Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why Aren't Drones Over American Skies The Defining Issue In This Election?


There are people talking about voting for a third party candidate or just sitting out the election because they're unhappy about tens of thousands of drones being green-lighted to fly over American skies-- not over Somalia, Yemen, the badlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan, but right here over Tampa, Phoenix, New Hampshire and Montana. I have a better idea... how about helping defeat the members of the Congressional drone caucus? The official name is the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus and it's really just a way for the drone manufacturers to pay off some of the most corrupt Members of Congress, ones who have been willing to push through their agenda. Needless to say the founder and chairman of the caucus is Congress' most corrupt member, Buck McKeon of Santa Clarita, California. McKeon (AKA- Congressman Drone) has taken more in legalistic bribes from arms manufacturers and war contractors than any TWO other Members of Congress combined-- and that doesn't even count the large sums of money they've funndeled into his personal bank account by backing a fake bid for California state Assembly by his ditzy wife Patricia. (She lost her primary badly, of course, but not before he solicited and she accepted large bribes from major arms manufacturers who had never before contributed to a local legislative race.)

These are the 15 most notoriously corrupt members of the drone caucus:

Buck McKeon (R-CA)- founder and co-chair 
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- co-chair 
Todd Akin (R-MO) 
Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) 
Rick Berg (R-ND), running for U.S. Senate 
Shelley Berkley (New Dem-NV), running for U.S. Senate 
Brian Bilbray (R-CA) 
Ken Calvert (R-CA) 
Joe Heck (R-NV) 
Darrell Issa (R-CA) 
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 
Mike Pompeo (R-Koch Industries) 
Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), already defeated in a primary 
Mike Rogers (R-MI) 
Joe "You Lie" Wilson (R-SC)

The Senate version was co-founded by two of the most corrupt warmongers in that body, Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). The drone manufacturers are paying off Members of Congress-- McKeon more than anyone-- to allow for a barely regulated humongous expansion in their business. Some activists around the country have been protesting, but most people are barely aware of the drone industry and their paid shills in Congress.
[P]rotesters think the drones will really be used to spy on the public, including folks like themselves. "The prospect of having drones flying around, spying on people, is kind of horrific," said Nate Adeyemi, one of the local organizers. "It's such an infringement upon the human right to privacy." The group is also protesting the university for its involvement and the local officials who gave the company a loan.

Another target for activists has been the organization that lobbies on behalf of the industry, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). The group created in 1978 "to promote and support the unmanned systems and robotics industry." The organization has ballooned to include 1,400 members-- all anxious to feed at the government trough. Activists have crashed their press conferences, conventions and fairs.

Given their close connections in Congress-the companies give millions in campaign contributions and get, in return, billions of tax dollars-- AUVSI can even show off its wares right inside the Capitol. At an exhibit hosted by the Congressional Drone Caucus in September 2011, activists broke up the lovefest, unfurling white sheets covered in fake blood and falling to the floor, moaning and writhing in pain. "Stop the killer drones," they wailed, while another protester carrying a large cardboard drone made a loud buzzing noise as he zoomed around the room. Startled, the Congresspeople, staffers and corporate employees were forced to stop their conversations-- until the police arrived and escorted the group out of the building.
Buck Mckeon is-- by far-- the biggest recipient of money from arms merchants this election cycle ($497,600, more than twice times his closest competitor). Career-long, McKeon's $1,297,200 is surpassed only by bribes to C.W. Bill Young ($1,352,275) and Jim Moran ($1,587,096) among all current House Members. Since 1992 McKeon's 5 biggest campaign contributors, again, not counting the illegal money he's gotten out of them for Patricia, are Lockheed Martin ($186,400), Northrop Grumman ($171,800), Boeing ($87,150), SLM ($86,250), and General Atomics ($94,300). And he always puts their interests above the interests of his Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley constituents.

In a study of the 26 votes Congress has taken since 2010 that involve government surveillance of citizens, which is, of course, the well-founded fear many people have about drones, McKeon scored a zero. Do all Republicans score zeroes? No; civil liberties rollcalls aren't partisan votes. Reactionary, authoritarian Democrats like Jason Altmire (PA), John Barrow (GA), Jim Cooper (TN), Henry Cuellar (TX), Joe Donnelly (IN) and Larry Kissell (NC) also scored zeroes, and Republicans concerned about the intrusive nature of what Eisenhower warned about in his Military-Industrial Complex speech-- like Walter Jones (NC), Ron Paul (TX), Rob Bishop (UT), Raul Labrador (ID), Jimmy Duncan (TN), Chris Gibson (NY) and Michael Fitzpatrick (PA)-- scored 100%. McKeon's zero probably won't sit well in his district. I asked Lee Rogers, the doctor running against him-- who has been endorsed by Blue America-- and he had the same kinds of reservations most people in the district have:
The Unmanned Systems Caucus is an appropriately named group for McKeon to found. He's been letting the defense budget run away like an unmanned ship since he's been the chair of the House Armed Services Committee. The military industrial complex rewards him greatly, but now also rewards his wife for this. I think most people would agree that drones are very useful to our military and save the lives of our troops on the battlefield. But McKeon's vision for drone filled skies in our own country, to be used by government agencies to spy on citizens, is a violation of our most basic freedoms.
McKeon's drone bill, which will allow 30,000 drones to fly over America in four years passed Congress 248-169, 24 Blue Dogs and New Dems joining all but 12 Republicans to take another giant step into Big Brother Land. All the usual suspects-- corporate whores like Cantor, Ryan, Rogers, Upton, et al-- joined McKeon to push this through. Interestingly enough so did several Tea party-supported Republicans who were elected by people who aren't interested in drones snooping into their lives. Remember, the problems with the drones isn't just about killing in other countries. There isn't enough of a market for that. And Lucky Bucky and his band of whores stepped in to help the industry solve that by pushing to have drones flying all over a sky near you... very soon. That bill McKeon was paid very well to see passed was approved by the House and by then by the Senate "to open U.S. skies to unmanned drone flights within four years."
The FAA is also required under the bill to provide military, commercial and privately-owned drones with expanded access to U.S. airspace currently reserved for manned aircraft by Sept. 30, 2015. That means permitting unmanned drones controlled by remote operators on the ground to fly in the same airspace as airliners, cargo planes, business jets and private aircraft.

Currently, the FAA restricts drone use primarily to segregated blocks of military airspace, border patrols and about 300 public agencies and their private partners. Those public agencies are mainly restricted to flying small unmanned aircraft at low altitudes away from airports and urban centers.

Within nine months of the bill's passage, the FAA is required to submit a plan on how to safely provide drones with expanded access.
Forcing Congress to look out for basic civil liberties of American citizens, rather than weapons manufacturers' unquenchable thirst for more and more profits isn't going to be furthered by sitting out the election. It's going to be furthered by defeating corrupt Members of Congress like Buck McKeon, Henry Cuellar, Todd Akin, Rick Berg, Darrell Issa and Mike Rogers. There's nothing someone serious about stopping the proliferation of drones over American skies can do more useful than helping Lee Rogers replace Buck McKeon in California or helping Lance Enderle replace Mike Rogers (chairman of the Intelligence Committee) in Michigan.

Buck-- monetizing our tax dollars for himself... as usual

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