“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Iran tells Obama, 'no thanks.' Russia says stealth technology is dead. Obama shucks and jives.

The Obama administration is getting ready to kill the proposed US missile-defense system scheduled for Poland and Czech Republic. Obama thinks this will please the Petit Prince Putin.

Got it.

Russia support for Iran is the problem with Iran, yet this naive, least American President, cannot see what is happening to US security.

So baby, what's the score? Iran: 1, Russia:1, Obama -2. And the US? Big problems ahead.


Iran snubs Barack Obama's nuclear talks

Iran has dealt a blow to one of President Barack Obama's most ambitious diplomatic initiatives by dismissing demands to put its nuclear programme at the heart of direct talks with the United States.

By Adrian Blomfield in Jerusalem
Published: 7:02PM BST 13 Sep 2009 telegraph

Less than 48 hours after Washington and its allies reluctantly accepted an offer of face-to-face negotiations from Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, insisted that the topic of greatest interest to the West would not be on the table.

"From the Iranian nation's viewpoint, the nuclear case is closed," he told Britain's ambassador to Tehran, Simon Gass. "Having peaceful nuclear technology is Iran's lawful and definite right and Iranians will not negotiate with anyone over their undeniable rights."

In a rambling five-page document presented to western diplomats last week, Iran proposed negotiations on a wide array of economic and regional security issues but made no mention of its nuclear activities.

After responding with initial coolness, the United States defied expectations by taking up the offer to negotiate directly for the first time since Mr Obama came to power. The US president had promised during his election campaign to hold unconditional talks with Iran.

The decision initially appeared as though it could be vindicated after Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said he would not rule out discussing the nuclear issue, "should the conditions be right".

Despite opposition from American conservatives, the prospect of the first substantive negotiations between Washington and Tehran since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 suddenly seemed a realistic possibility.

But in his meeting with Mr Gass, who was presenting his credentials as Britain's ambassador, Mr Ahmadinejad scotched the hopes his foreign minister had raised.

He also indicated that the prospect of negotiations had made him no less combative by breaking with protocol to upbraid Britain.

"The Iranian people will never allow anybody to interfere in the country's internal affairs, and I hope the British government will repair its past mistakes," he told Mr Gass.

Iran will also come under the spotlight of human rights activists, some of whom have criticized Mr Obama for seeking direct talks with the regime, when a show trial for over 100 people accused of taking part in opposition protests after June's disputed election begins a new session.

Despite the intransigence it has encountered, the United States argues that it has no choice but to engage with Tehran.
Last month, international weapons inspectors concluded that Iran now had the capacity to produce one nuclear weapon if it were to further purify its existing stockpile of lowly enriched uranium, making the need for negotiations even more pressing.
Iran insists that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful in intent and maintains that it has as the right to develop the technology to generate electricity.


  1. But Who Is Watching Regulators?

    The financial arena still operates the same and is supervised the same regulator one year after the crisis.

    NOTHING succeeds like failure, as the saying goes. And nowhere is this dismal truth more evident than in our financial regulatory system, one year after the bankruptcy filing of Lehman Brothers.

    Even though calamitous lending practices laid waste to the nation’s economy, surprisingly little has changed about how the financial arena operates and is supervised. Sure, a couple of venerable brokerage firms have vanished, but many of the same players remain on the scene, in the same positions of power.

    Senior regulators who stood idly by for years as financial firms built their houses of cards have been rewarded with even bigger jobs or are jockeying for increased responsibilities. The Federal Reserve Board, for example, wants to become the financial system’s uber-regulator, even though its officials did nothing as banks made deadly decisions to lend recklessly and leverage themselves to the max.
    Tales From Lehman’s Crypt (September 13, 2009)
    Economic View: Where Politics Don’t Belong (September 13, 2009)
    Corner Office: Lessons Learned at Goldman (September 13, 2009)
    Unboxed: Wall Street’s Math Wizards Forgot a Few Variables (September 13, 2009)

    Interactive -
    How the Giants of Finance Shrunk, Then Grew, Under the Financial Crisis
    Where the Players Landed
    Audio & Photos
    Wall Street Insiders Recall the Collapse

    Awarding increased power to those who failed in their oversight duties flies in the face of all notions of accountability. Imagine hiring Angelo R. Mozilo, the former chief of Countrywide Financial, to run a global financial institution, or installing E. Stanley O’Neal, who presided over a disastrous period at Merrill Lynch, at the helm of a major investment firm.

