Friday Fright Night

47
Fri, Aug 2, 2013 - 8:54pm

I was going to try to write a slightly funny, moderately informative post for today. Not another dark, downer of a diatribe. Perhaps something about why the UK seems to be amassing a silver hoard that is twice the size of all silver held in the SLV trust, or coping mechanisms of societies in other parts of the world before and during times of economic hardship.

Then I came across this (via ZH à from Michele Catalano):

“What happened was this: At about 9:00 am, my husband, who happened to be home yesterday, was sitting in the living room with our two dogs when he heard a couple of cars pull up outside. He looked out the window and saw three black SUVs in front of our house; two at the curb in front and one pulled up behind my husband’s Jeep in the driveway, as if to block him from leaving.

Six gentleman in casual clothes emerged from the vehicles and spread out as they walked toward the house, two toward the backyard on one side, two on the other side, two toward the front door. […]

They asked if they could search the house, though it turned out to be just a cursory search. They walked around the living room, studied the books on the shelf […], looked at all our pictures, glanced into our bedroom, pet our dogs. They asked if they could go in my son’s bedroom but when my husband said my son was sleeping in there, they let it be. […]

By this point they had realized they were not dealing with [trrrrrrsts]. They asked my husband about his work, his visits to South Korea and China. The tone was conversational.

They never asked to see the computers on which the searches were done. They never opened a drawer or a cabinet. They left two rooms unsearched. I guess we didn’t fit the exact profile they were looking for so they were just going through the motions.

They mentioned that they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing.”

In later clarification, the Suffolk County PD in Yaphank, NY issued a statement:

“Suffolk County Criminal Intelligence Detectives received a tip from a Bay Shore based computer company regarding suspicious computer searches conducted by a recently released employee. The former employee’s computer searches took place on this employee’s workplace computer. On that computer, the employee searched the terms “pressure cooker bombs” and “backpacks.”

So THAT’S supposed to make it all right? Here are my issues with this picture:

  • The author’s husband was released (presumably fired) in April 2013 from the employer who ultimately reported the ‘suspicious’ searches. The alleged web searches had to have taken place before that date (and presumably after Marathon Day).
  • The employer seems to have waited ca. 3 MONTHS to contact authorities (this is conjecture, but based on the fact that 6 plainclothes detectives were dispatched, appears likely that the PD acted immediately and forcefully on the info). Patriotic concern? Employee contract/labor dispute?
  • The family in question allowed authorities access to search their home, yet despite this permission only a cursory scan was conducted. So what was the point of the visit?
  • ‘they do this about 100 times a week’

This is a relatively benign case, with an ultimately ‘harmless’ outcome of a frightened blogger, and an IT worker with a more ingrained understanding of the lack of privacy of using a workplace computer. No harm, no foul, right?

Some hypothetical/rhetorical questions:

  • WHAT IF the husband in question had denied the detectives access?
  • WHAT IF there had been a cooking implement of the sort in question sitting on the stove?
  • WHAT IF the inquisitive lawmen had found firearms in the home?
  • If similar ‘visits’ are carried out 100x per week, that equals about 20x per weekday. Let’s say it only takes an hour to do each one, and on average only 2 officers are sent. That’s still 4-6 full-time, year-round jobs doing nothing else, just for this county of 1.5M people.
  • Computer logs are ‘relatively’ tangible things, though of course are not infallible or immune to manipulation by malicious parties. What would have happened if a neighbor or co-worker had phoned in a tip (anonymous or otherwise) that he/she had overheard someone talking in an agitated manner about said cooking implement and high-speed/high-pressure oxidation processes?

