increased government activism is helping, or hurting, by sowing uncertainty among businesses, investors and consumers that could prolong the recession.

Although the administration likes to say it “inherited” the recession and trillion-dollar deficits, the economic wreckage has worsened on Obama’s still-young watch.

Every day, the economy is becoming more and more an Obama economy.

More than 4 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December 2007 — roughly half in the past three months.

Stocks have tumbled to levels not seen since 1997. They are down more than 50 percent from their 2007 highs and 20 percent since Obama’s inauguration.

The president’s suggestion that it was a good time for investors with “a long-term perspective” to buy stocks may have been intended to help lift battered markets. But a big sell-off followed.

Presidents usually don’t talk about the stock market. But the dynamics are different now.

A higher percentage of people have more direct exposure to stocks — including through 401(k) and other retirement plans — than ever.

So a tumbling stock market is adding to the national angst as households see the value of their investments and homes plunge as job losses keep rising.

Some once mighty companies such as General Motors and Citigroup are little more than penny stocks.

Many health care stocks are down because of fears of new government restrictions and mandates as part a health care overhaul. Private student loan providers were pounded because of the increased government lending role proposed by Obama. Industries that use oil and other carbon-based fuels are being shunned, apparently in part because of Obama’s proposal for fees on greenhouse-gas polluters.

Makers of heavy road-building and other construction equipment have taken a hit, partly because of expectations of fewer public works jobs here and globally than first anticipated.

“We’ve got a lot of scared investors and business people. I think the uncertainty is a real killer here,” said Chris Edwards, director of fiscal policy for the libertarian Cato Institute.

Some Democrats, worried over where Obama is headed, are suggesting he has yet to match his call for “bold action and big ideas” with deeds.

In particular, they point to bumpy efforts to fix the financial system under Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Obama may have contributed to the national anxiety by first warning of “catastrophe” if his stimulus plan was not passed and in setting high expectations for Geithner. Instead, Geithner’s public performance has been halting and he’s been challenged by lawmakers of both parties.

Republicans and even some top Democrats, including Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, have questioned the wisdom of Obama’s proposal to limit tax deductions for higher-income people on mortgage interest and charitable contributions.

Charities have strongly protested, saying times already are tough enough for them. The administration suggests it might back off that one.

Even White House claims that its policies will “create” or “save” 3.5 million jobs have been questioned by Democratic supporters.

“You created a situation where you cannot be wrong,” the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Montana Democrat Max Baucus, told Geithner last week.

“If the economy loses 2 million jobs over the next few years, you can say yes, but it would’ve lost 5.5 million jobs. If we create a million jobs, you can say, well, it would have lost 2.5 million jobs,” Baucus said. “You’ve given yourself complete leverage where you cannot be wrong, because you can take any scenario and make yourself look correct.”

Republicans assert that Obama’s proposals, including the “cap and trade” fees on polluters to combat global warming, would raise taxes during a recession that could touch everyone. “Herbert Hoover tried it, and we all know where that led,” says House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.

The administration argues its tax increases for the households earning over $250,000 a year and fees on carbon polluters contained in its budget won’t kick in until 2011-2012, when it forecasts the economy will have fully recovered.

But even those assumptions are challenged as too rosy by many private forecasters and some Democratic lawmakers.

Many deficit hawks also worry that the trillions of federal dollars being doled out by the administration, Congress and the Federal Reserve could sow the seeds of inflation down the road, whether the measures succeed in taming the recession or not. The money includes Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget and the $837 billion stimulus package he signed last month.

Polls show that Obama’s personal approval ratings, generally holding in the high 60s, remain greater than support for his specific policies.

“He still has a fair amount of political capital, so the public is willing to cut him some slack and go along with him for a while,” said pollster Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. “But the public will have to get some sense that the kinds of things he’s proposing are going to work, or are showing some signs that they are working.”

Allan Sinai, chief global economist for Decision Economics, a Boston-area consulting firm, said the complexity and enormity of the crisis make it hard to solve.