    Yet those in the public sector ask us to believe that regulators who snoozed during the credit bubble will be alert to emerging problems on their beats when the next mania begins.

    That’s asking a lot, isn’t it?

    Here’s a novel thought.
    Instead of creating more regulations to try to prevent this kind of mess from recurring, why not figure out how to hold regulators accountable when they perform as poorly as they did in recent years?

  2. Shadow Inventory Revisited: Silent Alt-A Mortgages, Southern California REO, and the Great Public Swindle.

    L.A. Times - Bernard L. Madoff’s massive fraud stunned some of the wealthy denizens of Malibu Colony, especially when a couple devastated by the scheme surrendered their oceanfront home to Wells Fargo Bank.

    But some neighbors say the real shocker came when they saw one of the bank’s top executives spending weekends in the $12-million beach house and hosting eye-catching parties there. What’s more, Wells Fargo spurned offers to show the property to prospective buyers, a real estate agent said.

    “It’s outrageous to take over a property like that, not make it available and then put someone from the bank in it,” said Phillip Roman, an 18-year Colony resident who lives a few homes away from the property.

    Residents identified the house’s occupant as Cheronda Guyton, a Wells Fargo senior vice president who is responsible for foreclosed commercial properties.

  3. Why should that be considered "outrageous"?

    In all seriousness, Wells Fargo foreclosed and took possession. More than likely they cannot sell it for loan value.

    It may well be of more value to Wells Fargo as an entertainment center, in Malibu, where they can entertain clients. By using bank owned assets they will be cutting their outside entertainment expenses. No longer a need to rent a set of suites and meeting rooms at the Hilton.

    Not "outrageous" at all, but sound business.

  4. The 'hood visits Flushing Meadows:

    Serena Williams launches four-letter rant at judge...

    'If I could, I would take this f****** ball and shove it down your f****** throat,' she reportedly said.

    Scroll down for video of the outburst
    - Drudge

  5. "More than likely they cannot sell it for loan value."
    In a real market, it would be sold for whatever it could fetch.

    Just like GM would have done a regular bankruptcy.

    Wells and the rest can only play those kind of games with MILLIONS of properties because of govt bailouts, "stimulants" gaurantees, etc.

    Can't justify distorting the market with MILLIONS of homes like that with your reason.

  6. AND,
    It's against THEIR rules, if not yours:

    "The bank also said its ethics code wouldn’t allow employees to make personal use of property that had been surrendered to satisfy debts.”"

  7. "This is the proud American banking system that we have back stopped with trillions of dollars.

    I dug deep into the shadow inventory data again and it is simply growing. But in a variety of ways. First, many banks are simply not moving on homes. That is, you can stop making your payments and depending on which incompetent bank you may have, you probably have a fifty-fifty chance that you will have no notice of default for 6 to 9 months. The foreclosure process now takes 18 months to 2 years. And for those properties that are taken back, some banks are going with rent to own options. Or in other properties, banks are merely using them for Romanesque blowout parties. But the most common option is doing absolutely nothing. First, let us show you how absurd things are getting in Southern California:..."

  8. "But now, we have three elevated quarters of NODs running at peaks yet recorded foreclosures are still holding steady. What gives? Banks are not moving on the entire foreclosure process. That is the ultimate point here. That is why when I talked about the $1 trillion in toxic waste mortgages, much of it has been ignored. Where do you think this property is going? Banks are hoping for a bailout or some vehicle to dump this crap off on the taxpayer."
    (that would be us

  9. "Already, hundreds of thousands have stopped paying on their mortgage and no where is this data being seen publicly but the bank knows full well that they are having cash flow problems.

    We made a mistake going down this road of backing the corrupt banking system. We are going to have a Japan like scenario. Banks will not admit the true issue of the problem. But every so often they will be hitting up the taxpayer for additional funds. If it isn’t obvious what path we should have taken it would have been to gut the entire financial system and flush out the inventory from the market at once. Those that didn’t favor temporary nationalization now realize this one fact. The banks are still running the show with the same cronies at the helm. And we are still paying!

