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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

U.S. Soldier Accused of Afghan Massacre; University Hater Heads To Campus; Professor Explains Critical Race Theory; Flight Attendant Freaks Out

Aired March 12, 2012 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody.

Our STARTING POINT this morning: a cold-blooded rampage. A U.S. soldier apparently targeting women and children as they slept in an Afghan village. And now, the Taliban is vowing revenge.

What made this soldier snap? We'll take a look at that this morning.

Also, it's sort of like "The Daily Show" of Iran, reaching millions of Iranians inside and outside the country, despite the fact that Iran has banned the show. This morning, we'll tell you about the man behind show that's fighting to end Internet censorship.

And this guy, Peter Field, has said, go ahead and skip college. It's not worth your time and now he's headed to college to be a professor. And it looks like his classes are jammed.

It is Monday, March 12. STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're listening to Marc Lamont Hill's playlist, the Kindred, "Far Away." Like that, easy getting into the 8:00 hour.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes.

Also on our panel this morning is Maggie Haberman. She's a political reporter for "Politico". Marc Lamont Hill is a professor at Columbia University. He's rejoining our panel. And Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform, also has his book.

I love when you bring the book out to set. It's got a long title. The title of it, very clear how you feel. It's called "Debacle: Obama's War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future." This is Grover's book. It's a great book.

We had you on a few weeks ago when we were in a diner, was that in D.C.?

GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: D.C.

O'BRIEN: We were in D.C. together. Now he's in the studio.

We're talking our top story about this attack in Afghanistan. It's just about 3:30 in the afternoon in Afghanistan. It's where American leaders are trying to calm the outrage after a massacre by what seems to be just one American soldier. The Taliban is already vowing revenge.

The killings took place early yesterday morning in Kandahar province, in the district considered to be the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban. The suspect is a sergeant in his mid-30s served several tours of duty in Iraq, three.

But a U.S. military official is saying that he is on his first deployment to Afghanistan. Apparently, allegedly, he shot and killed nine children, three women and four men before he returned to his base and surrendered.

President Obama has called the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, offering his condolences. Karzai, though, is furious, saying the killings were intentional, and, quote, "acts of terror and unforgivable."

Let's get right to Barbara Starr. She's live at the Pentagon for us this morning.

Hey, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Very tough business. Right now, what we can tell you is the full investigation is under way. The Army CID, the criminal investigative command, they have special agents on the ground at the scene starting to conduct the investigation. These are some of the most highly trained military investigators.

The suspect remains in Afghanistan. They are not saying where he is due to safety concerns. They are not saying if and when they will bring him back to the United States. They are also telling us officially they will not release his name unless charges are brought against him. That could be sometime off.

But, of course, we're all endeavoring to learn more about this man and what made him do this. He walked away from his base in the early morning hours, conducting this crime by all accounts, and then simply walked back in -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr, I'm sure the details come out in this case. It's going to be shocking. Already what we know is already surprising. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us this morning. Thank you, Barbara.

Let's get to Jim Frederick. He is the international editor at "TIME" magazine, also, of course, the author of "Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death."

In that book, you examine the 101st Airborne Division, which is known as the Black Heart Brigade. And you talked about sort of what really made some of these service men snap, I guess, for lack of a better word.

When you hear this case, or what do you start thinking about?

JIM FREDERICK, TIME MAGAZINE: Excuse me. Well, actually I start thinking about a couple things. First and foremost is leadership. How is a single sergeant able to just walk away from a base and return back, you know, a couple minutes or a couple of hours later.

There are supposed to be processes in place, where this is not allowed to happen. It's inconceivable that a soldier could just walk off of a base. So, the first thing is leadership and then the second thing is the obvious, you know, adverse effects that do come about from repeated tour of duty after tour of duty after tour of duty.

It is -- the literature is very clear that there are negative implications for prolonged combat and nothing can absolve this soldier from committing the act that he committed. But at the same time, there are supposed to be processes and, you know, combat psychologists in place to get soldiers who are at risk to civilians out of the theater of command like that.