Look, I realize that there are plenty of arguments to counter ANY concerned/worried/alarmist position. There is no definitive proof that the BoE leased/sold large amounts of gold into the market, thus any suppositions to that effect are off-the-wall loony. There are no court convictions involving the senior management of TBTF institutions, so the idea that they did/are doing anything illegal is baseless libel. There have been no criminal charges brought against high- or even mid-level law-enforcement officials, so there is NO reason to think any of them (let alone the entire establishment) might be infringing on laws. No war crimes tribunals, hence no war crimes. Individual, anecdotal cases of overreach, abuse of force, mistaken identities, negligence are supposedly just that – individual cases. Like the IRS made some ‘regrettable, individual mistakes’ in targeting specific groups and people. Like the DoJ seems to have suffered from an unfortunate string of ‘individual’ lapses in judgment regarding a wide and unconnected range of issues, from Mexican trafficking to investigation of journalists.

When I was younger, I never bothered to think too much about whether my country was ‘free’ (it most assuredly was not). The denial of free speech and all the other rights taken for granted in the US affected me only tangentially – and as I was growing up and became aware of these distinctions, the dictatorial regime melted away into irrelevance, and was replaced by supposedly democratic, free institutions. The era of ‘hope and change’ that apparently all societies are periodically susceptible to. After a few years, it became apparent that what had happened was not so much a liberation, as a re-labeling. The old thieves got new coats of paint, and the new thieves were bought off with the remaining (meager) wealth of the nation. Pretty soon, this new amalgamated group of people above the law began to fight among themselves, and to explicitly reinstate the arbitrary (extra)legal mechanisms of old.

The day I finally realized that any hope of a just, representative, honest society was gone happened on a bright, sunny July morning a few years ago. I was (ironically enough) on my way to an appointment at a fearsome and powerful governmental bureaucracy, around 7 AM. As I stepped out of my apartment into the balcony of the inner courtyard up on the top floor (I always hated the Panopticon-like effect of these buildings), I see something like this:

Now imagine, in the place of that red-topped cupboard, there stands a man in faded jeans, black T-shirt and ski mask. A sidearm strapped to one thigh, another in his hand pointed at a row of 3 people who are kneeling, facing the wall, with their hands clasped behind their necks, where the broom is standing. One is in underwear, one in pajamas, one in sweatpants. Another ‘gentleman’ in a black ski mask has a yellow T-shirt, brown cargo pants, a weapon in hand and is standing guard at the door of the apartment in the corner, which is open.

No identifying markings, no badges, not even an excess of (para)military equipment/gear/clothing that might put my mind more at ease that this is a police raid. For all I know, it could be a loan-shark collecting on a debt. Or a hit. Or a gang attempting to forcefully rob the owners/tenants of valuables – or even of their apartment.

By a quirk of fate, my exit to the gangway is silent and rapid enough that none of them look up. I slink away to the far end of the hallway, slip down the stairs and out to the street, frantically trying to think -- what to do? Did they see me, will they follow? If they are cops, why so few and without insignia? If they are NOT, I can’t stick around, but I don’t want to leave the residents to their fate – what if the real cops get there too late?

In the end I call the precinct from a payphone a few blocks away. Give the address, describe the situation, note the presence of arms and people being held against their will at the point of a barrel, ask if any raids were underway. The dispatcher says no, they are not aware of any police activity in the area at the moment, but they will look into it. No questions are asked. Nobody presses me further about details. Though it was a while ago and I am not sure I remember correctly, I think no one even asked for my name.

As far as I know, no other resident of the building (with around 60-70 apartments, half of which looked directly onto this scene) called the cops. By the time I got back from the bowels of the bureaucracy, having proven my non-offensive, law-abiding, useful tax-paying nature, all was well. Residents were bustling to and from work, and old lady was sweeping the courtyard, someone was taking a dog for a walk.

This is how it starts, how it has always started. And in almost every case in recent history (the last century or so) it is always LEGAL. The actions of the Schutzstaffel, Geheime Staatspolizei and later the Staatssicherheit, the Chrezvychaynaya Komissiya, those of the Securitate and the Mukhabarat – the list goes on. The powers and authority granted to security forces, representatives of the justice system (whether prosecutors or the courts themselves) are all eminently, collectively (and sometimes retroactively) enshrined in law or reasonable facsimiles thereof.