“There’s no way to get it all right, regardless of which president is making policy,” Sinai said. “The problem is the sickness got too far. The actions taken, medicine applied, were mainly the wrong actions. So it’s just worse, and it gets harder to deal with. At this stage, there is no easy answer, no easy way out. It’s a question of how we fumble through.”

http://michellemalkin.com/2009/03/07/tea-part
y-on-taxpayer-revolts-in-green-bay-lafayette-olat
he-and-harrisburg/

Obama, Socialism, Fear, Lack of Confidence: Tanking Stocks, Skyrocketing Debt, Recovery Doomed This Year

March 7, 2009
This has the feel of a full scale assault on capitalism….

Some investors and pundits blame Obama for the market’s dismal performance. He inherited a mess, but his rhetoric isn’t helping.
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Obama’s Radicalism Is Killing the Stock Market

NYT: After March 6 Economic News, “2009 is Probably a Lost Cause”

Tom Petruno, Market Beat
Los Angeles Times
March 7, 2009
The stock market is supposed to be a bet on the future.

The market’s verdict so far this year: There is no future.

The continuing meltdown in share prices, the worst since the Great Depression, now has become Exhibit A in the political battle between the Obama administration and its harshest critics.

Conservative pundits including Rush Limbaugh and CNBC-TV’s Larry Kudlow assert that the president is waging war against capitalism itself, with his tax-hike proposals, social programs and banker-bashing rhetoric. That has sent disillusioned investors fleeing, they contend.

Well, something has. After diving 38% last year, share prices are down 24% just since Jan. 1, as measured by the Standard & Poor’s index of 500 big-name issues.

Despite a slight uptick on Friday, stocks plummeted 7% this week alone.

An outside view of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall street. ...

The decline from the market’s peak in October 2007 now is 56.3% — the steepest drop since the plunge of 1938 to 1942, when no less than the future of democracy was at stake.

“I think everybody is afraid of Obama,” said Todd Leone, a veteran stock trader at Cowen & Co. in New York. “They’re afraid he’s a socialist.”

Yes, the S-word.

Others say the market is more upset with the administration’s failure to stabilize the ravaged banking system — a Herculean task that Wall Street had hoped would be the first major challenge the White House tackled.

“Every time Obama talks about something like healthcare, the market’s reaction is — ‘No, the banking crisis!’ ” said Jeffrey Schappe, investment chief at BB&T Asset Management in Raleigh, N.C.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner still hasn’t provided specifics on his plan to get rotting loans off the balance sheets of major banks, a step seen as crucial to jump-starting new lending.

For his part, the president this week advised investors to look beyond what he called “day-to-day gyrations” in share prices.

He then ventured into territory where few other presidents have gone. Perhaps taking a cue from fellow Democrat Warren E. Buffett, Obama offered an opinion on whether stocks were bargains.

“What you’re now seeing is profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal, if you’ve got a long-term perspective on it,” he said Tuesday.

He didn’t get the lingo right, assuming he meant to say “price-to-earnings ratios,” a measure of stock prices relative to earnings per share. That flub caused snickering among market pros.

Read the rest:
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-
fi-petruno7-2009mar07,0,869176.column

Related:
 Can Democracy Fail With Obama’s Socialist Help?

George W. Obama?

Related:
 Venezuela’s Chavez Urges Obama, U.S. Down Socialist Path

Obama’s Radicalism Is Killing the Stock Market

NYT: After March 6 Economic News, “2009 is Probably a Lost Cause”

Obama’s First Weeks: Economic Disaster, Socialist Agenda,

Task No 1 for Barack Obama: reinvent capitalism

January 21, 2009

The words “Remaking America” were splashed yesterday across the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times and almost every other paper in the US. This kind of unanimity in the press corps is not coincidental – “Remaking America” was the phrase the President’s media machine wanted to emphasise. Why?

“Remaking America” is President Obama’s riposte to the slogan of populist conservatism through the ages: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This do-nothing mentality was taken to its logical extreme by George W. Bush and his doltish Administration, whose epitaph should be the P.J.O’Rourke quip: “The Republicans are a party who believe that government doesn’t work and get themselves elected to prove it.”