O'BRIEN: You did many, many interviews in Iraq because your book, of course, was based around what was happening in Iraq. This obviously is Afghanistan. But you had a lot of questions about the psychology of why.

In the book, you described a unit that was undermanned, lots of casualties, lots of stress. They started to hate the people -- the very people they were supposed to be protecting.

What role did that play in what happened in the case that you wrote about and where do you see potentially sort of correlations to what we are just beginning to hear about out of Afghanistan?

FREDERICK: Well, yes. I mean, the correlations are very distinct. I think the biggest problem that you have when you see atrocities committed by U.S. service members is with when there's an adversarial relationship set up between the people and the military. You know, this -- the war crime that I wrote about was a good year, before counterinsurgency practices really took place, the main thrust of the military was to protect and to keep the people safe from insurgents in Iraq.

I think part of what you've seen over the past couple of months in Afghanistan is a real deterioration of the mission there. This is coming after the Koran burning incident and this is really a worse case scenario. This is the last thing the administration needs right now because what you see is when the people and the military see each other as enemies, you are ripe for occasions to happen like this.

O'BRIEN: So what else do you want to hear about this guy? There's very little that we know. Thirty-eight years old, two kids, four tours, three of them in Iraq. This is his first tour in Afghanistan. He's married apparently.

But beyond that, not a lot that we know. What else would you like to know first and foremost?

FREDERICK: Well, first and foremost, I want to know everything about him and his psychology. I want to know everything about his tour of duty.

The second thing I want to know is where was his platoon sergeant? Where was his platoon leader? Where was his squad leader? Is he a squad leader?

The U.S. Army is set up so that -- the U.S. Army doesn't like to maneuver in anything less than a squad which is about 10 or 11 men if it can help it. It likes to go out in platoons, 40 men. The entire Army is set up so that a soldier is never supposed to be alone.

Usually that's for the soldier's own health and welfare to protect the soldier. But also, it has a side benefit that things like this are never supposed to happen because a soldier is never supposed to venture out alone.

So, that's -- the thing I'm really looking for is to where was the rest of his unit and how did he get out of the base?

O'BRIEN: There's going to be so many more details in this story obviously. It's just coming to us, those details.

Thank you for joining us this morning. We appreciate your time.

FREDERICK: Thanks very much.

O'BRIEN: Other stories making headlines this morning. Carlos Diaz has those.

Good morning, again.

CARLOS DIAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Regrettably, we start with a different massacre that happened in Syria. Syria was rocked by this vicious massacre -- 45 women and children slaughtered in the city of Homs. Rebels say government troops went house to house stabbing women and children and then burning their bodies. Syria's government is blaming the killings on armed terrorists groups.

The tragedy fell just hours after former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan left Syria. Annan spent two days in talks with Syria's President Bashar al Assad, proposing an end to violent crackdowns.

Invisible Children, the group behind the viral "Kony 2012" video, which has exploded on the web with close to 73 million views, is expected to release another video today. This one to answer critics who question the group's management and motives. The video is posted to bring attention to atrocities committed by Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. One of Kony's victims has said the video turned him into a celebrity in the U.S.

The race for the Republican nomination shifts to the Deep South today. Mitt Romney will be campaigning in Alabama and Mississippi with comedian Jeff Foxworthy by his side. Those two states host primaries tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum is sounding confident after conservative voters delivered him a win in Kansas on Saturday. He's hoping the same thing happens in Alabama and Mississippi tomorrow.

Right now, here's the latest CNN estimate. It has Romney with 458 delegates. Santorum with 203. Newt Gingrich as 118 delegates. Ron Paul with 66.

All right. Fill out your brackets today and then tear them up on Thursday night. It's March Madness. And the selections have been made.

The NCAA tournament is set. Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina, Michigan State, all earning top seeds in their regions. Now, Kentucky is the favorite to go all the way. The number one seed in the tournament.

Keep in mind, the madness begins on Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio. Not on Thursday. Tuesday night.

So, you got to get your brackets in early at work. The final four is in New Orleans this year -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Rip them up because everything will change. I love the come from behind stories. The Gonzagas that you just rooting for the team.

