October 15, 2012
- 228 times a day: SWAT teams swing into action… and “if you’ve done nothing wrong,” you still have something to worry about
- No passport for you, revisited: State Department won’t give up on its impossible-to-complete long form
- The $280 billion gaping hole in the federal budget that you won’t read about elsewhere
- Uh-oh: LiLo weighs in on public policy again… new taxes and weird fees, international edition… a case for secession… and more!
On Sept. 14, 2012, Mr. Brown was working on his own computer… in his home… in Beach Park, Ill. Suddenly, a gang of thugs smashed in his front door, pointed guns at him and several family members — including his 77-year-old mother-in-law — handcuffed them and ransacked his house.
Wayward drug lords?
Nah. The local SWAT team. Yes, they were looking for drugs. But they didn’t find any. Nor did they make any arrests.
WTF: Plywood takes the place of lead and stained glass in Paul Brown’s front door…
“The authorities had burst in immediately after a postal worker delivered a package to the home that they said contained marijuana,” the Chicago Tribune reports. Brown’s son-in-law accepted the package. It was addressed to someone named “Oscar.” No one by that name lives there.
The cops aren’t saying much. They believe they had the right house and the target of their investigation wasn’t home at the time. They are not going to repair the door… or help with the $3,000 in damages.
It was “just another day in the war on drugs,” excuses the Trib, unwittingly kicking off a disturbing episode of the 5 in which we try to highlight and detail what we’ve been affectionately referring to as the War on You.
Like the troubling collapse of municipal services, the increased militarization of domestic life in the U.S. is a visceral symptom of the collapse of a wayward empire. It’s not a topic we take up lightly.
Back in 2008, in a now infamous example in these parts, a SWAT team raided the home of Cheye Calvo, the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Md.
“The raid,” Wikipedia recalls, “was the culmination of an investigation that began in Arizona, where a package containing 32 pounds of marijuana was intercepted in a FedEx warehouse, addressed to the mayor’s residence.
“In spite of intercepting the package in transit, the police allowed the package to be delivered, and once the package arrived at the house, a SWAT team raided and held the mayor and his mother-in-law at gunpoint, and shot and killed his two Labrador retrievers, one while it attempted to run away.”
It turns out drug runners frequently address packages to innocent homeowners, figuring FedEx will leave the package on the doorstep when no one’s home… and the traffickers can retrieve it before anyone who lives there shows up.
That turned out to be the case in the Calvo incident. As a result, the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office fired several officers, implemented new procedures and conducted workshops with other police agencies from around the country to prevent innocent people from ever being terrorized again – like Mr. Brown in Illinois.
Just kidding: An internal investigation found the raid was justified. No one was punished. Prince George’s County Sheriff Michael Jackson, running for reelection in 2010, said, “We’ve apologized for the incident, but we will never apologize for taking drugs off our streets… Quite frankly, we’d do it again. Tonight.”
They must have been conferring with the Billings, Mont., police department Tuesday morning of last week. During an early morning raid, a SWAT team, looking for a meth lab, broke into the home of the Fasching family.
The cops found no meth lab and made no arrests… but they did set off a “flash-bang” grenade that aims to disorient the people inside before the officers storm the house. The grenade was tossed through the window of a bedroom where Jackie Fasching’s 12-year-old daughter was asleep. The girl suffered first- and second-degree burns in the attack.
“A simple knock on the door and I would’ve let them in,” says Jackie.
As in the suburban Chicago case, the Billings Police aren’t backing down. “If we’re wrong or made a mistake,” Chief Rich St. John says, “then we’re going to take care of it,” he said. “But if [the department's claims process] determines we’re not, then we’ll go with that.”
Chicago… Billings… suburban D.C…. we mentioned the family in Delaware last week. There’s another case this month in Salt Lake City.
“I saw them crashing through the door,” recalled Paul Fracasso. “There were guns and flashlights going everywhere [and police] telling them: ‘Get down. Get down. Get down.’”
Fracasso was lucky: He’s the next-door neighbor.
