The Militant Libertarian

I'm pissed off and I'm a libertarian. What else you wanna know?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Internet Gambling

Truly Disgusting
by Walter E. Williams

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

The House of Representatives voted 245 to 159 to pass the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 1999. Because of a rule requiring two-thirds approval, the measure didn't pass. Its sponsor, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., plans to introduce it again when only a majority is needed [Emphasis mine. ~a.k.] for passage.

If enacted, it would "Amend the Federal criminal code to make it unlawful for any person engaged in a gambling business to knowingly use the Internet or any other interactive computer service to: (1) place, receive or otherwise make a bet or wager; or (2) send, receive, or invite information assisting in the placing of a bet or wager." Criminal penalties include fines and up to five years' imprisonment.

There is absolutely no constitutional authority for this disgusting abuse of federal power. But most Americans, who think Congress has a right to do anything for which they can get a majority vote, ignore the clearly written constitutional restraints on Congress.

The key restraint here is the Tenth Amendment, which holds that all powers not enumerated in the Constitution belong to the people and the states. Of course, congressmen might pretend they have such authority under the "commerce clause," their standard excuse to grab power.

Congress' constitutional contempt is nothing new, but this latest act is quite a step down the slippery slope toward greater control of our lives. Let's look at some of their justifications. Rep. Goodlatte says, "Internet gambling is a scourge on our society. It causes innumerable problems in our society." Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., says, "The Internet is addictive for many people anyway, and online gambling can be doubly addictive." Most other justifications follow the same line of reasoning; namely, there are Americans who don't know what's good for them, and it's the job of Congress to stop them from personal indiscretions.

The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act gives Congress the authority to go to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and order that they not provide linkages to online gambling establishments. If you think Congress will be satisfied with restrictions only on gambling establishments, you're going to be disappointed. After all, the Internet provides people with access to other establishments that can be said to "cause innumerable problems in our society." There are various hate groups with Internet sites that spew vile propaganda. There are pornographic sites. There are sites that present political ideas or religious fanaticism that are offensive to many people and can "cause innumerable problems in our society."

If the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act is approved, it will become a precedent for congressional control over other aspects of the Internet and an important loss in our liberty. Let's follow the money and ask who benefits should the law be passed. What about legal gambling establishments in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and elsewhere? From their revenue point of view, they'd be happy to see less online gambling competition.

What about federal, state and local governments? Online gambling, most of which is offshore, doesn't create any tax revenue for them. The bill focuses on online games such as poker, blackjack and sports betting but exempts taxable state-regulated gambling such as lotteries and horse racing.

If people want to gamble online, they are going to gamble online. The only thing the act will accomplish is, like Prohibition, make criminals out of otherwise law-abiding people. It will turn banks and other financial institutions into government snoops.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said, "If an adult in this country, with his own money, wants to engage in an activity that harms no one, how dare we bar it." I second that and add, since protection of "the children" often serves as an excuse to restrict our liberties, that if children get involved, let their parents, not Congress, deal with it.

"Patriotism is honoring your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." - Mark Twain

"No one's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session." - Mark Twain

"Americans did not learn from Prohibition that one cannot successfully legislate against private behavior with any result but a decrease in respect for the law."
- C. W. McConnell

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Comic-book patriotism
by Robert C. Koehler

"You, sir, should be horsewhipped."

Nothing like a little intimidation to liven up my ongoing meditation on a just society. To be threatened with e-mail violence by a Marine Corps major (ret.) steeped in righteousness - wow, how deliciously personal and unfair. What a lovely mixture of bile and adrenaline it sets to bubbling. What a temptation it creates to respond in kind.

Instead, I've decided to make this conversation - about violence, ignorance, idealism - public. This is bigger than both of us, sir.

I stand accused, for writing a column defending a young Marine deserter who fled apparent criminal abuse at the hands of fellow Marines (returning Iraq vets who acted as though they were haunted by the demons of PTSD), of "disrupting the good order and discipline" of the Corps, and of an almost treasonous failure, judging by the tone of the letter and the proposed punishment, to appreciate how good I've got it: "It is the likes of men . . . you belittle and criticize that provide you with the privilege of the free speech you so eagerly abuse."