How long, before domestic cultivation of food-plants becomes a restricted activity, requiring government permission and subject to criminal prosecution? Ownership of projectile implements containing cylindrical inserts that originally worked with charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter (though now have more smoke-less components)? The willful dissemination of information deemed to be aimed at disrupting governmental policy? Where are we currently along these continua? What constitutes a ‘red line’?

And societies will take a LOT of this before realizing its inherently destructive effect on its members, wealth, liberty and freedom. As long as it’s SOMEONE ELSE being taken away, it’s of no direct concern to me. Chances are they had it coming. Probably some low-life. Should have kept their head down.

And IF after years, or even decades of oppression, blatant injustice, state-sanctioned arbitrary incarceration/torture/murder a society IS able to rise up, and attempt to throw off the yokes of servitude? Perhaps momentary, symbolic gains are made. Perhaps a few guilty (but nevertheless merely symbolic) parties are brought to justice.

Perhaps after a revolution or uprising a society is given a few years to breathe, to rebuild, to try to start over. But the temptation to institute (and the tools to build) an authoritarian society are ever-present, only waiting to be picked up. And picked up they inevitably are, as the cycle begins anew.

History is written by the victors. “It could never happen HERE” is a thought shared by many societies across the centuries – even (perhaps ESPECIALLY) after it already had. It is up to everyone to keep an eye on just what temperature the thermostat is currently set to.

(image credit: DonkeyHotey)

It seems to me that incredibly hard though it is, it’s still a LOT easier to prevent the noose of tyranny from tightening, than it is to remove it once it has established its grip in full. To a large degree, this depends on the degree of legitimacy of the state, and the degree of helplessness of the people as perceived by the populace.

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AlienEyes
Aug 3, 2013 - 4:53pm

Re : Snowden

Logically, it is straight forward and elegant. If Snowden is hated by O'bongo and by Hildabitch, Mr. Snowden has got to be a patriot. Devout liars like O'bozo and Hildabeast are no less than a self-inflicted disease on the arse of America. Mr. Snowden might just be part of the cure.

¤
Aug 3, 2013 - 1:07pm

Saturday News: World

Britain in a Cyber War with China, Russia - Daily Telegraph

Snowden No Reason to Break Ties with Russia - Bloomberg

Benghazi Worth Investigating After All - Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

Democracy in Retreat in Korea - Korea Times
Japan's Defense Plan Is Provocative - Japan Times

Algeria's Critical Juncture - Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis
Everything You Need to Know About U.S. Aid to Egypt - ProPublica
Syria: Deterioration or Compromise? - Oxford Research Group
Philippines vs. China Moves to the UN - The Strategist

If Ed Snowden Really Wants to Learn Russian... - Carroll Bogert, GPS
The $7 Trillion Problem That Could Sink Asia - William Pesek, Bloomberg
U.S. Must Cut Aid to Egypt - Robert Kagan, Washington Post
Obama's Bad Bet on the Egyptian Military - Rajan Menon, RealClearWorld
Robert Mugabe Won't Go - Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker
Booming Zimbabwe Belongs to China Now - Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
Meet the Cabal That Really Runs North Korea - Geoffrey Cain, Global Post
Italy's French Temptation - Bedock & Steinmo, Project Syndicate
Al-Qaeda Is Back! (But It Never Really Went Away) - Clifford May, NRO
How the MLB Steroid Scandal Explains Debate on Egypt - Marc Lynch, FP
Is Morocco the Model for Arab Democracy? - Michael J. Totten, The Tower
Hezbollah's Partial Isolation - Ron Prosor, NY Daily News
Last Call: Crisis Forces Irish Pubs to Close - Patrick Kremers, Der Spiegel
How the Shah Entangled America - Stephen McGlinchey, National Interest

