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Drones can be a unifying bipartisan issue across a chasm of differences

I have written consistently about the potentials for unmanned aerial aircraft, commonly called drones, both as a positive and a negative. It is an issue I have been speaking about in interviews and in articles such as back in May 2013. Recent developments have made the discussion even more timely and of concern.

After 3 years of legislative effort, Rep. Hanna – my opponent – succeeded in having New York State designated as a testing zone for drones targeted to be used domestically by U.S. Agencies and local level authorities. The new testing zones touted by my opponent are part of a 2017 directive from the FAA that will ensure widespread use across the nation. But, the push for drones by the Drone Caucus (which includes Rep. Hanna) omits a critical point. The very question that was posed to FBI Director Mueller, how are drones being used, elicited, in part, this response

“…we’re exploring not only the use, but the necessary guidelines for that use.” – FBI Director Robert Mueller to Congress on 6/19/13

This of course flies in the face of evidence, reported by the L.A. Times in September 2013, that drones have been used since 2006. Thus, based on testimony given to Congress, either the FBI, DEA, and other agencies have been using drones in a roguish cowboy manner or their actual use is being kept from the American people and Congress. Pick whichever choice you like, but the result is that abuse is likely rampant and unchecked – because there is,

“There’s very little in American privacy law that would limit the use of drones for surveillance.” – Ryan Calo, assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law

Thus several members of Congress, including Republicans outside of the Drone Caucus, have sought to spend the last several years trying to pass legislation to limit the domestic use of drones. This includes: Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis), Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-TX), Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and others.

This has led me to observe the following, which was printed Jan. 16, 2014 in the Utica Observer Dispatch

“[Rep. Hanna] has put 700,000 constituents, plus the nation, at risk of future abuse and privacy intrusions — all because he failed to submit a single bill to protect the public.

That’s a job half done.”

But the issue does not stop there. As divisive as modern politics can be, as polarizing as mid-term elections always are, restricting the abuse of drones has become a unifying bipartisan legislative agenda, at least in part of the country. Most recently, in South Carolina, the State House unanimously passed H3514 – which would restrict the use of drones, preventing situations like that of the FBI.

The domestic use of drones is quickly becoming a national issue. It has bipartisan support. But it faces those Representatives, at the Federal level, that refused to restrict the NSA from arbitrarily targeting innocent Americans, and collecting their private data. It’s no surprise that those that voted against supporting the Amash Amendment have failed on similar measures to protect constituents from domestic drones.

It will be either gratifying, or terrifying, to see the outcome on domestic drone use. Political lines are being blurred for the sake of protecting the 4th Amendment, and the real question is if those that have only done half their job will have the political courage to stand by and for constituents on preventing abuses before they occur.

Sincerely

Michael Vasquez
Candidate for the NY-22 Congressional seat, 2014

Congratulations Rep. Hanna on top 25 wealthiest in House again

I just wanted to take a moment to congratulate Rep. Hanna on the success he has achieved since being elected to the House of Representatives. Each year since 2010 Rep Hanna has made the cut for the top 25 richest Representatives.

In 2010, Rep. Hanna was ranked 18th out of 435 Representatives, with a net worth estimated to be no less than $13.8 million. But competition in Congress is fierce, and in 2011 Rep. Hanna felt the pinch. His estimated minimum net worth dropped to $13.7 million, and he fell to only the 23rd most wealthy of all 435 Representatives.

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY 22)

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY 22)


Still that minor setback did not impede the success that would come. Because in 2012, the last full year that data is available on, Rep. Hanna had a minimum net worth of $14.4 million, an increase of $700,000 (though he fell another spot to just the 24th wealthiest Representative).

To give some perspective, from 2010 to 2012 the average household income changed [U.S. Census]:

the poorest 20% – increased $599
Next 20% – increased $1,764
Middle – increased $3,082
Next 20% – increased $4,065
Top 20% (rich) – increased $10,671

Put another way, the median household income, just for New York State, was $47,600. That was down from 2010 and 2011 income levels.

Rep. Hanna overcame the negative pressures from New York State Government, and a sluggish (at best) economy, to outpace the average American household and retain a position in the top 6% of the House of Representatives, even as Congress reached an 8% approval rating.

At the same time, Rep. Hanna’s efforts of 3 years have resulted in potentially 2,000 jobs for NY State by bringing drone testing to our State – of course without any legislation to prevent abuse of drone use by the same Government that allowed the NSA scandal to occur.

Plus, Rep. Hanna is promoting HR 2131, the SKILLS Visa Act, which will give 160,000 STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] jobs to foreigners.

