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FEAR-MONGERING ABOUT MARTIAL LAW

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I will preface my comments by saying that, if I were to learn tomorrow morning that martial law had been declared, it would not surprise me. Distrust of our own government is well-founded, but recently, many people have abandoned rational thought before commenting on various websites about martial law. I am aware of the suspicious redeployment of combat troops to a U.S. base; I am aware of the holding pens that were built for FEMA; I am aware of the use of private mercenaries (e.g., Blackwater USA) for domestic police operations, and I do NOT think that "IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE", but informed concern should not be replaced by mindless acceptance of unsubstantiated allegations that martial law has already been declared or that martial law has been used openly as a threat against Congress.

I despise the Bush Administration, and I despise the fear-mongering that has helped the Bush Administration to marginalize the Bill of Rights during the past eight years. Opponents of the Bush Administration are obviously at a disadvantage due to the imbalance of power, and due to disinformation promulgated by the Bush Administration, and because the Bush Administration can control much of the information that is needed to make informed decisions, but fear-mongering by opponents of the Bush Administration is not constructive to informed debate. I have no quarrel with people who may believe that martial law is imminent, but allegations about martial law should be based on facts rather than conjecture.

The most pathetic example of the rush to misjudgment involved reports last week that Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) had stated that martial law had been declared following the initial rejection of the economic bailout/sellout legislation by the House of non-Representatives. Although the most gullible readers soiled themselves, it was easy to determine (via a quick check on the internet) that the "martial law" to which Rep. Burgess was referring was an internal set of rules to govern a subsequent vote on the economic bailout/sellout legislation by the House of non-Representatives. As it applies to internal rules of the House of non-Representatives, "martial law" is an anti-democratic process, but if a person is so lazy and irresponsible that he/she cannot bother to check the basic (and readily available) facts before making embarrassingly erroneous allegations on the internet that martial law has been declared, he/she is not a "progressive" thinker.

Skepticism is a vital commodity when we are trying to distinguish between fact and fiction, and skepticism has been absent from the numerous reports alleging that Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) has exposed threats of martial law preceding the vote by the House of non-Representatives to approve the economic bailout/sellout package. The actual quote from Congressman Sherman was quite vague: "Many of us were told in private conversations that if we voted against this bill on Monday that the sky would fall, the market would drop two or three thousand points the first day and a couple of thousand on the second day, and a few members were even told that there would be martial law in America if we voted no." This quote from the speech by Congressman Sherman did not identify the sources or the targets of the threats about martial law, and there is no clarification of this information on Congressman Sherman's official website.

During an interview with radio talk-show host Alex Jones, Congressman Sherman would not identify the non-Representatives who supposedly were threatened about martial law because Congressman Sherman stated that the information was discussed during private conversations between non-Representatives, and the second-hand information discussed by Congressman Sherman was again extremely vague, but it appears that the "threats" regarding martial law were just idle gossip from other non-Representatives and financial industry lobbyists. The Bush Administration may be orchestrating scenarios as a prelude to declaring martial law, but Congressman Brad Sherman has no information about any such plans, nor has he even attempted to determine if such plans exist. At the end of the interview with Congressman Sherman by Alex Jones, the only fact that was established was that Congressman Brad Sherman is a monumental dipshit.

Some recent comments have referred to the repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 via Section 1076 of H.R. 5122 (Public Law 109-364, the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007). Although the additional discretion given to the President in Section 1076 of H.R. 5122 was tantamount to a repeal of the restrictions in the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 regarding the use of military forces within the United States, Section 1068 of H.R. 4986 (Public Law 110-181, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008) repealed Section 1076 of H.R. 5122 in an effort to restore the restrictions of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 with respect to the use of military forces inside the United States. As he often does, President Bush attached a signing statement to H.R. 4986 (to attempt to minimize any restriction on what he considers to be his authority under the Constitution):
"Today, I have signed into law H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. The Act authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, for military construction, and for national security-related energy programs. Provisions of the Act, including sections 841, 846, 1079, and 1222, purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the President's ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as Commander in Chief. The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President."

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Anyone who is familiar with the Bush Administration must know that neither Section 1076 of H.R. 5122 nor Section 1068 of H.R. 4986 affects the legal doctrines of the Bush Administration with respect to their determination of what is and what is not permitted by the Constitution. In a decision released on July 2, 2008 by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the President did not have the authority to contravene the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). On March 27, 2008, I wrote an article for OpEdNews titled "The Fog of FISA" in which I included a lengthy discussion of the fact that the President's power is clearly and significantly limited by the Constitution (regardless of the President's many signing statements). However, the limits imposed on the President by the Constitution are meaningless if the President's abuse of power is ignored by Congress and the public, and the public will not pay attention to opponents of the Bush Administration who repeat misinformation about martial law. Those people who are concerned about a declaration of martial law have reason to be concerned, but we should not let fear and misinformation overcome reason when discussing concerns about martial law.

*****

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I am retired after working 33 years as a Claims Representative for the Social Security Administration, and I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU.

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