A lot of legislative lunacy is happening in Congress week—and it's not getting enough media attention in the midst of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation circus. Today the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a measure that would give the Department of Homeland Security power to shoot down citizen drones, plus a PATRIOT Act–parroting banking bill disguised as a measure to stop human traffickers (H.R. 6729).
Both of these terrible measures would increase the power of federal agents to terrorize and surveil innocent citizens without accountability and due process. Here's a more detailed look at the alleged anti-trafficking bill.
The drone power comes from a wider (and 1,200-page) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. You can read more about its details here and here, but rest assured that it's bad news (no matter how many times DHS officials insist it's only about our safety). Provisions under a section titled "Preventing Emerging Threats" would "give the government virtually carte blanche to surveil, seize, or even shoot a drone out of the sky— whether owned by journalists or commercial entities—with no oversight or due process," said Neema Singh Guliani of the American Civil Liberties Union in a statement.
"They grant new powers to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to spy on Americans without a warrant," she added. "Congress should remove these provisions from the bill."
The House is also set to vote today or later this week on…
- a bill that would promote more meddling in digital currencies (to stop "terrorism," obviously) and set a reward of up to $450,000 "to any person who provides information leading to the conviction of an individual involved with terrorsit use of digital currencies";
- a bill that would increase scrutiny on financial institutions that do business with "state sponsors of terror";
- a resolution "recognizing the important role of chefs in responding to natural disasters"; and
- a resolution "recognizing that allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens."
Meanwhile, congressional committees are set to tackle a slew of weighty topics today, including U.S. strategy in Syria; fraud within the the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (aka "food stamps") program; "First Amendment rights on campus"; an anti-SWATTING act; civil-rights abuses in China; "countering Iranian proxies in Iraq"; and "misconduct & retaliation within the TSA."
In addition, representatives from Homeland Security and the Department of Justice will testify about "federal efforts to stop human trafficking" and former Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren will testify about genocide against the Burmese Rohingya.
It's a weird day. Or maybe not. Yesterday, federal legislators tackled topics including the importance of "lumberjack sports," a "border tunnel task force," how "to expand and strengthen Federal sex offenses" (a perennial congressional favorite), how to set up an Amber Alert system for missing adults, regulatory standards for veterans' service dogs, thwarting Hizballah, quantum science, a bill called the "Hack Your State Department Act" that is not nearly as fun as it sounds, and musical copyright practices.
"A Senator Gary Johnson could be good not just for Libertarians, but for the Senate too," writes John Vaught LaBeaume, deputy communications director for the Libertarian presidential ticket in 2016, at The Hill. LaBeaume—who isn't affiliated with Johnson's current campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate—suggests that having Johnson as a Libertarian Party candidate in the Senate
could serve up a welcome antidote to the polarized partisan atmosphere that's paralyzing this country. And it could chart a new, more effective, course for Libertarian-branded politics that could give voice to voters nationwide who don't "fit" comfortably—and aren't welcome by tribalized bases—into the current Democratic and Republican electoral coalitions.
Read the whole thing here.
U.S. cracks top ten for economic freedom.
— Cato Institute (@CatoInstitute) September 25, 2018
Kavanaugh tales continue ahead of Thursday testimony. The latest in the saga of is-our-Supreme-Court-nominee-a-sexual-predator? Four friends of his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, have come forward to "corroborate" her story (as USA Today put it), although none of the friends had heard the story until 2012.
In documents sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and obtained by USA TODAY, Ford's attorneys present declarations from Ford's husband, Russell, and three friends who support the California college professor's accusation that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her and attempted to pull off her clothes while both were high school students in 1982.
Republicans in Congress have announced that prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who is on leave from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in Arizona, will be the one to question Ford during Thursday's scheduled testimony.
- A new report explores the "toxic culture" and "unchecked misconduct" within the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Since at least 2015, "TSA leadership inappropriately used involuntary directed reassignments to retaliate against disfavored employees and whistleblowers, among other tactics," as well as "obstructed various investigations" which might have exposed them.
- A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by several nonprofit organizations against FOSTA.
- Bill Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison on sexual assault charges.
- Facing sex crime charges, Cody Wilson has resigned as chief executive officer of the 3D-printed gun design company Defense Distributed.
- "The media can't justify Botham Jean's killing" by his police officer neighbor. "But they're trying," explains Hanif Abdurraqib at BuzzFeed.
- The U.S. divorce rate fell 18 percent between 2008 and 2016, according to a new study out of the University of Maryland. Lead researcher Philip Cohen found that "the divorce rate's decline isn't a reflection of a decline in marriages," notes Bloomberg. "Rather, it's evidence that marriages today have a greater chance of lasting than marriages did ten years ago." Bloomberg points out that "young people get the credit for fewer divorces," since the divorce rate among boomers has remained higher than among other generational cohorts.