DIAZ: You picked them to go far this year.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I cursed them because I always -

DIAZ: The coach from Gonzaga is about --

O'BRIEN: Call me back right now, don't pick me please.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT: a billionaire investor who's paid kids to drop out of college and start a business and who also called college a waste of time and money is now teaching at Stanford. We'll tell you why.

Also, they call "The Daily Show" of Iran. It's banned in Iran. The creator says he can't be censored. He's fighting back. We'll tell you what he's doing.

And we're going to leave you with Maggie Haberman's playlist. Who is this, Maggie?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: I'm not going to attempt to pronounce the last name.

O'BRIEN: We call him Iz here on the set. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Listen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Yes. That's not STARTING POINT. That is what some people are calling "The Daily Show of Iran." It's called "Pazarit" and it -- "Parazit," excuse me "Parazit," outlawed in Iran, but people pick it up there on illegal satellites, and they also download it illegally online. There's a longer clip that's translated. You can read along, but the emotion out of it is clear enough. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Saman Arbabi is the co-creator. He's also the executive producer of "Parazit," and he joins us from South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. This is where we were on Friday. Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us. So, tell me what the clip was about, because I know even Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" has said your version of "The Daily Show" is absolutely hilarious.

That was sort of hard for me to understanding, and I couldn't read the subtitles. What was that clip about?

SAMAN ARBABI, CO-CREATOR & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "PARAZIT": Good morning, and thanks for having me. Basically, this is a typical show for us. Every week, we just collect all of the crazy stuff that the government talks about and airs on their state media, and we, basically, just kind of air the clip, and then, just add a couple bridges to it, and we put it together and show the craziness and the hypocrisy within the government when it comes to everything.

O'BRIEN: Your show launched in 2009 before the Iranian elections. You used to work as a war correspondent for the "Voice of America." Why do you think your show has been so incredibly popular?

ARBABI: It's extremely popular now simply because humor is really one way -- comedy is really one way to really fight oppressive regimes and tyrant governments like Iran. We've seen it work in the West with shows like "The Daily Show" and if it works here, it should definitely work in the east.

Humor tends to disarm people, and when you take away the threatening attitude of, you know, words like war and hawkish hosts that we have in many shows, when you put that aside and make fun of yourself, people become more receptive to the information that you're giving them, and they get to enjoy it, and also, it makes them think about the issue that you are talking about and bringing up.

O'BRIEN: You're banned in Iran, but many people are able to find you by illegal downloads or illegal satellite dishes. You got this new campaign, which is the reason you're at South by Southwest. Tell me a little bit about this campaign and why you're doing it.

ARBABI: The campaign is a global art project, actually. It's about internet censorship around the world. There are some advocacy groups out there who are providing a lot of information, and they are very active about this, but no one has ever done anything like this as an art project. As a matter of fact, we got (INAUDIBLE) help to design the art work for us to create this little box telling the world that you can't censor me.

We're still watching you. And basically, internet freedom is our right. It's every person's right to have. The whole world is seeing each other, we're watching each other, and what we saw in Iran in 2009, the Arab spring, and even projects like KONY 2012. This is all because of the internet.

It allows people -- it empowers people to organize and make a big difference around the world and makes people connect and understand what's going on, and no government should ever be allowed to take that away from us, and that's what we're trying to do.

We're trying to raise awareness and take awareness into action, policy changes, corporate responsibility and that kind of stuff. So, that's how this is all about, and we created the website. It's called weaponsofmousedestruction.org. And mouse like the mouse you actually click on for your computer.

O'BRIEN: People can also check out the show online as well, Parazitt and Saman Arbabi joining us this morning, executive producer, nice to see you. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

ARBABI: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

ARBABI: Thanks.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, a superstar investor, a billionaire, who has dismissed college as a waste of time and money has even offered students cash to drop out is now a professor at Stanford University. We'll talk about what's changed his mind. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: That's Estelle featuring Rick Ross, "Break My Heart." Marc Lamont Hill, I like that. I like that.