The Right's Debate on Isolationism - Charles Krauthammer, Wash. Post
The Binary Mind of Global Hegemonists - Andrew Sullivan, The Dish
Why We Should Keep Out of Somalia - Michael Shank, Global Public Sq.
Obama's Playing Poker with No Cards - Benny Avni, New York Post
Benghazi Worth Investigating After All - Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic
Assad Really Needs to Try Harder - Steven Heller, The Daily Beast
Pining for Morsi in Istanbul - Andrew Finkel, New York Times
Rumble in Cairo - Nour Youssef, The Arabist
Will Missile Defense Make India Less Secure? - O’Donnell & Joshi, Diplomat
Uruguay Opens New Drug War Debate - Rayman & Davidson
Russia Had No Choice on Snowden - Natalia Antonova, The Guardian

¤
Aug 3, 2013 - 12:34pm

World's Biggest TBTF or Else...The USD &UST: Asia Is Stuck

The $7 Trillion Problem That Could Sink Asia

ByWilliamPesekAug 1, 2013 5:00 PM ET

“It’s our currency, but it’s your problem.” This musing from Nixon-era Treasury Secretary John Connally is about to find new relevance as the White House battles Republicans over raising the U.S. debt limit.

Connally couldn’t have foreseen how right he would be 42 years on as Asia sits on almost $7 trillion in currency reserves, much of it in dollars. Asia’s central banks engaged in a kind of financial arms race after a 1997 crisis, stockpiling dollars as a defense against turmoil. That altered the financial landscape in two ways: One, Asia now has more weapons against market unrest than it knows what to do with. Two, Asia is essentially America’s banker, with China and Japan having the most at stake.

That might be less problematic if not for Capitol Hill’s propensity for shooting itself in the foot. A pointless squabble over the debt ceiling prompted Standard & Poor’s to yank the U.S.’s AAA credit rating in August 2011, sending panic through global markets. Asia is now bracing for months of posturing when the U.S. Congress returns from its August recess.

In a perfect world, Washington’s bankers would threaten to call in their loans. Asian nations would sit White House and congressional leaders down and tell them to get their act together. But Connally’s 1971 observation is infinitely truer today than at any time in Asia’s history. We need to stop considering huge reserve holdings as a financial strength. They are a trap that is complicating economic policy making. It’s time Asia devised an escape.

Fiscal Matters

China isn’t without leverage. It’s no coincidence that new Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew’s first overseas visit in March was to his banker-in-chief, Xi Jinping, in Beijing. Nor did it go unnoticed that Lew was the new Chinese president’s first foreign-official meeting. Lew may have been sending Xi a signal this week by calling on Congress to act “in a way that doesn’t create a crisis” on fiscal matters.

But that leverage is limited. Xi and Premier Li Keqiang are engaged in a risky rebalancing act, trying to wean the Chinese economy off exports without fanning social unrest. Another debt-limit tussle would fuel market volatility, strengthen the yuan as the dollar plunges, and result in the loss of tens of billions of dollars in China’s portfolio of U.S. Treasuries.

“They don’t like it,” says Leland Miller, the New York-based president of China Beige Book International. “But while they’re sure to make some loud noises about it, at the end of the day, they understand they have no option but to accept the hand they’re given.”

In Tokyo, Shinzo Abe faces a similar dilemma. An important pillar of the prime minister’s plan to end deflation and restore healthy growth is a weak yen. The currency’s 17 percent drop since mid-November has helped even down-and-out Sony Corp. eke out some profits. Yet the yen would surge anew on another U.S. downgrade: In 2011, a giant flight-to-quality trade drove huge amounts of capital Japan’s way.

The more Asia adds to its holdings of U.S. debt, the harder they become to unload. If traders got even the slightest whiff that China was selling large blocks of its $1.3 trillion in dollar holdings, markets would quake. The same goes for Japan’s $1.1 trillion stockpile. So central banks just keep adding to them. Pyramid scheme, anyone?

