Rep. Walter Jones: Stop Wasting American Money and Lives in Afghanistan

Rep. Walter Jones, an RPI Advisory Board member, presented last week on the House floor a short, powerful speech calling for ending US military action in, and the flow of Americans’ tax money to, Afghanistan. Jones’s speech focuses on continued US government spending in Afghanistan “at a time when America is drowning in debt” as well as recent killings of Americans in Afghanistan, including a father of two who had been stationed at a US Marines base in Jones’s North Carolina district. Jones concluded his speech with the following appeal:

It is time for the Congress of the United States to face the fact that we have our own problems here in America. To send money—over $600 billion—to Afghanistan to build roads, schools, utility plants so the Taliban can blow them up makes no sense. It is time for little girls like these two to have their daddies at home and not have their daddies in a coffin.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Ron Paul’s Push to End War on Pain Doctors — Fresh Attacks!

The US Food and Drug Administration’s announcement Thursday that it supports adding more pain medications to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act is a critical step in expanding through regulatory fiat the US government’s war on pain doctors and their patients that RPI Chairman and Founder Ron Paul fought to end in the US House of Representatives.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

House Republicans’ Hollow ‘Local Control of Education’ Rhetoric

By guiding HR 2083, the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act, to the Floor Tuesday for passage by a voice vote, the House Republican leadership demonstrated the hollowness of the praise it heaped on local control of education when HR 5, the Student Success Act, passed in the House three months earlier.

The nice sounding but ominous in consequences Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act presents serious federalism, constitutional, and individual liberty concerns. The legislation standardizes nationwide — and expands — school-related background check policies that states have implemented. In particular, HR 2083 mandates fingerprinting, as well as state and FBI criminal background checking, of millions of school and local or state educational agency employees. The requirements also apply to all persons who, because they work for private entities or public agencies with a school contract or agreement, have “unsupervised access” to students.

HR 2083 provides no opt-out provision for states, school districts, or any current or potential employees. Refusal to submit to any of the fingerprinting or background checks will result in being fired or refused employment. The legislation also disqualifies people who have been convicted for any of a list of crimes from the opportunity to work in any of the covered jobs despite the fact that they have served their entire court imposed punishments. This effectively creates an ex post facto punishment prohibited under the US Constitution.

Funneling all these fingerprints and background checks to the US government also helps build the databases supporting the US government’s mass spying program.

HR 2083 passed by voice vote after a chorus of praise from several Representatives, and some moderated concern expressed by Rep. Keith Ellison in the House floor debate. Indeed, the Hill writer Pete Kasperowics identified HR 2083 as part of a package of legislation “just about everyone agrees on” that House Republican leadership had scheduled for consideration after “weeks of bitter partisan fighting about spending and the debt ceiling.”

As with the PATRIOT Act and other legislation designed to expand police powers in the US and suppress local political control, HR 2083 is cleverly named to put any legislator who opposes it immediately on the defensive. “Why don’t you want to protect the children from murderers and sexual predators,” media and constituents would ask any legislator who dares to oppose the bill.

On July 19, when HR 5, the Student Success Act, passed in the House, many Republicans were singing the praise of local control of schools. Yet the Republican leadership, with the consent of the Democrat leadership, this week put HR 2083, with its one-size-fits-all US government mandates, on the House floor for passage by voice vote.

To understand the apparent shift in the Republican House leadership’s education policy goals over the last three months, it is helpful to consider what Republicans responsible for moving education legislation in the House said when HR 5 passed on July 19.

Here is what Speaker of the House John Boehner said in a press release regarding the Student Success Act the day that legislation passed in the House:

[The Student Success Act] protects local schools from new requirements and red tape, and lets school districts identify, recruit, and keep the best teachers possible.

Similarly, the Republican House leadership’s number two, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, issued a statement that day praising the Student Success Act for removing “mandates on our local schools.”

Boehner and Cantor were outdone by their fellow Republican House members Reps. John Kline and Todd Rokita, chairmen respectively of the Education and the Workforce Committee and that committee’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. Both HR 2083 and HR 5 proceeded to the House floor via the committee. Kline (the sponsor of HR 5) and Rokita said, also on July 19, the following in their press release trumpeting the passage of the Student Success Act:

“For the first time in more than a decade, the House has approved legislation to revamp K-12 education law. This is a monumental step forward in the fight to improve the nation’s education system and ensure a brighter future for our children,” Chairman Kline said. “The Student Success Act will tear down barriers to progress and grant states and districts the freedom and flexibility they need to think bigger, innovate, and take whatever steps are necessary to raise the bar in our schools.”

“No Washington bureaucrat cares more about a child than a parent does. And no one in Washington knows what is better for an Indiana school than Indiana families do.  That is why the Student Success Act puts an end to the administration’s National School Board by putting state and local school districts back in charge of their own schools,” said Rep. Rokita. “Many Hoosiers will also be pleased to know that the Student Success Act prohibits the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core, again returning accountability and standards to state and local school districts, where it belongs.”