To have any hope of repairing the ruin left behind by the Bush Administration, President Obama must first convince the 45 per cent of the population who voted against him that America really is broke. Not only is the US trapped, as Mr Obama noted, in a geopolitical quagmire and the worst recession in living memory. But behind both of these dreadful things lurks a horror even more existentially shocking: the entire politico-economic model of free enterprise, rugged individualism and small government on which America built its global hegemony seems to have broken down. How else can one describe a situation in which all of the country’s main financial institutions and many of its biggest industrial companies are effectively bankrupt and on government life-support?

The crisis triggered by September’s bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers appears to have discredited many of the assumptions on which American prosperity and democracy was founded. In this sense, it really is possible to compare the credit crunch, as Ed Miliband did last weekend, to the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1989 the world, from China and Russia to South Africa, India and Brazil, concluded that there was no serious alternative to market forces as a means of organising productive activity. In 2009 the whole world seems to have reached the opposite conclusion – that free markets and financial incentives lead even the richest and most sophisticated societies to disaster.

There is, however, a crucial difference between these two pivotal years and this brings us to the positive side of President Obama’s message. Communism was a monolithic and inflexible system that worked against the grain of human nature and had to be brutally imposed. Capitalism, by contrast, is a constantly evolving and organic set of human relationships. It advances by trial and error and takes a myriad different forms. Thus the demise of the post-1989 fundamentalist faith in market forces as the solution to all social problems now offers Mr Obama the chance to preside over a new evolution of American capitalism into a more stable and ultimately more successful form. Creating this new kind of capitalism will be the most important challenge of the Obama presidency and beyond.

But two features of this evolutionary process can already be suggested. First, it is clear that America will continue to lead the world, not only as a military power and technological innovator but also as a model of economic management. The idea that Anglo-American capitalism will give way to a European or Asian model is already crumbling, as Germany, Japan and China discover that their economies are even more dependent on American (and British) consumers, mortgage markets and financial institutions than the Americans themselves. With the US likely to start recovering this year, while Europe and Japan remain mired in recession, American economic management will again be seen as a model around the world, instead of a cautionary tale.

Second, America’s new leadership will encourage much more pragmatic thinking around the world about when market mechanisms are useful and when they are useless, about the right balance between the profit motive and social objectives, and about the relative efficiency of private and public enterprises.

This may sound abstract, but such a shift in US ideology will have profound practical effects. Once it is understood, for example, that financial markets often send perverse signals about values, whether of houses, mortgages or barrels of oil, new solutions to the credit crisis will become possible. In America many homeowners will have their mortgages reduced and guaranteed by government. Such mortgage writedowns have been stridently opposed by bank lobbyists and Republicans for ideological reasons, yet they are likely to save many banks from going bust. More generally, there is likely to be recognition that many problems demand non-market solutions and that financial incentives are neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve social ends.

This doesn’t mean, however, that the State will necessarily grow. As President Obama said on Tuesday: “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.”

This injunction brought to mind Philanthrocapitalism, a fascinating book by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green. It describes the varying approaches of billionaires who spend extraordinary sums of their own money to achieve social ends, such as Bill Gates’s campaign against malaria or George Soros’s promotion of “open societies” in former communist dictatorships. The book’s main conclusion is that these efforts could serve as models for broader collaboration between government and private enterprise, whether charitable or not.

As the book notes, the most important asset that these hands-on philanthrocapitalists bring to their foundations is not just money but a way of thinking, specifically that “society’s biggest problems have to be addressed in a businesslike way in the sense of a serious focus on results; understanding where scarce resources have the most impact; a determination quickly to scale up solutions that work and a toughness in shutting down those that do not”.

Given that many of the people now joining the Obama Administration, including the President, have spent large parts of their careers in the non-profit sectors, philanthrocapitalism may well be an idea whose time has come for the new model of US capitalism that the President must now invent.

More generally, financial regulation and macroeconomic management will surely now recognise that naive theories about “efficient” financial markets and the statistical models they spawned were a major cause of the entire financial disaster. It will still be capitalism, but Obamanomics will not try to rebuild America on the principle that “markets are always right”.

Europeans Deplore Huge Debts, Spending to Solve Current Economic Crisis

January 8, 2009

The head of Europe‘s biggest economy said Thursday that world leaders should be looking at the massive U.S. deficit and other economic imbalances, not just problems caused by financial markets, as they debate a new global order.