Lastly, he voted for the Ryan-Murray budget deal, that will cut Veteran pensions and increases Federal debt spending.

Rep. Hanna has been busy, and in 2014 you can re-elect him. Or you could visit www.MichaelVasquezforCongress.com and consider a different option in the mid-term elections.

Press release – 1/6/14 – Unmanned aircraft coming to New York

On Jan. 6, 2014, Rep. Hanna announced that as part of his efforts in the Drone Caucus, Griffis International Airport in Rome, NY will become a testing site for unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called drones.

Image of potential private drone abuses

The deal also involves drones in Massachusetts, and between the 2 States a total of $700 million in tax revenues are projected to be raised, over an unspecified time period. Estimates are that some 1300 jobs will be created throughout New York due to this deal.

Michael Vasquez, candidate for the NY 22nd Congressional District of which Rome, NY is part of, commented on the news,

“I am always happy to hear of opportunities to create jobs in New York, especially in the NY-22. We need to bring in new industries to help the State shed the title of least business friendly in the nation, while helping our nation as well as our constituents.

Still, I hesitate only in the fact that the rush to create 1300 jobs via drones, less than a tenth of a percent of the State unemployment, is not accompanied by responsible legislation to ensure that the use of drones is not abused as we have seen is the case with many Government agencies lately.”

Candidate Vasquez went on to state,

“While I commend the Drone Caucus for its efforts to bring decent wage jobs to Americans that are needed, as most of the NY-22 is in need of, the failure to create legislation over the past 3 years to ensure the privacy and 4th Amendment rights of those same Americans is a mission only half-done, in my opinion.”

To date there has been no legislation passed that addresses the use of drones domestically, and no legislation sponsored by Rep. Hanna to address this concern. Ryan Calo (assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law) has said, “There’s very little in American privacy law that would limit the use of drones for surveillance.”

Candidate Michael Vasquez interviewed by Bob Joseph of WNBF News Radio on 11/19/13

The following is the unedited audio of the interview that was on-air 11/19/13 at 9:30am. This was made into 2 videos due to time constraints of Youtube, no other change has been made.

Candidate Michael Vasquez interviewed by Bob Joseph of WNBF News Radio – part 1

Covers: Flip-flops by politicians, Government shutdown, Obamacare, reasons for running for election

Candidate Michael Vasquez interviewed by Bob Joseph of WNBF News Radio – part 2

Covers: 4th Amendment, drones (unmanned aerial systems), donations and fundraising, Obamacare fixes

Meet and greet with voters and potential supporters Oct 26 2013

I just wanted to publicly thank attorney James Sacco for putting together a meet and greet of potential supporters at his home in Vestal, NY. I also thank everyone that attended, for their time and questions about the 2014 New York Congressional election.

It was a great night, speaking to a couple dozen voters, discussing their concerns and questions about how the representation for the New York 22nd Congressional District can be improved. The conversation covered everything from by background, experiences, and motivations; as well as where I stand on issues including immigration, the national debt, taxes, drones, the 2nd and 4th Amendment among others.

meet and greet in Vestal NY, at home of attorney James Sacco

coffee and doughnuts meet and greet in Vestal NY

It was a great opportunity to hear from more of the public on what they really want to see address on the floor of Congress, and understand what they believe is not being done to represent their views currently. I continue to see a consistent theme of issues that neither Congress nor our current Representative are focused on.

I look forward to speaking at several more meet and greets at the homes of supporters and potential supporters, as well as other events. It’s important to be connected to constituents, and this is a significant way to do so. If anyone would like to host a similar event for me to appear at, please contact me at Michael@ElectMichaelVasquez.com.

That email can also be used for those that want to volunteer directly in helping spread the word about the 2014 NY Congressional race. Those that would like to donate $20, $50, or whatever amount up to the limit of $2600 for individuals can do so online via paypal at https://electmichaelvasquez.nationbuilder.com/donations
or mail a check/money order made out to Friends of Michael Vasquez at PO BOX 515, Binghamton NY 13902.

More news is coming in November!

Sincerely

Michael Vasquez

Pres. Obama talks NSA, Rep. Hanna visits Southern Tier, and the net result is?

For the week August 5 – August 10, there has been no end of talk from the Executive and Legislative Branches. President Obama held a press conference on 8/4, and Rep. Richard Hanna of the NY-22 was in the Southern Tier for part of the week. But what does that all mean? What is the real result of all the bluster?

