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Congress to Vote to Give Obama Control of Economy During 'National Emergencies' Tomorrow, the House will consider HR 4809, legislation reauthorizing the Defense Production Act. The Defense Production Act is a cold-war era law that gives the President dictatorial control over the economy in times of war or  “national emergencies.”

28 July 2014read on...

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The US Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee just approved the transfer of $351 million to Israel for the Iron Dome missile defense system — that will bring the appropriations this week for Israel to $621 million. There has been virtually no debate about such huge payments to another nation’s defense budget when cities and schools continue to cut back on programs for lack of fund.

18 July 2014read on...

House Procedure in Action: Pro-Drug War Amendment OK, Pro-Gun Rights Amendment Prohibited US House of Representatives rules were strictly enforced Tuesday to prevent a full House vote on a pro-gun rights amendment offered by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) despite the earlier incorporation into the bill of a pro-drug war amendment that would also appear to be barred by a strict application of the procedural rule.

17 July 2014read on...

Resolution Requiring US Military Withdrawal from Iraq on the Fast Track to US House Vote
A resolution requiring the removal from Iraq of all US military troops who are not protecting diplomatic facilities and personnel that was introduced Friday in the US House of Representatives by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) is on the fast track to a debate and vote in the House.

14 July 2014read on...

House to Vote on 'Expedited and Dignified' TSA Screenings for Some People, Sometimes
The US House of Representatives is scheduled to consider on Tuesday the Honor Flight Act (HR 4812) that would require the Transportation Security Administration to work with a non-profit organization to establish a process for providing “expedited and dignified passenger screening services for veterans” who are traveling with the aid of certain non-profit organizations to visit certain war memorials.

6 July 2014read on...

Rep. Thomas Massie: 'Declassify 9/11 Report to Prevent the Next 9/11'
In a new discussion at the YouTube channel of Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), Jones, an RPI Advisory Board member, discusses with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) the effort to declassify 28 pages of a joint House of Representatives and Senate Intelligence Committees report. The redacted pages include information concerning foreign governments’ involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks in America. Jones and Massie both state that the information in those 28 pages is important for informing decisions regarding the Middle East and potential US government actions in Iraq, as well as for preventing another attack in America similar to the September 11 attacks.

1 July 2014read on...

US House Rejects by 355 to 62 Vote Amendment to Limit Transfer of Military Weapons and Equipment to Local Police
By a vote of 355 “no” votes to 62 “yes” votes the United States House of Representatives voted down Thursday night an amendment offered by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act (HR 4870) that would have curtailed the transfer of US military equipment to local police.



20 June 2014read on...

Rep. John Duncan: 'Stop Trying to Take Care of the Whole World and Start Taking Care of Our Own Country'
Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) brought one minute of hard-hitting reality to the United States House of Representatives on May 30, remarking that the United States government, with its over $17 trillion debt, is only escaping — for now — Detroit-style bankruptcy by printing money. The representative explains that, unless the US government becomes more fiscally responsible, the US will fail to satisfy fully obligations such as military pension and social security payments. Duncan, an RPI Advisory Board member concludes his speech by suggesting the US government “stop trying to take care of the whole world and start taking care of our own country and putting the American people first once again.”

12 June 2014read on...

US House Votes to Respect States’ Medical Marijuana and Hemp Legalization
An appropriations bill passed Friday in the United States House of Representatives and on its way to the US Senate contains provisions calling for the United States government to stop treading on states’ efforts to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp.

31 May 2014read on...

Sen. Ron Wyden: House-Passed USA FREEDOM Act is 'Reform in Name Only'
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), speaking Wednesday in his home state of Oregon, declared that the “Status Quo Caucus” including “intelligence leadership, their friends in the House of Representatives, [and] their allies in academia” had successfully transformed the USA FREEDOM Act (HR 3361) into “reform in name only” by the time it was debated and approved on the United States House of Representatives floor.

29 May 2014read on...

Congress Alert

Sen. Ron Wyden Warns of Fake Surveillance Reform and the Economic Harm of US Mass Spying


Ron Wyden

US Sen. Ron Wyden, in a Guardian article he wrote based on his speech at a Cato Institute event this week, reinforces RPI's warnings that efforts to reform the US government mass spying program "provide an excellent opportunity to make bad legislation worse" and that the spying "threatens American companies' business prospects in the international marketplace."

Wyden first warns that the "business-as-usual-brigade" will do everything it can to prevent the realization of pro-liberty curtailments of the mass spying program. Wyden comments in the Guardian article:

I know these issues will be discussed here today, so I'll start with my bottom line: the goal of our bipartisan bill is to set the bar for measuring meaningful intelligence reform. We wanted to put this marker down early because we know in the months ahead we will be up against a "business-as-usual brigade" – made up of influential members of the government's intelligence leadership, their allies in thinktanks and academia, retired government officials, and sympathetic legislators. Their game plan? Try mightily to fog up the surveillance debate and convince the Congress and the public that the real problem here is not overly intrusive, constitutionally flawed domestic surveillance, but sensationalistic media reporting. Their end game is ensuring that any surveillance reforms are only skin-deep.

Some of the "business as usual" arguments have something of an Alice in Wonderland flavor. We have heard that surveillance of Americans' phone records, aka metadata, is not actually surveillance at all – it's simply the collection of bits of information. We've been told that falsehoods aren't falsehoods – they are simply imprecise statements. We've been told that rules that have been repeatedly broken are a valuable check on government overreach. And we've been told that codifying secret surveillance laws and making them public surveillance laws is the same as actually reforming these overreaching surveillance programs. It's not.

These arguments, of course, leave the public with a distorted picture of what their government is actually up to. Those tiny bits of information, when put together, paint an illuminating picture of what the private lives of law-abiding Americans are like. Erroneous statements that are made on the public record but never corrected mislead the public and often members of Congress, as well. Privacy protections that don't actually protect privacy are not worth the paper they are printed on; and just because intelligence officials say that a particular program helps catch terrorists doesn't make it true.

Still, Wyden sees reason for optimism in the close House of Representatives vote on the US Reps. Justin Amash and John Conyers defense appropriations amendment to restrict spying. The key to curtailing the US mass spying program, according to Wyden, is "grassroots support from lots of Americans across the political spectrum who let their members of Congress know that they want both their security and their liberty to be protected, and that 'business as usual' is no longer OK."

In addition to infringing liberty, Wyden warns that the mass spying program is also undermining the competitiveness of American companies:

But the effects of constitutionally flawed, overly intrusive surveillance programs go beyond the intrusion on Americans' privacy. American companies that are believed to have been the subject of government surveillance orders are taking a major hit internationally and here at home. This is a serious economic issue. We live in a global marketplace and American digital companies compete on a global playing field to a degree that was unheard of ten years ago. If they start to lose ground to foreign competition, it will put tens of thousands of high paying jobs at serious risk.

If a foreign enemy were doing this much damage to our economy, people would be out in the street with pitchforks. These companies are now filing lawsuits to force the government to allow them to release more information about how many surveillance orders they have received, in an attempt to repair some of the damage that has been caused.

Just within the last week, I was talking to a company president from one of America's leading digital service companies, and the first thing this executive said to me was what a big impact this unchecked domestic surveillance was having on that company. To be fair, I don't expect NSA officials to spend their time thinking about the economic impact that unrestrained surveillance can have, but the policymakers who sign off on these over-broad surveillance programs should absolutely be thinking about the impact that these programs can have on American jobs, and on trust for American companies around the world.

Read Wyden's entire article here.


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