MARC LAMONT HILL, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIV.: I'm going to loan you my iPod.

O'BRIEN: Yes. That would be really nice.

HILL: (INAUDIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I can see that. I can totally see that. Silicon Valley superstar Peter Thiel says he thinks college is a waste of time and money. That's literally what he has said, but now, he's teaching a course at Stanford University. He graduated from Stanford with two degrees then went on to found PayPal and has made a fortune off of his investments in Facebook and other companies.

He argues, though, that young people should skip college, which leaves them with crushing debt and instead start their own companies. And in fact, he was even, at one point, offering $100,000 to young entrepreneurs if they dropped out of school to pursue their dreams.

Well, Thiel is going to teach a class this spring about computer start-ups. He says he wants to reach out to people in different spaces. He also says, if I do my job right, this is the last class you will ever have to take.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I think it's interesting, but you know, it does seem to undermine the whole theory.

HILL: It's a big hustle.

O'BRIEN: Oh, he doesn't need a hustle. Give me a break. The man is a zillionaire.

HILL: The billionaires like for the love of the hustle. It's unprincipled hustle man. It's a college professor.

NORQUIST: He has a point. For some people, it's a waste of time before you go to do something else. For others, it's been useful. I guess, his point is for some people just go do what you want to do.

O'BRIEN: Then, wouldn't it be great to learn from a guy who's done it, and then, you really could if you were the kind of person who could drop out of school and not, you know, pay tuition and instead funnel that into a business.

HILL: It's such bad advice.

O'BRIEN: For some people.

HABERMAN: Not for everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: We thought you were just on the panel.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: It's all coming very clear, isn't it?

HILL: I need a job.

(LAUGHTER)

NORQUIST: 700,000 professors in this country. 700,000.

It beats working. I mean, the problem is, I have 30 students who may drop out in a semester, I mean, in a year at every college I ever taught at. And what happens is 29 of them end up waiting tables. One of the ends up being super successful.

O'BRIEN: Right, but he's not talking about goals (ph). He's talking about people who have an idea that they think can turn realistically into a business. They're not talking about people saying, listen, I just can't afford school anymore, and so, I'm going to drop out and go get a job.

HILL: That's what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about people with financial problems. I'm talking about people who say I have a great idea, I'm going to be a great actor. I have this great invention. I have this great thing, and most of them aren't good ideas, you know?

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: All right. Still ahead --

NORQUIST: Some people get to the grade and still waiting, too.

HILL: That's true.

HABERMAN: That's also very true.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes. Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, the House Speaker Boehner says some of the dumbest people in America are members of Congress. That's not all he said. We'll let you know.

Also, controversy over critical race theory was reignited by Breitbart.com editor-in-chief, Joel Pollak, who joined us on this show. We're kind of win at it for a little bit. We're going to take a closer look at racism and the law straight ahead.

And a flight from Dallas to Chicago, do you hear this story? Starts off perfectly fine. That shrieking, that's the flight attendant. And she starts saying I'm not responsible for this plane crashing. Several times. Oh, my gosh.

It's -- the video was terrible, but the story is unbelievable. We're going to talk this morning to a guy who helped hold down, pin down the flight attendant on this flight that was heading to Chicago. You're watching STARTING POINT where we got to take a break. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: This is Arcade Fire ready to start but no one is taking credit for it. We'll assign it to Ryan. We've got stories making headlines this morning. Let's get right to Carlos Diaz for those. DIAZ: The story you guys have been talking about all morning long, Soledad, the Taliban is vowing revenge for the killing of 16 Afghan civilians. The house to house shooting spree took place early Sunday morning in the Kandahar province. U.S. military officials say that one American soldier is responsible. The Taliban releasing a statement calling the attack the work of "sick-minded American savages" who committed a, quote, "blood-soaked and inhumane crime."

Are high gas prices hurting President Obama? The new national average for a gallon of regular has risen to $3.80 a gallon. President Obama's disapproval rating is rising too. A new "The Washington Post"/ABC poll shows that 50 percent disapprove of the job and 59 percent of his handling of the economy and a whopping 65 percent disapprove of the handling of the rising gas prices.