NSA internet surveillence program known as PRISM
Looking at President Obama’s calls to make the NSA, and intelligence agencies in general, more transparent is a welcome sign. It has only taken 2 months of public outcry to get a response from the Obama Administration. During that time the public has become aware of the massive access that the Government has to private and personal information of virtually every American in the nation without cause. In this 2 month span, Congress discussed and voted to restrict the Patriot Act section 215 as well as programs like PRISM – the Amash Amendment (H Amend 413) was defeated in a bi-partisan vote [Rep. Hanna voted against Amash].

So President Obama, late to the issue, is now concerned about the privacy issues that he defended as “transparent” on June 17, 2013, in an interview with Charlie Rose – that was rated by the independent fact-checking source Politifact as a Pant’s On Fire lie.

Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, is quoted in that fact-check as stating
“The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s raison d’être is to prevent any information about surveillance from being made available – much less authoritative ones,” Harper said. “I don’t know of any plausible meaning of ‘transparent’ that encompasses the ‘oversight behind closed doors’ concept.”

But the question remains, how transparent will this sudden change of heart be? In the press conference President Obama did not address what is to become of the records already collected and stored indefinitely by the NSA. President Obama did not comment on how those records are being used, or how abuse is being prevented. That is especially important as Sen. Ron Wyden stated on July 30th

“We had a big development last Friday when Gen. [James] Clapper, the head of the intelligence agencies, admitted that the community had violated these court orders on phone record collection, and I’ll tell your viewers that those violations are significantly more troubling than the government has stated.”

It seems apparent that the “transparency” promised will require more than just the eloquent words of a President that has a failed track record on transparency promises, like a determined effort by members of Congress to ensure legislation as well as oversight is enacted. But Congress is divided on that point.

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY 22)

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY 22)


Which brings up Rep. Richard Hanna. As previously noted above, and stated in a prior article I wrote on July 25th, Rep. Hanna has voted against restricting the NSA and other agencies from the blanket powers they currently have. That is at odds with his publicized statements that he is in favor of limiting that power. Rep. Hanna is also absent his support on other legislation to restrict the blanket power of the Government to spy on average citizens, as seen in his lack of support for H.R. 2399: LIBERT-E Act. Thus his stated position seems hollow compared to his actions in Congress.

Yet such flip-flops do not seem to trouble Rep. Hanna as he visited the Southern Tier – finally. Though he has been the representative of a district that covers the Southern Tier and Central NY, he has largely avoided the area until the current recess of Congress.

While this week Rep. Hanna has talked with firefighters and Binghamton University, stating a commitment to help small business and communities, there is no lack of question to his commitment on these issues. Since 2011, when he entered Congress, Rep Hanna has sponsored and/or co-sponsored 22 Bills. Of those he has succeeded in naming a Post Office, and getting 2 baseball commemorative coin legislation passed. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce, and member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Joint Economic Committee, constituents might expect more but that is not what has been received.

Still, the bigger question may be where has Rep. Hanna been before the current recess of Congress and the announcement of a potential Republican challenger (myself). One might even question if Rep. Hanna would have bothered to address the Southern Tier were it not for the potential of a challenger, as his efforts in the 2012 re-election campaign seemed to display.

Like with President Obama, Rep. Hanna appears to be trailing the needs of constituents. In fact, based on his flip-flops of making statements to constituents and voting opposite on the floor of Congress, Rep. Hanna appears to be a mysterious force in Congress. He has attacked his Party, apparently abandoned his campaign positions, and sided against the Rights and best interests of his constituents (in my opinion) on multiple occasions. One would be hard pressed to define his positions on late-term abortion, immigration reform, drones and legislation restricting their abuse by Government, or several other issues.

None of which adds any credibility or confidence in his ability or desire to actually follow up on everything discussed and presented this week in the Southern Tier.

What has the political talk of August 5th – 10th provided the New York 22nd Congressional District and the nation? Not much when any deeper consideration of what has been said is looked at. While the soundbites sound great, this cursory attempt to maintain political power and placate the public ultimately provides no confidence that anything but the current status quo will be maintained.

Michael Vasquez talks about improving Congress with Southern Tier Tea Party in Vestal, NY

On June 4, 2013, Michael Vasquez spoke before the members of the Southern Tier Tea Party and the general public at the Vestal Public Library. The discussion was part of an event featuring Binghamton Mayoral candidate Douglas Drazen, as well as Mr. Vasquez, to present the options that face voters in the upcoming Binghamton, NY elections and the 2014 NY Congressional election.

