Monday Reads

Good Morning!!

One of the few television shows I actually watch regularly these days is Criminal Minds.  The profiling activities fascinate me. I’ve actually passed on my addiction to BostonBoomer who sent me this CBS story which sounds like something right off of their series.  A young woman was abducted by a very disturbed young man and was successfully returned to her family in Kearney, Nebraska. Gotta love a happy ending!

Kidnapping victim Anne Sluti came home Friday, a week after the 17-year-old was whisked away from a local mall parking lot and kept hostage hundreds of miles away in Montana.

With a bruise under her right eye and an FBI baseball cap on her head, Sluti stepped off a private jet with her parents and brother. A small group of family members and friends shrieked with excitement.

“Thank God she’s alive,” said her aunt Sue Daniel. She placed a sign in the dashboard of her minivan that showed a happy face and said “Welcome Home, Anne.”

“I’m just happy to get back home,” Sluti said earlier in the day as the family prepared to leave Kalispell, Mont. “I want to thank everyone who helped me get home safely.”

Remarked her mother, Elaine Sluti, “Someone at the hotel said to me this morning, ‘Have a good day.’ Believe me, we are having a very good day.”

We knew there was a major cover up on the Fukushima melt down.  Here’s a Guardian story that indicates that the fuel rods may have completely melted down. Scary stuff. This time reality mimics the move The China Syndrome.

Fuel rods inside one of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may have completely melted and bored most of the way through a concrete floor, the reactor’s last line of defence before its steel outer casing, the plant’s operator said.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said in a report that fuel inside reactor No 1 appeared to have dropped through its inner pressure vessel and into the outer containment vessel, indicating that the accident was more severe than first thought.

The revelation that the plant may have narrowly averted a disastrous “China syndrome” scenario comes days after reports that the company had dismissed a 2008 warning that the plant was inadequately prepared to resist a tsunami.

Tepco revised its view of the damage inside the No 1 reactor – one of three that suffered meltdown soon after the 11 March disaster – after running a new simulation of the accident.

It would not comment on the exact position of the molten fuel, or on how much of it is exposed to water being pumped in to cool the reactor. More than nine months into the crisis, workers are still unable to gauge the damage directly because of dangerously high levels of radiation inside the reactor building.

If you haven’t read Eliot Spitzer’s article on Slate about the $7 trillion secret loan program, you really should.  It is also something that seems more Hollywood than reality.  Spitzer is calling for perp walks.

During the deepest, darkest period of the financial cataclysm, the CEOs of major banks maintained in statements to the public, to the market at large, and to their own shareholders that the banks were in good financial shape, didn’t want to take TARP funds, and that the regulatory framework governing our banking system should not be altered. Trust us, they said. Yet, unknown to the public and the Congress, these same banks had been borrowing massive amounts from the government to remain afloat. The total numbers are staggering: $7.7 trillion of credit—one-half of the GDP of the entire nation. $460 billion was lent to J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley alone—without anybody other than a few select officials at the Fed and the Treasury knowing. This was perhaps the single most massive allocation of capital from public to private hands in our history, and nobody was told. This was not TARP: This was secret Fed lending. And although it has since been repaid, it is clear why the banks didn’t want us to know about it: They didn’t want to admit the magnitude of their financial distress.

The banks’ claims of financial stability and solvency appear at a minimum to have been misleading—and may have been worse. Misleading statements and deception of this sort would ordinarily put a small-market player or borrower on the wrong end of a criminal investigation.

Spitzer cites this Bloomberg Analysis which is something we’ve looked at before but bears a second viewing. After stabilizing the financial system, every effort should have been made by regulators and the current administration to purge the financial industry of toxic senior management. They also should have taken over some of the huge banks and sliced and diced them into more appropriately sized regional banks.  None of this actually happened, however if you read Confidence Men, you’ll see that it wasn’t for Sheila Baer’s lack of trying and it was actually the original concept supported by Obama.  The Geithner Treasury evidently ran all kinds of end run plays to stop this from happening.  Geithner continually proves that his loyalties are to huge financial institutions.

… the Fed and its secret financing helped America’s biggest financial firms get bigger and go on to pay employees as much as they did at the height of the housing bubble.

Total assets held by the six biggest U.S. banks increased 39 percent to $9.5 trillion on Sept. 30, 2011, from $6.8 trillion on the same day in 2006, according to Fed data.

For so few banks to hold so many assets is “un-American,” says Richard W. Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “All of these gargantuan institutions are too big to regulate. I’m in favor of breaking them up and slimming them down.”

Employees at the six biggest banks made twice the average for all U.S. workers in 2010, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics hourly compensation cost data. The banks spent $146.3 billion on compensation in 2010, or an average of $126,342 per worker, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s up almost 20 percent from five years earlier compared with less than 15 percent for the average worker. Average pay at the banks in 2010 was about the same as in 2007, before the bailouts.