Once police burst inside, the only person they saw was a 76-year-old woman. Her son says she was asked if she had a gun or drugs. “She was petrified,” Raymond Zaelit told the Salt Lake Tribune. “She didn’t know what to think. This was traumatizing for her.” At least in this case the police apologized.
By the way, USA Today has followed up on the research we cited last week on the number of SWAT raids that take place nationwide. From a mere 3,000 per year in the early 1980s, the number has exploded to as many as 80,000. That’s an average of 228 per day.
Here in Maryland, a study commissioned by the governor found that a full one-third of those raids don’t even result in an arrest.
Remember the trained weather spotter getting a visit by the FBI for shooting photos of storms near an oil refinery?…or the high-school kids whose every move is being tracked by RFID chips?: … or the moms being hauled off to jail for “child neglect” because they let their kids run around outside?
All these stories are of a piece. And rather disturbing.
Seen on the wall at a new Irish Pub we discovered on Charles Street in Baltimore
The War on Poverty… the War on Drugs… the War on Terror… what’s next? It is, as we say in a new report, “a deliberate, vicious and calculated assault.” As unsettling and distasteful as it is, we’ve poured several months of research into this “War on You” project… our solution set comes in six parts.
The “Liberty Library” covers everything from safeguarding your wealth… to home improvement tips that are legal, but politically incorrect…ways you can bypass the Byzantine medical system… and ways to secure an Ivy League education for your kids or grandkids without sentencing them to a life of debt and servitude.
Check it out for yourself. We’ll be back with more…
The State Department is doubling down on its plans to implement a passport application that can be described generously as Kafkaesque. We tipped you off to the “Biographical Questionnaire” 18 months ago and did our part to set off a flood of email protest against the plans.
No matter: “The State Department,” reports travel blogger Edward Hasbrouck, “is trying again to get approval for a pair of impossible-to-complete new passport application forms that would, in effect, allow the State Department to deny you a passport simply by choosing to send you either or both of the new ‘long forms.’”
The latest revisions to the forms are a slight improvement: No longer would you have to track down the phone number of the guy who hired you to flip burgers when you were 16 at a restaurant that went out of business in 1988.
But you might have to track down, as Hasbrouck notes, “the dates and locations of all of your mother’s pre- and post-natal medical appointments, how long she was hospitalized for your birth and a complete list of everyone who was in the room when you were born.”
Worst of all, the State Department’s proposal does not specify who would get this “supplemental” form to fill out in addition to the regular one. Hasbrouck: “It would still be up to the standardless, secret, administrative ‘discretion’ of any passport examiner who doesn’t like your looks to spike your right to foreign travel by choosing to give you one or both of the ‘long form’ passport applications.”
Stocks are starting the new week barely budging from where they ended last week. The S&P has huffed and puffed a whole two points to reach 1430.
As earnings season ramps up, traders are also chewing on two economic numbers…
- Retail sales: Up 1.1% from August to September, according to the Census Bureau. Even when you factor out higher gasoline prices, the number looks respectable. But watch out for those seasonal adjustments: They skew nearly all of the report’s internals
- New York factory activity: The Fed’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey turned in a negative reading for the third straight month. The only component of the report that’s not contracting is the one that factory owners want to contract – the prices they pay for raw goods
Precious metals continue to tumble this morning. At last check gold is down to $1,735 and silver has broken below $33. Can’t blame it on a weakening greenback; the dollar index is steady at 79.8.
The U.S. Treasury reported late Friday that the federal deficit for fiscal 2012 registered $1.089 trillion.
Funny how that works… As we pointed out eleven days ago, the national debt grew $1.369 trillion. A slight discrepancy of $280 billion.
If we did our accounting the way the Treasury does, we’d have gone out of business years ago…
We’re not sure if this is a sign of the impending 2012 Mayan apocalypse, but Lindsay Lohan has changed her political allegiances. She was an Obama gal in 2008. No more.
LiLo: One of the 7 million who’ve dropped out and stopped looking for “work”?“
“I just think employment is really important right now,” she explained in her bestest eloquence to E! News.
“So, as of now, Mitt Romney. As of now.”