John Boehner says he has to be a big brother, a father and a disciplinarian as well as the dean of students when dealing with the members of the House of Representatives. The speaker making headlines with an interview he gave to "The Wall Street Journal" columnist Peggy Noonan. Here's some of what he said about his colleagues in the House, quote, "We've got 435 members. It's just a slice of America. It really is. We've got some of the smartest people in the country who serve here and some of the dumbest. We've got some of the best people you would ever meet and some of the raunchiest. We've got them all." Apparently it's like where you work. Everyone is different.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: It's like I'm in charge of all of these crazy children. Thank you. Appreciate that.

Last week we had a lot of feedback on a debate we had about critical race theory. It was brought back into the spotlight, the academic theory that nobody was talking about, brought into the spotlight by Breitbart.com editor in chief Joe Pollak, who was on our show talking about what he called a bombshell, a video that was released by the website. The video shows a hug between then Harvard Law School student Barack Obama and Professor Derrick Bell, one of the founders of critical race theory. On this show Pollak implied or nearly said that Bell was a radical because he helped develop his theory. We got into debate about exactly what critical race theory is. Here's a little chunk of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's a complete misreading. I'll let you continue. But that is a complete misreading of critical race theory. That's an actual theory. You could Google it and that would give you a good definition of it.

JOEL POLLAK, BREITBART.COM EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: In what way is it a critical misreading? Explain to your readers what critical race theory is.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to ask you to continue on. I'll point out that is inaccurate. Keep going. Tell me what the bombshell is. POLLAK: You made a claim that my characterization of critical race theory as opposite of Martin Luther King is inaccurate. You tell your viewers that.

O'BRIEN: Critical race theory looks into the intersection of race and politics and the law. As a legal academic who would study this and write about this, he would advance the theory about what exactly happened when the law was examined in terms of racial politics. There is no white supremacy in that. It's a theory. It's an academic theory and one of the leading academics at Harvard Law School, he was one of the people that was part of that conversation so that's a short definition of it.

POLLAK: I'm glad we got you saying that on tape because that's a complete misrepresentation. Critical race theory is all about white supremacy. Critical race theory holds that civil rights laws are ineffective and racial equality is impossible because the legal and constitutional system --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: It started there and went downhill from there. Let's bring in Dorothy Brown. She's a professor of law at Emory University and she teaches critical race theory. She literally wrote the book by that same name. I am going to have you walk us through the whole conversation. So first of all, give us a one-on-one in terms of understanding. What is critical race theory?

DOROTHY BROWN, PROFESSOR OF LAW, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Critical race theory seeks to explain judicial decisions by asking the question what does race have to do with it? It's that simple, that straightforward. There's no hidden conspiracy theory behind it. It looks at race in America. And we know through our history that race has had a lot to do with judicial decisions and statutes.

O'BRIEN: OK, then when we had that conversation, which you were just listening to, and it went on and on and on for at least 10 minutes, one of the things you heard Mr. Pollak say that it's about white supremacy. You teach this theory. You have written a book about it. Is it about that?

BROWN: No, it's nothing about white supremacy. When I hear white supremacy I think of the Ku Klux Klan. Critical race theory is the opposite of that. So honestly, I have no idea what he was talking about.

O'BRIEN: When you look at Wikipedia entries and did you know from the time we've done that back and forth to today, the Wikipedia entry has been changed 82 times. By the way, I haven't touched the Wikipedia entry. I have other stuff to do. Are you surprised that there is this parsing of the Wikipedia? Is it a theory that's so nuance that there are various interpretations of it?

BROWN: I would say there are various interpretations to this extent. There are lots of critical race theorists at different ends of the spectrum. If you got five of us in a room, we might get into a fight about what critical race theory was, but no one would say it's about white supremacy. We agree on that.

O'BRIEN: So Mr. Pollak also said the theory holds that, quote, "the civil rights movement was a sham," and in one of the conversations we had we talked about how bell was criticized by some black leaders and he also was critical of them. Would he also have said that civil rights movement was a sham or that Brown vs. Board of Education was a sham?