“The pay levels came back so fast at some of these firms that it appeared they really wanted to pretend they hadn’t been bailed out,” says Anil Kashyap, a former Fed economist who’s now a professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “They shouldn’t be surprised that a lot of people find some of the stuff that happened totally outrageous.”

Bank of America took over Merrill Lynch & Co. at the urging of then-Treasury Secretary Paulson after buying the biggest U.S. home lender, Countrywide Financial Corp. When the Merrill Lynch purchase was announced on Sept. 15, 2008, Bank of America had $14.4 billion in emergency Fed loans and Merrill Lynch had $8.1 billion. By the end of the month, Bank of America’s loans had reached $25 billion and Merrill Lynch’s had exceeded $60 billion, helping both firms keep the deal on track.

This is completely unacceptable.  It is one thing for the FED to help stabilize the financial system, it’s another one for the Treasury to ignore the requests of the President and to prevent a key regulator–FDIC in this case–from doing its job. The other culprit identified in the Confidence Men narrative is Rahm Emmanuel.  The narrative on Obama and Baer’s desire to shut down Citibank and the obfuscation from Geithner and Emmanuel is the stuff of movies focused on government conspiracies.

One of the plotlines in Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men concerns the various bureaucratic and substantive moves through which Tim Geithner and Rahm Emmanuel dissuaded the president from ordering the seizure and shutdown of Citigroup. The story starts with the fact that Larry Summers and Christina Romer, who were sympathetic to the idea, lacked the staff resources to develop a plan for doing it, while Geithner, who had the staff, thought it was a bad idea. Sheila Bair also had the staff, and also wanted to go ahead, but was out of the loop:

But when it came to controlling information, there was one area in which Geithner’s office had been successful. Key disclosures of what actually happened in the March 15 “showdown” never leaked. Bair didn’t know, and never found out, that the president had been trying to push forward what the FDIC chairwoman was recommending. He wasn’t successful, either. Alan Krueger said one reason Treasury dragged its feet on a constructing a plan for Citigroup’s resolution was Sheila Bair. They would have had to consult the FDIC chairwoman. After all, her agency is in the business of closing banks. “The fear was that Sheila would leak it,” Krueger said, in a comment echoed by others at Treasury. “And there’d be a run on Citi.” He added that this was one of many reasons: “It was more than just that. The bottom line is Tim and others at Treasury felt the president didn’t fully understand the complexities of the issue, or simply that they were right and he was wrong, and that trying to resolve Citi and then other banks would have been disastrous.”

Krueger, for one, disagreed, and that very day he was due to have lunch with someone uniquely suited to edify him about the resolution of troubled banks: Andrea Borg, the Swedish finance minister.

It seems that many West Wing technocrats are much more interested in their post-DC careers than their current duties and responsibilities to US law.  I’ve said many times that were in a much better position for a major and uncorrectable meltdown–much like the Japanese Fukushima plant–should these circumstances continue.  The vulnerability of the nation’s largest banks to any kind of contagion is substantial.  Their ability to bring down the payments and credit system is fully understood by the FED who instigated more money floodgate opening last week to aid those same banks with that same senior management muck their way through the Eurozone crisis.  Any private institution that has had to call on the Government for that much assistance doesn’t deserve to be in business.  We shouldve GM’d them all.

Here’s a link to CBS and last night’s 60 minutes (h/t Elizabeth Warren) on Prosecuting Wall Street.

Two whistleblowers offer a rare window into the root causes of the subprime mortgage meltdown. Eileen Foster, a former senior executive at Countrywide Financial, and Richard Bowen, a former vice president at Citigroup, tell Steve Kroft the companies ignored their repeated warnings about defective, even fraudulent mortgages. The result, experts say, was a cascading wave of mortgage defaults for which virtually no high-ranking Wall Street executives have been prosecuted.

So, that’s my little contribution to the discussion this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list this morning?


28 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. Minkoff Minx says:

    Wow…Dak, can you tell me how are they getting away with it? I read all this stuff, and no one is being held accountable…no one has been fired and taken to jail…it just is completely unbelievable.

    • dakinikat says:

      Obviously the justice department is being told to ignore these things. It is up to state AGs to do it. You know what happened to Spitzer.

  2. joanelle says:

    Well, if nothing else this kind of explains the basis of the virulent misogyny – heck, with Hillary, Elizabeth, Sheila, Eileen, etc. all pushing, blowing whistles and trying to get them to pay attention – they just wanted women to all disappear.

    • Fannie says:

      Yeah, Cain wanted a lynching of the women who came forth, and damn near on the verge of tying the knot in the rope.

  3. Minkoff Minx says:

    More bad news: BBC News – Contaminated water leaks from Fukushima nuclear plant

    And thanks for posting the update on the meltdown…

  4. Minkoff Minx says:

    Yesterday was a big painting day for me, so I haven’t gotten completely caught up yet…so someone may have posted any of the links I have commented on this morning.