Never before has the world seen a greater misallocation of vast resources. Loading up on dollars helps Asia’s exporters by holding down local currencies, but it causes economic control problems. When central banks buy dollars, they need to sell local currency, increasing its availability and boosting the money supply and inflation. So they sell bonds to mop up excess money. It’s an imprecise science made even more complicated by the Federal Reserve’s quantitative-easing policies.

Stealth Selling

At the very least, Asia should stop adding to its dollar holdings and consider ways to bring more of those funds home. They could...(cont.)

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-01/the-7-trillion-problem-that-co...

Dyna mo hum
Aug 3, 2013 - 11:56am

You know Pinning

Snowden is a prime example of the grey man proxy until he was not. Now he has illuminated his life like a beacon in the face of the cock roaches in a freshly illuminated room. I hope he lives to be a hundred years old.

messianicdruid
Aug 3, 2013 - 11:32am
sierra skier
Aug 3, 2013 - 11:04am

Lots of investigating

But little prosecuting. We would only hope the CFTC should bring some justice to these criminals.

Key Economic Events Week of 7/13

7/13 11:30 ET Goon Williams speech
7/13 1:00 ET Goon Kaplan speech
7/14 8:30 ET CPI for June
7/14 2:30 ET Goon Bullard speech
7/15 8:30 ET Empire State and Import Price Idx
7/15 9:15 ET Cap Ute and Ind Prod
7/16 8:30 ET Retail Sales and Philly Fed
7/16 11:00 ET Goon Williams again
7/17 8:30 ET Housing Starts and Permits

¤
Aug 3, 2013 - 10:04am

H'mmm...

US regulators 'find evidence' of banks fixing derivative rates

US regulators have reportedly been handed evidence that traders at some of the world’s biggest banks manipulated a key rate for derivatives, pocketing millions at the expense of pension funds in the process.

15 banks are being investigated by the CFTC

https://www.tfmetalsreport.com/comment/603265#comment-603265

sierra skier
Aug 3, 2013 - 10:00am
¤
Aug 3, 2013 - 8:37am

In a black and white world....

....I'm one of those shaded yet unjaded 'gray's'.

I remember that post and I liked it then and I'm still liking it today.

I think many of us are fully tuned in and we're merely ticking and waiting for some type of indisputable alarm or cue to happen that can no longer be ignored or tolerated.

We all have a limit switch of sorts within ourselves set to a certain tolerance level. What will trip your switch and infuse you with the color of pride and indignation?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It does not take a majority to prevail... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.

Samuel Adams

RaRaRasputinJ Y
Aug 3, 2013 - 8:34am

JY

Nice post :)

Couldn't agree with you more on the gallows humour as a survival mechanism for people to stay sane. As a nurse you can be sure that our humour is served up blacker then black and if overheard by a non-medical professional could at times almost seems to have crossed the boundaries of acceptable and appropriate but the worse the shift was the darker the humour (and the heavier the drinking at the end of the day to forget). Best bunch of people you could ever work with though and loyalty is an absolute given.

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Key Economic Events Week of 7/13

7/13 11:30 ET Goon Williams speech
7/13 1:00 ET Goon Kaplan speech
7/14 8:30 ET CPI for June
7/14 2:30 ET Goon Bullard speech
7/15 8:30 ET Empire State and Import Price Idx
7/15 9:15 ET Cap Ute and Ind Prod
7/16 8:30 ET Retail Sales and Philly Fed
7/16 11:00 ET Goon Williams again
7/17 8:30 ET Housing Starts and Permits

Key Economic Events Week of 7/6

7/6 9:45 ET Markit Service PMI
7/6 10:00 ET ISM Service PMI
7/7 10:00 ET Job openings
7/9 8:30 ET Initial jobless claims
7/9 10:00 ET Wholesale inventories
7/10 8:30 ET PPI for June