BROWN: He wouldn't say it was a sham. But he has been very critical of civil rights cases like Brown vs. Board of Education. And his argument was the solution did not get the children what the children need. So perhaps the lawyers in the cases didn't spend enough time talking to the parents. So Professor Bell's argument is, you know, maybe if we had gotten fully funded separate but equal that might have been a better alternate to what we have today.

O'BRIEN: When you look at Breitbart.com, this is one of the thing that was written -- "We can see the clear footprint of critical race theory all over the Obama administration" because this theory was really a conversation that they have been trying to connect it to President Obama's embrace of Derrick Bell, who was one of the founders of the theory. It goes on to say "President Obama obviously believes the system is unjust, upholding racism and requiring 'community organizing' to change it in earth-shaking ways." Do you see a footprint of CRT all over the Obama administration which we are several years in now?

BROWN: No. I see no footprints. I see no vapors. I see none of critical race theory in President Obama, either his writings or what he's actually done in office. I am dumbstruck by that statement.

O'BRIEN: What do you think is going on here? The conversation -- I know you read the transcript. I think we have it online so for anyone who missed can go back on. What is going on? It got very heated.

BROWN: Yes, I believe what's going on is the person that was on your show wasn't going to be persuaded by the facts. He was going to make his own facts up. So when he makes statements like that, there's no evidence in support of it. He talks, if I recall, the attorney general's office doing something but it wasn't anything specific. So I look at this as a smear tactic.

O'BRIEN: Derrick Bell died last year. I think he was in his early 80s, I believe. I never knew the guy. I just read his book, "Ethical Ambition." I thought it was a good book. What do you think he would think of all this? Would he turn over in his grave right now or not care?

BROWN: I think Derrick would be laughing right now for a number of reasons, one of which is this is just silly, the second of which is, wow, he would say, critical race theory has gone mainstream. They're talking about us. For all of his life people didn't talk about critical race theory. God rest his soul. He's passed on. We're now talking about critical race theory and Derrick Bell being the founder of critical race theory. O'BRIEN: He's not on the receiving end of the crazy tweets that I've been getting about critical race theory as well.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: I'm sure not.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for joining us this morning. We certainly appreciate it.

BROWN: Thank you for having me.

O'BRIEN: Critical race theory 101. Stop tweeting me. We have moved on, people.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, as the cost of higher education sky rockets, students and their parents are questioning the value. Are student loans the next big problem for American families? We'll discuss that.

And a flight attendant's breakdown caught on tape. Listen to hear shrieking. She says "We're going to crash! We're going to crash!" They haven't left the ground yet, thank god. We're going to talk this morning to one passenger who helped restrain the flight attendant on the plane. He's going to join us live straight ahead.

You're watching STARTING POINT. Short break and we're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. This is off Christine Roman's playlist, The Killers, "Read My Mind."

The high cost of education is what we're talking about. Increasingly parents are questioning the value of a degree. In today's "Smart is the New Rich" Christine takes a look at whether student loans are the next big problem, the next big bust for families.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: You might think the problem is already here, because you look at the new study from a bankruptcy group that student debt is a bomb that at this rate feels like the next mortgage debt crisis in this country. It's a conclusion of the study of bankruptcy attorneys who found for the first time parents are the fast growing group of borrowers, not the kids.

And remember, they don't have their whole working life to pay this debt off. It threatens their nest egg, the equity in their home, their retirement, and bankruptcy won't help because student loans like alimony, child support, taxes, your student loans will not be discharged by a bankruptcy judge in almost every case.

Now this is the latest evidence in the argument over whether college is worth it. Is college worth it? On the one hand you're told your kid has no hope without a college degree, preferably in STEM. On the other hand, you have to compromise your retirement to pay for it.

A recent Pew study found rather most people think college is not affordable and 57 percent say college doesn't provide a good value for the money. All right, well here are the counter to those two opinions. Lifetime earnings of a typical college graduate tells a completely different story.