    I don’t think this one has been shared yet: NYT’s James Stewart Runs PR for Compromised SEC Chief Khuzami Against Judge Rakoff on Proposed $285 Million Citi CDO Settlement « naked capitalism

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    Read this but I urge that you keep your “vomit bucket” within reach:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/05/newt-gingrich-catholic_n_1127152.html

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      Oh Pat, becoming a Catholic has really “relaxed” him? You are right, vomit bucket engaged. I did find this part interesting:

      In a recent poll, the Washington, D.C.-based Public Religion Research Institute found that 72 percent of Americans, and 82 percent of white evangelicals, said it was a “very serious moral problem” when an elected official cheats on his wife. While the general population was evenly divided, 64 percent of white evangelicals disagreed that an elected official who acts immorally in his personal life can still be ethical in his professional life.

      But in a primary race that will likely pit him against Romney, some evangelicals may favor Gingrich over a follower of Mormonism, which they generally see as non-Christian.

      “Despite historical antipathy between evangelicals and Catholics, favorability of Catholics is quite high among evangelicals, considerably higher than favorability of Mormons,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the institute. In a separate poll, the group found that 84 percent of white evangelicals have a favorable view of Catholics, compared to 66 percent who have a positive view of Mormons.

      It is like some kind of religious right sliding scale of hypocrisy.

      Think about it, the GOP goes absolutely crazy about the left’s womanizers, call girl customers and twitter posters, but just blows off their own parties sexual exploits…Prostitutes and diapers, screwing around while your wife has cancer, or sexual assault and sexual harassment.

      Then there is another side to that sliding scale, sexually harass or assault a woman, and nothing comes of it…but have a 13 year affair with someone, and that is the trigger to get moral? So screwing around isn’t bad, if you marry them…and sexual assault is nothing but a healthy lifestyle…however, being unfaithful with one woman for over a decade is taking it a bit far?

      It is all selective hypocrisy.

      And what about the corruption associated with Gingrich? There is nothing wrong with that!
      No mention of how moral Christians see Gingrich “criminal” actions as a reason not to vote for the man.

      I do have one theory though…

      So Gingrich was born Lutheran, raised Protestant, became a born again Baptist and then switch over to Catholicism? Hey, he’s got most of the organized christian religions represented.

      I think he also is gunning for the christian gay vote. (I must end this rant with a bit of sarcastic generalizing humor.) He repeatedly says he loves ABBA, and has the fabulous Weather Girl’s song “Its raining men” on his ring tone? It’s gotta be some kind of subliminal campaign method of recruiting gay support.

  6. Nell says:

    I agree the Anne Sluti story is awesome, but you do realize that it happened over 10 years ago, in April 2001?

  7. bostonboomer says:

    It’s nice to know that 60 Mintues can still produce meaningful reports when they choose to.

    • ralphb says:

      60 Minutes can provide a lot of push to these stories and be very helpful in getting things done. I hope they keep after them and don’t drop the ball. Maybe there will be some prosecutions before it’s all finished?

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Donald Trump mulls third-party bid.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2011/12/05/donald-trump-still-weighs-a-third-party-bid/

    So why are Republican candidates genuflecting to him and going to his weird debate?

  9. Minkoff Minx says:

    Dak and BB, have you seen Bill Hadder making fun of Dateline’s Keith Morrision:

    SNL Brilliantly Mocks NBC’s Dateline And Host Keith Morrison | Mediaite

    Bill Hader, playing host Keith Morrison, oversaw a typical “Dateline” episode, ushering in segments like “The Mystery of the Chopped Up Dead Guy.”

    Oh, it is magnificent!

    Check it out…

  10. Minkoff Minx says:

    There is a little 7 year old girl missing in Canton, GA…Reward posted for safe return of missing Canton girl, 7  | ajc.com

    At a late-morning press briefing on Monday, Hall told the AJC that “everybody’s ready to stay as long as it takes. Finding the little girl is our main mission.”

    Hall said that while investigators have been receiving and following up on some tips called in to 770-704-7074, “we need your tips.”

    “We know someone out there knows something that’s viable, and we need it,” he said. “We need any information you’ve got.”

    Hall said the huge contingent of state, local and federal authorities was leaving no stone unturned in the search for the girl.

    “Every leaf, every pine straw, every bush is being opened,” he said. “We’re going through outbuildings, storage buildings. You name it, we’re going through it.”

    They are treating this as an abduction. She’s been missing since Friday, this is the first update they have had in a little while.

    Jorelys is described as a Hispanic female who is approximately 3 to 4 feet tall and 80 pounds. She was wearing a pink shirt, blue jeans and black boots when she was last seen Friday at a playground in the apartment complex where her family lives.

    The girl reportedly went back to her family’s apartment to get some drinks for her playmates but never returned to the playground.

    Hall said the girl’s family is upset and has been “very cooperative.” He said Jorelys’ mother was inside the family’s apartment when the girl disappeared on Friday and that a teenage babysitter “was supposed to be watching her, but went to another location for a period of time before the girl went missing.”