The last time LiLo weighed in on public policy, she made a fair amount of sense. Imagine our disappointment when it turned out she’d been paid to decry the Federal Reserve’s money printing on Twitter.
“There isn’t a Wal-Mart near me, and I’ve seldom been in one,” writes a reader as a nationwide Wal-Mart strike slowly cranks up.
“I don’t know anyone who works in its stores, but I do know several executives in Bentonville. And I do own its stock. I don’t much care if its workforce is union or not; that’s a corporate matter for Wal-Mart and its employees.
“What I do object to is having to pick up the tab, through higher taxes, fees and health insurance costs, for the Wal-Mart workforce. It has long been the company’s policy to inform its low-paid employees of all the benefits available from local, state and federal government and to instruct them on how to file for them, including food stamps. Something seems out of whack when you, I and the rest of the country have to subsidize Wal-Mart’s low-ish prices while the heirs of Sam stuff ever more money into their saddlebags.”
“The news that northeast areas of Italy wish to secede is intriguing,” the same reader adds on another topic. “I believe that’s the best way for the U.S. to go, as well; it is simply too big to function any longer as a republic.
“As a Californian who’s tired of the centuries-long subsidization of the old Confederacy by the ‘liberal’ parts of our country while being excoriated for our ‘leftist and nutty ways,’ I have a bumper sticker slogan that says, ‘Is It Too Late to Let the South Secede?’
“As I’m sure you know, the only state in that group that ‘contributes’ more to the national pot o’ gold is Texas. All the rest have been on a steady diet of welfare since their Colonial days, all the while spouting off about ‘rugged individualism’ and ‘free markets.’ Johnny Reb economics at its best and most ignorant.”
The 5: Ooh, them’s fightin’ words. But the man has a point. We make it ourselves in a less partisan fashion in our special report American Oases — in which we pinpoint the five states best positioned to ride out the coming economic storms. We make it available to every new reader of Apogee Advisory.
“I feel I must reply to that extreme right-wing American living in Venezuela,” a reader writes. “His comments rank of sheer stupidity, and I might add selfishness.
“Chavez has used much of the revenue from oil to assist the poor who have either lost their homes in recent floods or are in most need.
“He is also opening many factories, which gives jobs, and has the help from China, Russia and, yes, Iran.
“But quite obviously, this informant wants all for himself and his cronies, as it was in the past, leaving the masses hungry.
“He should take a leaf out of the pages that say: Love overcomes hate.”
The 5: Right, because wealth is a zero-sum game in which either oligarchs control it all… or it is redistributed so everyone gets a “fair share.”
Good to know that either-or political thinking isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon…
“Something I found,” a reader writes, “that might fit in with your ‘new taxes and weird fees’ theme. “It’s not American, but I found it interesting, nonetheless.”
No more pizza on the piazza: Seems that city fathers in Rome have imposed fines of up to 500 euros for anyone caught eating near the city’s ancient monuments.
“That includes Piazza Navona, with its exquisite marble fountains,” reports The Christian Science Monitor, “and the Pantheon, a vast Roman temple converted into a church. Other areas subject to the crackdown include Via dei Fori Imperiali, the broad avenue which links Piazza Venezia, Rome’s main square, with the Colosseum, the ancient arena where gladiators and slaves once fought.”
Sounds like just the ticket: Drive away the tourists at a time when the locals are too cash-strapped to visit the bars, restaurants and cafes. Furbo!
“I’m 19 and I’ve been a regular reader for more than a year now,” adds the reader who tipped us off. “The 5 is one of my most anticipated emails; I’m always looking forward to it, and now that it comes earlier, I don’t have to look forward as much!”
The 5: Um, well that’s one way to look at it…
The 5 Min. Forecast
P.S. We’re less than one week away from an invitation-only briefing in which Byron King brings together five of the sharpest minds in the field of “technology metals” — a field with $53 billion in potential during the next three years.
“We could be looking at a simultaneous eruption of new-age technologies that will alter our nation — and our lives — on a scale that hasn’t been seen in 100 years,” says Byron. But the train’s leaving the station soon, investmentwise. Here’s how to make sure you don’t miss out.