Key Economic Events Week of 6/29

6/30 9:00 ET Case-Shiller home prices
6/30 9:45 ET Chicago PMI
6/30 10:00 ET Consumer Confidence
6/30 12:30 ET CGP and SSHW to Capitol Hill
7/1 8:15 ET ADP Employment
7/1 9:45 ET Markit Manu PMI
7/1 10:00 ET ISM Manu PMI
7/1 2:00 ET June FOMC minutes
7/2 8:30 ET BLSBS
7/2 10:00 ET Factory Orders

Key Economic Events Week of 6/22

6/22 8:30 ET Chicago Fed
6/22 10:00 ET Existing home sales
6/23 9:45 ET Markit flash PMIs for June
6/23 10:00 ET New home sales
6/25 8:30 ET Q1 GDP final guess
6/25 8:30 ET Durable Goods
6/26 8:30 ET Pers Inc and Spending
6/26 8:30 ET Core inflation

Key Economic Events Week of 6/15

6/16 8:30 ET Retail Sales
6/16 8:30 ET Cap Ute and Ind Prod
6/16 10:00 ET Chief Goon Powell US Senate
6/16 4:00 pm ET Goon Chlamydia speech
6/17 8:30 ET Housing Starts
6/17 12:00 ET Chief Goon Powell US House
6/18 8:30 ET Initial Jobless Claims
6/18 8:30 ET Philly Fed
6/19 8:30 ET Current Account Deficit
6/19 1:00 pm ET CGP and Mester conference

Key Economic Events Week of 6/8

6/9 10:00 ET Job openings
6/9 10:00 ET Wholesale inventories
6/10 8:30 ET CPI for May
6/10 2:00 ET FOMC Fedlines
6/10 2:30 ET CGP presser
6/11 8:30 ET Initial jobless claims
6/11 8:30 ET PPI for May
6/12 8:30 ET Import price index
6/12 10:00 ET Consumer sentiment

Key Economic Events Week of 5/25

5/26 8:30 ET Chicago Fed
5/26 10:00 ET Consumer Confidence
5/27 2:00 ET Fed Beige Book
5/28 8:30 ET Q2 GDP 2nd guess
5/28 8:30 ET Durable Goods
5/29 8:30 ET Pers Inc and Cons Spend
5/29 8:30 ET Core Inflation
5/29 9:45 ET Chicago PMI

Key Economic Events Week of 5/18

5/18 2:00 ET Goon Bostic speech
5/19 8:30 ET Housing starts
5/19 10:00 ET CGP and Mnuchin US Senate
5/20 10:00 ET Goon Bullard speech
5/20 2:00 ET April FOMC minutes
5/21 8:30 ET Philly Fed
5/21 9:45 ET Markit flash PMIs for May
5/21 10:00 ET Goon Williams speech
5/21 1:00 ET Goon Chlamydia speech
5/21 2:30 ET Chief Goon Powell speech

Key Economic Events Week of 5/11

5/11 12:00 ET Goon Bostic speech
5/11 12:30 ET Goon Evans speech
5/12 8:30 ET CPI
5/12 9:00 ET Goon Kashnkari speech
5/12 10:00 ET Goon Quarles speech
5/12 10:00 ET Goon Harker speech
5/12 5:00 ET Goon Mester speech
5/13 8:30 ET PPI
5/13 9:00 ET Chief Goon Powell speech
5/14 8:30 ET Initial jobless claims and import prices
5/14 1:00 ET Another Goon Kashnkari speech
5/14 6:00 ET Goon Kaplan speech
5/15 8:30 ET Retail Sales and Empire State index
5/15 9:15 ET Cap Ute and Ind Prod
5/15 10:00 ET Business Inventories

Key Economic Events Week of 5/4

5/4 10:00 ET Factory Orders
5/5 8:30 ET US Trade Deficit
5/5 9:45 ET Markit Service PMI
5/5 10:00 ET ISM Sevrice PMI
5/6 8:15 ET ADP jobs report
5/7 8:30 ET Productivity
5/8 8:30 ET BLSBS
5/8 10:00 ET Wholesale Inventories

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