Over the course of their work life, a college grad will earn $650,000 more than a non-college grad and the jobless rate for a college graduate is 4.2 percent; 4.2 percent. That's about half the average rate.

So it's so interesting. This conversation being had about is college worth it. Kids should drop out. Follow your entrepreneurial spirit. Get a great idea and -- and go for it. The numbers show for the most part it's hard to pay for. It might bankrupt your family. But it's still the best investment.

O'BRIEN: Yes you know I'm not surprised. I think as Grover was pointing out earlier in the commercial break, that the key or the problem is with the people who both take on the loans and also don't graduate.

ROMANS: Absolutely I mean, that becomes -- good debt become becomes bad debt so fast when that happens. Because then, you've got to pay on these loans and then you don't have the $650,000 in lifetime earnings. Now one criticism I hear from a lot of people who study this is those -- these numbers showing lifetime earnings look backwards.

For example if you're a class of 2010 and you've never been in the job market yet, you're not included in the labor market statistics yet. You're not -- you're not even in there. So you're paying on your loans, right. You don't have a job and your parents probably paid on some loans. It's tough.

O'BRIEN: I've got to tell you, I keep trying to get my daughter to STEM like posting. And she was like I think want to be an actor or a writer, singer. And I'm like what? No. You want to be a marine biologist. What's wrong with you?

ROMANS: Public school education comes into play. We've got to teach kids all the basics so they can wander around a bit but then make sure that they can be ready for the knowledge based economy.

O'BRIEN: Being an actor, with a PhD.

ROMANS: There you go.

UM1: There you go.

O'BRIEN: Yes all right. Thanks Christine.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT. Oh my gosh this story is so crazy. Panic in the air. A flight attendant -- just goes crazy, she literally goes on this bizarre rant. Listen to her shrieking, that's the flight attendant.

She's talking about the plane crashing. She's talking about 9/11. Luckily the plane hadn't left the ground yet they were just taxiing onto the runway. We're going talk this morning to a guy who helped pin down this flight attendant and then helped get her off the plane.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We've got to take a short break. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back everybody. There was a really terrifying scene that was caught on tape that started as kind of this daily flight from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Chicago until this started happening. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(FLIGHT ATTENDANT SCREAMING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Okay. So obviously this is taken off someone's camera phone. The screaming that you're hearing is the flight attendant. And she screams something that sounds like "Get off the plane, get out of the plane." Also apparently she went on to talk to about 9/11. Said I'm not responsible for this plane crashing.

See the guy there in the white baseball cap. You can kind make him out he's got a blue jacket on as well. He is -- he's with the flight attendant helping her into a seat and physically restraining her as well. That's our guest. Connor Ford, he joins us this morning from Chicago.

Thanks for talking to us. We appreciate your time. You got to sort of start at the beginning for me. The plane was just taxiing off right? And they were beginning to do those -- those announcements. What happened? Is that the first sign you figured something was really wrong?

CONNOR FORD, HELPED RESTRAIN FLIGHT ATTENDANT: The first thing when we noticed it seemed that nobody was in control. The flight attendant kept on coming over saying something was really wrong. You would hear from other flight attendants that the plane was fine. That we're going to continue to go.

And as we kept on going and going towards to take off is when the flight attendant started to say that the plane was going to crash. And that's when I saw the pushing up front and that's when I knew I could help out and make my way to the front.

O'BRIEN: Okay, so I'm going to stop you there. So all that conversation was happening on the intercom. There was nothing when you boarded the flight that made you think that anything was weird?

FORD: Nothing that I saw, nothing that I heard from passengers until later on.

O'BRIEN: Okay, so she starts shrieking bloody murder. You're in like the 23rd row, right? So what did you do?

FORD: Yes. I stood up once I saw that they were pushing up front and you know I had to make -- I was in a window seat. So I made my way past a couple people and just made my way up front and restrained her and then held her down with a few other passengers and members of the crew of the plane.

O'BRIEN: Now you guys had not taken off yet. So the plane was not in the air. What were people on the plane doing when that back and forth was happening and she starts screaming about 9/11 and get off the plane, get off the plane? Were the passengers completely freaking out?