    The PR on TARP repayments (Rufus's rose-coloreds) is such a colossal joke since they have repaid a few billion while we have back stopped the system with nearly $13 trillion.

    Have things really gotten better? Let us look at nationwide foreclosure filings:"

  10. Brilliant idea for the Boy Genius to start a Trade War w/CHINA!

  11. "'I used to have a real temper, and I've gotten a lot better,'
    she said,
    with no apparent sense of irony."

  12. "This ugly financial episode we’ve all had to live through makes clear, Mr. Kane says, that taxpayers must protect themselves against two things: the corrupting influence of bureaucratic self-interest among regulators and the political clout wielded by the large institutions they are supposed to police. Finally, he argues, taxpayers must demand that the government publicize the costs of efforts taken to save the financial system from itself.

    “That authorities and financiers could so callously violate common-law duties of loyalty, competence, and care they owe taxpayers and financial-institution customers is evidence of a massive incentive breakdown in industry and government,” Mr. Kane writes.

    “This breakdown cannot be repaired merely by replacing the governing political party or by changing the jurisdictions and mission statements of regulatory agencies.”

  13. Revealed: The ghost fleet of the recession anchored just east of Singapore

    The biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history lies at anchor east of Singapore. Never before photographed, it is bigger than the US and British navies combined but has no crew, no cargo and no destination - and is why your Christmas stocking may be on the light side this year.

  14. I guess they tested those missiles against "Their" stealth airplanes.

    Oh, wait . . . . .

  15. Remember how them little gadgets they sold Saddam was going to "disable" our EPS-Guided Bombs?

    Before we took them out with GPS-Guided Bombs. :)

    Russians, Iranians . . . . not much dif, sometimes.

  16. The Wells Fargo executive, just an overpaid caretaker, doug.

    You are correct in that the Government and the Banks are working together to maintain the market value of all the homes that are not in foreclosure. Manipulating the market, as is their wont.

    With the loans that were cut into shares and sold abroad, the "bank" cannot represent itself in Court. All the "parties" to the loan are not available. In many cases the actual ownership of the loan is unknown. The Courts will not force a settlement if all the lien holders are not present.

    I have a past client that stopped payment on two rental homes she owned. She stopped collecting the rent, in one case the tenants moved out, leaving the house vacant, in the other the tenants have stayed on. To my knowledge and hers, for free.

    She was led to believe the "bank" would move in a 90-120 day window, almost a year ago. The only "winner", the tenant that has saved $12,000 in rent.

  17. :-)
    38. Mad Fiddler:

    Colonel Oliver North spoke to the National Rifle Association and recalled stating during a live broadcast that “ground combat is the worst experience a human can suffer.” To which Allan Colmes responded more or less immediately, “NO! IT’S NOT!”

    Like he would know.

    Oliver North then went on to mention that within the hour he was flooded with e-mails. One said “I’ve been in combat, and it’s not the worst experience. The worst experience is spending time with my Mother-in-Law.”

    Another email followed a bit later with words approximately as follows: I’m friend of the guy who said the worst experience was spending time with his Mother-in-Law. I lost my hand to wounds received in combat in Fallujah. I’ve visited with his family, and I can confirm that it was worse spending time with his Mother-in-Law…

    Later North shows a slide of himself ducking, reacting to a sniper shot that snapped past his head. He recounted that immediately after the photo had been taken, he was rolling in raw sewage pooled on the street, trying to avoid the next sniper round. To the NRA audience he said, See those Marines standing a few meters back? See how they’re looking at me not the direction of the sniper? One of them said in complete deadpan, “Amazing how fast an old guy can move when properly motivated.”

    Much to learn listening to this.

  18. Good thing the US has cycled away from ship building as a cornerstone industry, aye.

    An interesting piece, doug.
    12% of the merchant fleet sits idle and the charter rates have fallen to 10% of what they were.

    This time last year, an Aframax tanker capable of carrying 80,000 tons of cargo would cost £31,000 a day ($50,000). Now it is about £3,400 ($5,500).

  19. 'Rat,
    You remind me:
    Another clever ploy the banks have used is avoiding liability for properties:

    Some poor lady that thought she had been foreclosed on, packed up and moved on, only to find out later that she was now responsible for tens of thousands of dollars on her now derelect property that the bank had left in her name!

