Sunday, February 15, 2009

Update: Armed Robbery

So I stopped by to buy a Coke and see if I could get more information.

First thing I noticed was the door closed. Now, they open the door of the shop based on your looks.

Now listen to this:
I asked her how they were doing since the robbery.
She said “which one?”
I told her the one on Friday.
She told me that yesterday morning they tried to rob them again!

One guy started banging on the door, another one tried opening the lateral door, when they found that the doors where closed and the girl retreated inside, they left.

As stupid as it sounds, keeping doors closed is a darn fine idea, I’m surprised to find out sometimes that people in USA don’t keep the doors locked at all times. This is 10 year old security, folks. It never happens until it happens to you.

She started telling me how scared she was and how her “patron” makes her work from 7 AM to 11 PM.

“Why so late?” she said “There’s no one on the streets that late”

I asked her if they get robbed a lot, she said yes. Looks like it’s a regular stop and rob, given that they have no security and that the owner figured its cheaper that way.

She told me that she needs the job a lot, but that she also has 3 kids and is worried she’ll get killed one day.

“The other day a man and a woman robbed us”
“The man took me to the back of the store, forced me to sit on the ground and pointed the gun at me”
“While the woman emptied the cash register she kept shouting “Shoot her! Shoot her!”

The other customer, and 70 something old lady also buying a coke, was listening our little conversation. She said “ I can believe we live this way”.
It’s hard for old folk in Argentina. They have meager fixed retirements and inflation is killing them. Adding to that, they are also favorite criminal targets because they are physically weak and since they are careful with money, they usually carry a bit of cash, mostly to give away if robbed so they don’t beat them to death.

I told her “I know, neither do I. But we have to adapt because this is our reality now”.



Anonymous said...

In Hempstead NY about 22 years ago when I went to law school there, they had a liquor store whose front door was locked even during the hours they were open. The owners would buzz you in. Then you would come to a second lock door. If you looked safe, you'd get buzzed into the store.

fitpro said...


Gabe posted something this morning on WT asking for experts on different subjects. Your blog relates directly to the thinking of many on Warrior Talk and you would have a large audience. I'm sure there is a decent payday to be made as well.

Peace, Fitpro

FerFAL said...

Fitpro, that sounds interesting.

I'm a member at WT but can't find what you are talking about, do you have a link, please?


FerFAL said...

I found the thread and posted there, though I think being at the other end of the continent might be a problem. :)


Anonymous said...

Que Pasa FerFAL,

I learn a lot from your blog. I think it is your never say die attitude we admire.

If you are ever in the deep south, (or is it north to you?) I want you to stop by. I'm 3 hours north of New Orleans.

We can go to where I do my firearms training:

You can use my CZ 75 or Glock

or M.A. training

or if you want fun:

Of course, you don't have to pay for anything.


FerFAL said...

That’s very generous of you, thanks.
I’ll remember to drop by if I’m ever around the area.
Take care Tomas.;)


Lisa T said...

The only store I know of like that in our town is a coin store. They don't have bars on the door but they do have to let you in.

In Atlanta nearby, even 10 years ago the gas stations took your money through a little slot under a window, probably bullet-proof glass. Some of the houses in older neighborhoods in Atlanta have bars on the windows. I don't know of any in our town that do. It's just a matter of time, and they will.

KoopManDook said...

Yo Ferfy, i find your blog fascinating and glean from it what i can.Some parallels between Argentina and USA are quite scary and not so subtle.Rash,emotional behaviour leading to bloodshed/violence.Corruption at the highest levels leading to loss of consumer confidence and run on banks,etc.Anyhooo,this Author/article below draws some attention to argentina and america.Ok,Be safe & Be cool..

Keynes can't help us now
Governments cling to the delusion that a crisis of excess debt can be solved by creating more debt--by
Niall Ferguson,Harvard

February 6, 2009

It began as a subprime surprise, became a credit crunch and then a global financial crisis. At last week's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Russia and China blamed America, everyone blamed the bankers, and the bankers blamed you and me. From where I sat, the majority of the attendees were stuck in the Great Repression: deeply anxious but fundamentally in denial about the nature and magnitude of the problem.

Some foretold the bottom of the recession by the middle of this year. Others claimed that India and China would be the engines of recovery. But mostly the wise and powerful had decided to trust that John Maynard Keynes would save us all.

I heard almost no criticism of the $819-billion stimulus package making its way through Congress. The general assumption seemed to be that practically any kind of government expenditure would be beneficial -- and the bigger the resulting deficit the better.

There is something desperate about the way economists are clinging to their dogeared copies of Keynes' "General Theory." Uneasily aware that their discipline almost entirely failed to anticipate the current crisis, they seem to be regressing to macroeconomic childhood, clutching the Keynesian "multiplier effect" -- which holds that a dollar spent by the government begets more than a dollar's worth of additional economic output -- like an old teddy bear.

They need to grow up and face the harsh reality: The Western world is suffering a crisis of excessive indebtedness. Governments, corporations and households are groaning under unprecedented debt burdens. Average household debt has reached 141% of disposable income in the United States and 177% in Britain. Worst of all are the banks. Some of the best-known names in American and European finance have liabilities 40, 60 or even 100 times the amount of their capital.