This praise for local control in education is in sharp contrast to the talking points repeated by Republican and Democrat representatives on the House floor on Tuesday — they said HR 2083 is needed to make employee hiring and retention decisions uniform nationwide. Yet, Subcommittee Chairman Rokita made the motion to suspend the rules that began debate on HR 2083. Then, in his House floor speech during the debate, Rokita praised HR 2083 for moving education decisions from local school districts and private employers to the US government — the exact opposite of what he praised HR 5 for doing:

Despite the fact that States have varying policies intended to protect children from sexual predators in schools, the GAO determined the policies were largely inconsistent and insufficient. According to the report, States don’t consistently perform preemployment background checks, and when they do conduct these checks, they are not always fingerprinted or connected to the national criminal database.

There is widespread agreement on both sides of this aisle that more must be done to protect students. We have worked with our colleagues to advance legislation that will ensure that every school employee–from the cafeteria workers, Mr. Speaker, to the administrators, to the janitors, to the teachers, principals, and librarians–that everyone is subject to a complete background check that includes the FBI fingerprint identification system and the National Sex Offender Registry.

Why did Rokita and other Republicans responsible for moving education legislation through the House reverse their position on local control of education between July 19 and October 22? The answer is that they actually did not reverse their position, despite the fact that anyone looking at their comments logically would conclude that they had. The Republican leaders’ position on local control has remained the same: cloudy and inconsistent. They just change their rhetoric to defend the legislation they are pushing at the moment.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

US Mass Spying Targets Mexico Presidents to Advance the Drug War

In contrast to the counter-terrorism narrative used to defend the US government’s mass spying program, unfolding revelations suggest the program’s Latin America efforts are focused on much besides terrorism. First, evidence arose that the US spying program, alone and in coordination with spying programs of other nations, is engaging in industrial espionage against Brazilian companies and the Brazil government’s mines and energy ministry. Now, new revelations suggest that the US spying program targeted current and former Mexican presidents, along with other high level Mexican government officials, for surveillance to advance the war on drugs.

Jens Glüsing, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, and Holger Stark provide the new revelations regarding Mexico today in a Der Spiegel article, including that the US National Security Agency, working with the US Central Intelligence Agency, has since at least May 2010 snooped on the email communications of high level Mexican government officials including Presidents Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, as well as cabinet members. The article goes on to explain that another spying operation the NSA called “whitetamale” focused on a Mexican government department conducting Mexico’s drug war:

In August 2009, according to internal documents, the agency gained access to the emails of various high-ranking officials in Mexico’s Public Security Secretariat that combats the drug trade and human trafficking. This hacking operation allowed the NSA not only to obtain information on several drug cartels, but also to gain access to “diplomatic talking-points.” In the space of a single year, according to the internal documents, this operation produced 260 classified reports that allowed US politicians to conduct successful talks on political issues and to plan international investments.

It may be more than a coincidence that August 2009 is also when the Mexican government enacted legislation decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of various drugs including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and methamphetamine.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

American Hemp Farming Poised for Resurgence Despite US Prohibition

This month Ryan Loflin, along with a group of volunteers, completed on his Colorado farm the first public hemp harvest in the US since Colorado voters approved legalizing the farming and distribution of both marijuana and hemp last November. The Loflin farm harvest is one of several recent developments that suggest American hemp farming that has been suppressed by the US government for decades may soon enjoy a resurgence.

While the Colorado government says legal hemp farming is on hold until regulations are enacted, Loflin jumped the gun, growing his hemp the old fashioned way—without a government permit. As reported in the New York Times in August, Loflin ordered fertile hemp seeds through the mail from suppliers in countries in which the plant is legally grown. He then planted the seeds on his farm.

Despite the fact that hemp is legally included in products from building materials to cloths to food, the US government deems illegal the possession of fertile hemp seeds and the cultivation of hemp. The Times article relates that Loflin, who was upfront about his hemp farming plans and told the neighbors of his farm about his intentions, half-expected US Drug Enforcement Administration agents to race down the highway to his farm and burn his crops before harvest.

Loflin’s concern about DEA interference is warranted. Hemp is a variation of cannabis sativa L., as is marijuana. Though hemp is distinguished from marijuana by hemp’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content being so low that it is impossible to use hemp to alter one’s psychological state, the US government views hemp farming as prohibited under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act that defines all cannabis sativa L. as marijuana.