Michael Vasquez took the opportunity to introduce himself to the constituents at the meeting, and to share his views on how Congress can become more accountable and reflective of the issues that are foremost in the minds of residents in the NY-22. Mr. Vasquez also took the time to express his thoughts on the 2nd Amendment and the growing issue of domestic unmanned aerial surveillance (drones). The following video is the uncut conversation of Michael Vasquez at the event:

Part 1 – Michael Vasquez introduces himself to NY Southern Tier residents

Part 2 – Michael Vasquez shares views of improving Congress and better representation for the NY-22

Following the introduction and the ways to improve government, and a similar discussion by Mr. Drazen, the question and answer portion of the event took place. It was during this time Mr. Vasquez expanded on a few ideas to create jobs, balance the budget, cut government debt spending, and reduce the national debt. In addition, Mr. Vasquez took the opportunity to gain greater insight on the concerns that the average American feels are a priority, and need to be discussed on the floor of Congress.

The following video of the Q&A is edited only to present the questions to, and answers from, Michael Vasquez:

Q&A in Vestal, NY with Michael Vasquez and Southern Tier residents

Michael Vasquez is continuing to explore a run for the 2014 New York 22nd Congressional election, and will be traveling throughout the NY-22 over the summer.

As always we look forward to your comments, questions and support. Please visit exploratory.ElectMichaelVasquez.com to learn more.

Drones: Are .003% more jobs in NY worth your 4th Amendment Rights?

Without question the nation is in need of an economic boost. Even moreso is the fact that New York State is in need of an industry to provide new jobs. The Obama Stimulus and “green” jobs have failed to be the homeruns they were promised to become. Fracking remains bogged down in reviews and delays, with heaps of media fed bias and real concerns of the citizenry mixing to halt any progress that might be attained from that venture. Where is the answer? What are we as citizens willing to give up for any forward momentum?

Into this quandary comes the question of drones. Unmanned aerial systems are poised to be a reality in the skies over the nation, implemented by 2015 under guidelines at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the industry can create some $13 billion in revenues and roughly 70,000 jobs nationwide.

At this time, Rep. Richard Hanna (NY-22) is advocating bringing that industry to New York State. He is a member of the Unmanned Systems Caucus, along with Rep. Anne Marie Buerkle (NY-25) and Rep. Andy Harris (NY-25). They believe that some 2,000 jobs could be created – helping to fulfill the projections of 10,000 drones in US airspace in 10 years.

In a State that is the least business friendly in the nation, in Counties that exceed the official national unemployment rate (7.5%) by no less than 1.5%, in some Counties reaching 10% unemployment, every new job is a boon. Yet there is a question that is not being asked. Are we selling a portion of our individual freedoms for a few dollars and a couple of jobs?

On the pro side of unmanned aerial systems there are the benign uses: traffic control and offense punishment (running red lights, seeing potential traffic jams and diverting cars to alternate routes); fighting fires (bringing supplies to firefighters and tactics humans cannot enact); monitoring landfills and inspecting bridges or buildings for structural damage; install and potential repair of dangerous or hard to reach equipment; and so on.

But the negative side is just as dangerous to individual freedoms as are the benefits useful. It takes the concept to the British CCTV and magnifies it. As Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa states

“Just because the government may comply with the Constitution does not mean they should be able to constantly surveil, like Big Brother.”

Already Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis) is seeking protections, and he is not alone. The consensus among many is that, as Ryan Calo (assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law) summarized, “There’s very little in American privacy law that would limit the use of drones for surveillance.”

It’s not just the use by Government that is at issue, but the private use as well. Corporations, drug dealers, and other criminals potential abuse of drones remains unforeseeable at this time. Applications of drones to determine if a home is occupied for a thief to break in, data mining by corporations, evading police raids, arson, peeping tom invasions of privacy, even murder are all on the table. None of which is in the realm of the FAA jurisdiction. None of which is addressed by current law.

Thus, we should wonder if the push to bring drone testing sites to New York is the boon that it is being made out to be. The 4th Amendment states, in part,

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

Domestic drone use can violate this – whether that violation is by the Government, law authorities (Federal, State and local), or your neighbor.

Perhaps, before New York State claims the title of a drone testing site and helps to proliferate unmanned aerial systems uses, the limits of this new tool for surveillance should be created. Perhaps a touch of the same desire for protections being demanded for the ground 2000 feet below us should be injected to this matter. Perhaps the .003% boost in employment can be delayed in the interest of the 4th Amendment.

At the very least, constituents should be involved with the discussion, so that their Representatives actually represent them.

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