The delusion that a crisis of excess debt can be solved by creating more debt is at the heart of the Great Repression. Yet that is precisely what most governments propose to do.

The United States could end up running a deficit of more than 10% of GDP this year (adding the cost of the stimulus package to the Congressional Budget Office's optimistic 8.3% forecast). Nor is that all. Last year, the Bush administration committed $7.8 trillion to bailout schemes, in the form of loans, investments and guarantees.

Now the talk is of a new "bad bank" to buy the toxic assets that the Troubled Asset Relief Program couldn't cure. No one seems to have noticed that there already is a "bad bank." It is called the Federal Reserve System, and its balance sheet has grown from just over $900 billion to more than $2 trillion since this crisis began, partly as a result of purchases of undisclosed assets from banks.

Just how much more toxic waste is out there? New York University economistNouriel Roubini puts U.S. banks' projected losses from bad loans and securities at $1.8 trillion. Even if that estimate is 40% too high, the banks' capital will still be wiped out. And all this is before any account is taken of the unfunded liabilities of the Medicare and Social Security systems. With the economy contracting at a fast clip, we are on the eve of a public-debt explosion. And similar measures are being taken around the world.

The born-again Keynesians seem to have forgotten that their prescription stood the best chance of working in a more or less closed economy. But this is a globalized world, where uncoordinated profligacy by national governments is more likely to generate bond-market and currency-market volatility than a return to growth.

There is a better way to go: in the opposite direction. The aim must be not to increase debt but to reduce it.

This used to happen in one of two ways. If, say, Argentina had an excessively large domestic debt, denominated in Argentine currency, it could be inflated away -- Argentina just printed more money. If it were an external debt, the government defaulted and forced the creditors to accept less.

Today, America is Argentina. Europe is Argentina. Former investment banks and ordinary households are Argentina. But it will not be so easy for us to inflate away our debts. The deflationary pressures unleashed by the financial crisis are too strong -- consumer prices in the U.S. have been falling for three consecutive months. Nor is default quite the same for banks and households as it is for governments. Understandably, monetary authorities are anxious to avoid mass bankruptcies of banks and households, not least because of the downward spiral caused by distress sales.

So what can we do? First, banks that are de facto insolvent need to be restructured, not nationalized.(The last thing the U.S. needs is to have all of its banks run like Amtrak or, worse, the IRS.) Bank shareholders will have to face that they have lost their money. Too bad; they should have kept a more vigilant eye on the people running their banks. Government will take control in return for a substantial recapitalization, but only after losses have been meaningfully written down. Those who hold the banks' debt, the bondholders, may have to accept a debt-for-equity swap or a 20% "haircut" -- a disappointment, but nothing compared with the losses suffered when Lehman Bros. went under.

State life-support for dinosaur banks should not and must not impede the formation of new banks by the private sector. It is vital that state control does not give the old, moribund banks an unfair advantage. So recapitalization must be a once-only event, with no enduring government guarantees or subsidies. And there should be a clear timetable for "re-privatization" -- within, say, 10 years.

The second step we must take is a generalized conversion of American mortgages to lower interest rates and longer maturities. About 2.3 million U.S. households face foreclosure. That number is certain to rise as more adjustable-rate mortgages reset, driving perhaps 8 million more households into foreclosure and causing home prices to drop further. Few of those affected have any realistic prospect of refinancing at more affordable rates. So, once again, what is needed is state intervention.

Purists say this would violate the sanctity of the contract. But there are times when the public interest requires us to honor the rule of law in the breach. Repeatedly in the course of the 19th century, governments changed the terms of bonds that they issued through a process known as "conversion." A bond with a 5% return was simply exchanged for one with a 3% return, to take account of falling market rates and prices. Such procedures were seldom stigmatized as default.

Another objection to such a procedure is that it would reward the imprudent. But moral hazard only really matters if bad behavior is likely to be repeated, and risky adjustable-rate mortgages aren't coming back soon.

The issue, then, becomes one of fairness: Why help the imprudent when the prudent are struggling too?

One solution would be for the government-controlled mortgage lenders and guarantors, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to offer all borrowers -- including those with fixed rates -- the same deal. Permanently lower monthly payments for a majority of U.S. households almost certainly would do more to stimulate consumer confidence than all the provisions of the stimulus package, including tax cuts.

No doubt those who lost by such measures would not suffer in silence. But the benefits would surely outweigh the costs to bank shareholders, bank bondholders and the owners of mortgage-backed securities.

Americans, Winston Churchill once remarked, will always do the right thing -- after they have exhausted all other alternatives. If we are still waiting for Keynes to save us when Davos comes around next year, it may well be too late. Only a Great Restructuring can end the Great Repression. It needs to happen soon.

Niall Ferguson is a professor at Harvard University and Harvard Business School, a Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution. His latest book is "The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World."

Lergnom said...

I was pleased to discover your blog after reading your USENET postings on the economic crisis in your country.
Parts of Philadelphia, my home town, have similar disadvantages, but not to the degree you deal with every day.
For example, one of the fast-food stores in a run-down part of the city does not allow customers to enter. They have only a drive-through window with a rotating security pass-through to allow safe transfer of money and food.