Speaking at a conference in Paris on the future of capitalism, German Chancellor Angela Merkel singled out the American budget deficit and China‘s current account surplus — the difference between exports and imports — as problems upsetting the global economy.

“We would be making an error if we were content to look solely at financial markets,” she said.

She deplored huge debts that governments are accumulating to spend their way out of the present crisis. But she said she recognized, for the moment, that “there is no other possibility.”

By EMMA VANDORE and GREG KELLER, AP Business Writers

French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech at the symposium ... 
French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech at the symposium ‘New World, New Capitalism’ in Paris Thursday Jan. 8, 2009. Sarkozy and former British prime minister Tony Blair host a conference on the financial crisis focusing on values and development. Sarkozy has hit out at financial speculators for having ‘perverted’ capitalism, which he said Thursday should be overhauled with a new role for governments and moral values.(AP Photo/Philippe Wojazer/Pool)

A Congressional Budget Office report estimates that the U.S. federal budget deficit will hit an unparalleled $1.2 trillion for the 2009 budget year — and that is before President-elect Barack Obama’s sweeping stimulus package is calculated. European governments have agreed to be flexible about budget rules that limit deficits to 3 percent of gross domestic product as recession bites.

Merkel said the International Monetary Fund has not managed to regulate global capitalism, and she called for the creation of an economy body at the United Nations, similar to the Security Council, to judge government policy.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, leading the two-day conference with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, blamed financial speculators for encouraging a system fueled on debt. He called financial capitalism based on speculation “an immoral system” that has “perverted the logic of capitalism.”

“It’s a system where wealth goes to the wealthy, where work is devalued, where production is devalued, where entrepreneurial spirit is devalued,” he said.

 

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090108/
ap_on_bi_ge/eu_france_new_capitalism

Republican Chasm: RNC Will Condemn Bush Bailouts

December 30, 2008

In what would amount to a slap in the face to a sitting Republican president and the party’s Senate and House leaders, national GOP officials, including the vice chairman of the Republican National Committee, are sponsoring a resolution opposing the resort to “socialist” means to save capitalism.

“We can’t be a party of small government, free markets and low taxes while supporting bailouts and nationalizing industries, which lead to big government, socialism and high taxes at the expense of individual liberty and freedoms,” said Solomon Yue, a cosponsor of a resolution that would put the RNC — the party’s national governing body — on the record as opposing the U.S. government bailouts of the financial and auto industries.

By Ralph Z. Hallow
The Washington Times

Republican National Vice Chairman and constitutional law attorney James Bopp Jr. authored the resolution and is asking the rest of the 168 voting members of the committee to sign it.

“The resolution also opposes President-elect Obama’s proposed public works program and supports conservative alternatives,” while encouraging the RNC “to engage in vigorous public policy debates consistent with our party platform,” Mr. Bopp said.

The RNC has never played a leading policy role or any policy role except once every four years in framing the national party platform, which is quickly forgotten and almost never referred to for another four years.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/
dec/30/rnc-pushes-unprecedented-criticism-of-bailouts/

Saving Capitalism No Sure Thing If “Cure” Undermines Economy

December 22, 2008

What’s good for General Motors may not ultimately be best for the global economy.

The Bush administration’s $13.4 billion rescue of GM and Chrysler is a fitting finish to a year in which governments around the world expanded their role in the economy and markets after three decades of retreat.

The intervention comes at what may prove to be a steep price. Future investment may be allocated less efficiently as risk-averse politicians make business decisions. Whenever banks decide to lend again, they are likely to find new capital requirements that will curb how freely they can do it. Interest rates may be pushed up by government borrowing to finance trillions of dollars of bailouts.

“We’re seeing a more statist world economy,” says Ken Rogoff, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and now a professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “That’s not good for growth in the longer run.”

It’s not good for stocks either, says Paola Sapienza, associate professor of finance at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Slower economic growth means lower profits. Shares might also be hurt by investor uncertainty about the scope and timing of government intervention in the corporate sector.

“If the rules of the game are changing, people are reluctant to invest in the stock market,” Sapienza says.

From Bloomberg
By Simon Kennedy, Matthew Benjamin and Rich Miller

Read the rest:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pi
d=washingtonstory&sid=aDjmuEpDoctc