Other individuals who have dared to publicly grow hemp in the US during the national prohibition have faced punishment and the destruction of their plants. Mother Jones writer Leora Broydo relates the overpowering SWAT reaction of multiple federal agencies when some people attempted in the summer of 2000 to farm less than two acres of hemp in a South Dakota reservation in accord with the tribal government’s laws:

Alex White Plume called it his “field of dreams”: an acre and a half of plants so tall and strong they seemed to touch the sky; a crop representing hope for a new and self-sufficient life for his family, residents of the desperately impoverished Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

But on Aug. 24, 2000 at sunrise, just four days before White Plume and his neighbors planned to harvest their bounty, White Plume awoke to the sounds of helicopters. He looked out the window and saw a convoy of vehicles heading for his field.

He raced down to investigate, and was met by a slew of black-clad and heavily armed figures — 36 agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the US Marshal’s office.

When White Plume rolled down the window of his pick-up to ask what was going on, he says, one US marshal pointed a gun in his face. Meanwhile, the other agents chopped down each plant near the roots and hauled them away.

Twelve years later, David Bronner locked himself and a few hemp plants in a cage in front of the White House in Washington, DC. Bronner then proceeded to harvest the plants as well as process hemp oil from them in an effort to publicize the need to end the US prohibition on hemp farming—until police broke into his cage and took him away in handcuffs.

Bronner’s advocacy for American hemp farming is buttressed by his business experience as the CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. Bronner explains in an interview with KPBS television that his company spends yearly over $100,000 importing 20 tons of hemp seed oil from Canada. As Bronner says in a 2012 Reason interview, “We want to give our money to American farmers. And, in a recession, why are we continuing to hand it to Canadians?”

Other American business leaders are likely asking similar questions. Among other considerations, moving hemp farming closer to American production facilities can lower costs by significantly decreasing transportation distances compared to importing hemp from hemp producing countries such as Canada, China, and Hungary. Further, so long as hemp cannot be grown legally in the US, an American business may decide it makes the most economic sense to locate hemp-related production oversees near the legal hemp farms.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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

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.”

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Cop in Tank: Freeze, Drop that Steak!

In the continuing rise of SWAT, police in Napoleon Dynamite’s hometown now have a tank. William N. Grigg, in his latest article at Pro Libertate, explores the small Idaho town’s acquisition of the military armored vehicle at no cost and the ominous US government program that is helping militarize police departments all over the country. Grigg writes:

Preston, Idaho is a town of roughly 5,000 people that earned brief notoriety a decade ago as the setting for the whimsical film “Napoleon Dynamite.” It is blessedly devoid of violent crime, and has no need for its six-officer police department.

Yet Chief Ken Geddes believes that Preston’s superficial placidity disguises the potential for apocalyptic violence. At least that’s what he’s saying to pre-empt potential criticism of his decision to acquire a combat-grade armored vehicle from the Department of Homeland Security.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Canada Joins US in the Hot Seat for Industrial Espionage

Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, after condemning US government mass spying on Brazilian companies in her speech last month before the United Nations General Assembly, is now singling out the Canada government for engaging in industrial espionage targeting Brazil’s mines and energy ministry. The Associated Press reports on Rousseff’s concerns, as well as the Brazil foreign minster’s discussion of the spying with Canada’s ambassador to Brazil at a meeting Monday:

Brazil has demanded clarifications from the Canadian government about allegations that its spies targeted Brazil’s mines and energy ministry, in what the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, said appeared to be an act of industrial espionage.

The foreign minister, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, summoned the Canadian ambassador to “transmit the indignation of the Brazilian government and demand explanations,” the foreign ministry said in a statement following the revelations, broadcast on Sunday night on Brazil’s Globo network.

The report said the metadata of phone calls and emails to and from the ministry were targeted by Canada‘s Communications Security Establishment (CSE). It did not indicate if emails were read or phone calls listened to.

The report was based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and follows revelations that the US and the UK had also targeted Brazil..

During Monday’s meeting, Figueiredo’s statement expressed “the government’s repudiation of this serious and unacceptable violation of national sovereignty and the rights of people and companies”.

As noted in the Globe and Mail, whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s revelation of Canada’s involvement in the spying included releasing a slide presentation by a member of the Canada government intelligence agency Communications Security Establishment Canada at a June 2012 meeting of the Five Eyes—a spying cooperation and sharing organization of the governments of Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, and the United States. As the Globe and Mail article explains, the slides reveal the Brazilian ministry was targeted for snooping:

Using a program called Olympia, CSEC took aim at Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy, describing it as a “new target to develop” despite “limited access/target knowledge.”

Nevertheless, in the US, President Barack Obama and some of the legislators charged with overseeing the US mass spying program continue to assure us the program’s focus is on counter-terrorism.

There is no reason to believe US intelligence agencies are somehow immune from the lobbying and revolving doors that create huge payoffs for private companies seeking profits through government connections instead of competition. In fact, the secretiveness of intelligence budgets and operations—secure from regular oversight and public scrutiny—make intelligence programs more, not less, subject to corruption.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.