  20. "Good thing the US has cycled away from ship building as a cornerstone industry, aye."
    Search for "Korea" in the article:
    They bet the bank.

  21. "The only "winner", the tenant that has saved $12,000 in rent.
    Everybody wins if the tenant prevents the house from being gutted.

  22. Most parents have experienced their young children getting restless when waiting for a meal in a restaurant.
    But not many get the bill at the end of it with a message describing their offspring as a 'little f*****'.

    This is what happened to parents Craig and Kimberley Cartin at a Mexican restaurant in Halifax, West Yorkshire, where they received the receipt which had 'Thankyyou littell f*****' written on it.

    Read more:

  23. CHICAGO (Reuters) - A former top fundraiser for ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has died of an apparent drug overdose just days before he was due to start a prison sentence, authorities said on Sunday.

  24. Doug said...
    Revealed: The ghost fleet of the recession anchored just east of Singapore


  25. He was 52, 'Rat:
    Probly just old age.

    Banking System Problems 'Now Bigger Than Pre-Lehman Era'...

    Sept. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize- winning economist, said the U.S. has failed to fix the underlying problems of its banking system after the credit crunch and the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

    “In the U.S. and many other countries, the too-big-to-fail banks have become even bigger,” Stiglitz said in an interview today in Paris. “The problems are worse than they were in 2007 before the crisis.”

    Stiglitz’s views echo those of former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who has advised President Barack Obama’s administration to curtail the size of banks, and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, who suggested last month that governments may want to discourage financial institutions from growing “excessively.”

  26. Risk-taking is back for banks 1 year after crisis -

    Data from the April-June quarter show that the banks are leaning heavily again on their trading desks for revenue.

    • During the fourth quarter of 2008, when the financial crisis made even the shrewdest bankers risk-averse, Goldman's trading of risky assets nearly stopped. But in the second quarter of 2009, trading revenue had climbed to nearly 50 percent of total revenue, closer to where it was two years ago before the recession began. JP Morgan's reliance on trading revenue has exhibited a similar pattern.

    • Also in the second quarter, the five biggest banks' average potential losses from a single day of trading topped $1 billion, up 76 percent from two years ago, according to regulatory filings.

    The government hasn't just watched banks resume their freewheeling ways and prosper. It has been an enabler in the process...
    One investment gaining popularity is a direct descendant of the mortgage-backed securities that devastated many banks last year. To get some lesser performing assets off their books, banks are taking slices of bonds made up of high-risk mortgage securities and pooling them with slices of bonds comprised of low-risk mortgage securities. With the blessing of debt ratings agencies, banks are then selling this class of bonds as a low-risk investment. The market for these products has hit $30 billion, according to Morgan Stanley.

  27. At 7:05 PM, August 23, 2009, sonia said...


    "Where are you???,"

    I am home. Just depressed. When I get better, I will resume blogging.

    I shoulda known she'd take a nosedive w/o my affections.

    What a Jerk.

  28. On the BC Black Panther Thread.
    These people have made it clear they have no intention of listening to dissent, or of playing fair. If you think this administration is going to patiently allow a majority of citizens to peacefully frustrate its desire to destroy the country by exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights, you are asleep!

    You’re going to wake up in a few months gathered at the twelve foot hurricane fence staring in disbelief at the ACORN guards with submachine guns and Belgian Malinois Police dogs patrolling the perimeter. You will look up and see the rolls of razor-sharp Concertina Wire, and you will cast your gaze out beyond the guards to see your children jeering you as they march in their neat little uniforms on the way to their indoctrination camps. You will hear the sounds of military bands playing some new combination of Michael Jackson tunes with a martial rhythm while formerly undocumented proto-citizens do close order drill, on the way to fulfilling their six years of military service after which they will be handed their citizenship papers. Poor things, they will actually believe this will give them some sort of rights in the new socialist paradise.

    Funny as Hell.
    Unless it happens.

  29. Doug wrote,

    "In a real market, it would be sold for whatever it could fetch."

    That is, in fact, the classic definition "value". The bank lobby, however, does not want to carry assets at market value and the Fed is accomodating. This will explain why these problems will continue to plague us for years to come. As Larry "The Cable Guy" would say, "Gitter done!"