FORD: Not really. They weren't all freaking out. Some were upset that you could tell. But mostly it was confusion and wondering what was happening. Why wasn't anybody taking control, I would say, would be the overall feeling of the plane at that time.

O'BRIEN: What made you hop up and decide to help? Because obviously you're in the 23rd row. There are 22 rows you know ahead of you that could have, was kind of closer to her because if she's at the -- she's at the intercom, she's at the front of the plane. What was the thing that made you say I've got to put an end to this?

FORD: I was as confused as everybody else. But you know I realized that nobody was in control. You know, when I saw that the aisle was clear. So I thought I could help out and do something. And there was nobody in between me and the flight attendant so I just made a move and was glad that I could help the situation.

O'BRIEN: There are reports that two other flight attendants were injured by this flight attendant. What kind of injuries would you -- did you see them get?

FORD: The flight attendants were helping hold her down. I didn't see any injuries -- not saying anything about that. But they were helping and the police did come on and were handcuffing and bringing her out.

So it was really packed up there in first class. So you know, something could have happened.

O'BRIEN: There are reports that she sort of snapped mentally. Some reports said that maybe she was manic depressive and off her medications. Nothing has been confirmed at this point yet. That flight, I'm sure, did not take off, right. You guys went back to the gate and then what?

FORD: We did. We went back to the gate and that's when we were holding her down. She just wasn't well and you know she'd -- one of the things she did say is that she worked on the airlines for over 20 years. So I'm sure she was just having a really bad day. It sounded like she was off her meds. So I'm glad we could just get her some help and we thank God we didn't take off.

O'BRIEN: Oh my goodness. Yes.

Connor Ford, a passenger who helped pin down that flight attendant. That is such a sad story on all fronts. Thanks for talking to us. We appreciate your insight on that.

FORD: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: "End Point" up next with our panel. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: This is just the norm here at STARTING POINT. That's how we roll right here. That's Marc Lamont Hill's playlist, the Digital Planet where I'm from.

All right. Time for "End Point". Who wants to go first. Grover, you're a visitor to the set even though we've done this before. You go first.

NORQUIST: Primaries, delegates are interesting. Watch gas prices if you want to know what happens in the election.

O'BRIEN: I think you're right about that. I think if the gas prices go up, up, up, huge problem; bigger problem than even who is the candidate on the opposing side for the Obama Administration. Good point.

HILL: If Rick Santorum is the candidate, gas prices could be $10 a gallon and I'm sure Obama will still be president.

O'BRIEN: I don't know.

HILL: Okay. I'll be a good sport about it but I mean -- you know what I'm saying.

My final point actually is about Bobbie Christina. You know, we forget that these are people sometimes. You know, you go on Twitter, you go on Facebook, you see people mocking her, mocking her family, mocking her situation. I was a little disappointed to see her doing a national television interview so quickly but I was very excited to see her speak up for her mother, to defend her mother, to tell her stories.

O'BRIEN: She's a teenage girl.

HILL: Yes.

O'BRIEN: She's a teenage girl.

HILL: Exactly. Let's surround her with love instead of criticism. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Southern primaries tomorrow are going to do very little to clarify this already complicated race. And I cannot get that flight attendant's --

O'BRIEN: We're going to say game changer --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Game changer anyway and something for another and I cannot get that flight attendant's shrieking out of my head.

O'BRIEN: That was absolutely horrific wasn't it and as much as I have flown recently, I got to tell you that's above and beyond what anybody would expect on a flight. I wonder how often flight attendants are -- because you definitely see people get angry. Passengers angry. Flight attendants angry. Everybody coming at each other. But she really snapped. Sad.

Thank you panel. Did you have something you want to add?

NORQUIST: Could we ask viewers to get us better video in the future?

O'BRIEN: That's right. Maybe if we had 23 rows worth of videotape could have been better. We would appreciate that absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Thanks guys. Appreciate your time. Let's get right to "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello. That begins right now.

See you back here tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. Hey Carol.