OK, there's no nice, gentle way to put this, Major, but it's time to shatter the myth that sustains far too many Americans:

Most U.S. military and quasi-military operations of the past century-plus have been brutally stupid and myopic, racist, cynical and wantonly destructive; they have served the interests not of the public but of various multinational corporations, from United Fruit to British Petroleum to Halliburton, under the banner of the dogma du jour (Manifest Destiny, anti-Communism, war on terror); far from protecting your freedom or mine, Major, they have promoted global poverty and instability and generated an undercurrent of intense anti-Americanism that, as the 9/11 attacks demonstrated, make us anything but safe; and the fear such attacks spawn are the greatest threat to such liberal "privileges" as free speech, the primary abuse of which is to threaten with violence those who still insist on exercising it.

Marine Corps Maj. Gen Smedley Butler, a two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner who led U.S. actions in Latin America in the early part of the 20th century, famously lamented at the end of his career: "I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. . . . I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street."

With the somber anniversary of 9/11 looming, Major, we would do well to remember our role in the destabilization of the Middle East and the opening of the Pandora's box of Islamic fundamentalism.

Most Americans haven't the faintest idea who Mohammad Mossadegh was, which is a pity, not simply because he was a decent soul with an absolute faith in democracy, who was prime minister of Iran from 1951 until he was ousted in a covert U.S. operation in 1953, but also because . . . my God, what damnable ignorance on our part, and how it feeds the worst sort of patriotism: comic-book patriotism, I'm tempted to call it. In the latest issue, America battles the Axis of Evil.

Back in 1953, we were fighting Godless Communism, and there were Communists everywhere - under our beds, in the State Department and throughout the so-called Third World, where they were particularly easy to spot because they were popular and often democratically elected, and they talked about nationalizing their nations' resources. Such were the crimes of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Salvador Allende in Chile and, of course, Mossadegh (who threatened British Petroleum's oil monopoly), all of whom, to great national trauma, were unseated by U.S. black ops coming to the rescue of multinational corporations about to lose their entitlements.

And all of these democratically elected leaders were replaced by bloodthirsty thugs, who brought decades of dark-age repression to their nations. Mossadegh was replaced by the Shah, father and son, whose quarter century of bloody rule ended when the ayatollahs, with their virulent hatred of the West, seized control. Remembering what happened to Mossadegh, they considered the United States the Great Satan.

Our murder of Iranian democracy, in short, led to the rise of radical Islam, which spread across the Middle East. The 1979 seizure of U.S. diplomats in Teheran "inspired Muslim fanatics around the world, including in neighboring Afghanistan, where the Taliban gave sanctuary to militants who carried out devastating attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001," writes Stephen Kinzer in his excellent book "Overthrow."

So, Major, put down your whip and pick up a book, sir. The simple-minded violence with which you threaten your enemies has brought the world to a state of acute crisis. You've been told you were defending freedom, but you've been serving fools.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bush Moves Toward Martial Law

by Frank Morales (

In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law (1). It does so by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President's ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.

Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."

President Bush seized this unprecedented power on the very same day that he signed the equally odious Military Commissions Act of 2006. In a sense, the two laws complement one another. One allows for torture and detention abroad, while the other seeks to enforce acquiescence at home, preparing to order the military onto the streets of America. Remember, the term for putting an area under military law enforcement control is precise; the term is "martial law."

Section 1076 of the massive Authorization Act, which grants the Pentagon another $500-plus-billion for its ill-advised adventures, is entitled, "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies." Section 333, "Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law" states that "the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of ("refuse" or "fail" in) maintaining public order, "in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."

For the current President, "enforcement of the laws to restore public order" means to commandeer guardsmen from any state, over the objections of local governmental, military and local police entities; ship them off to another state; conscript them in a law enforcement mode; and set them loose against "disorderly" citizenry - protesters, possibly, or those who object to forced vaccinations and quarantines in the event of a bio-terror event.

The law also facilitates militarized police round-ups and detention of protesters, so called "illegal aliens," "potential terrorists" and other "undesirables" for detention in facilities already contracted for and under construction by Halliburton. That's right. Under the cover of a trumped-up "immigration emergency" and the frenzied militarization of the southern border, detention camps are being constructed right under our noses, camps designed for anyone who resists the foreign and domestic agenda of the Bush administration.

An article on "recent contract awards" in a recent issue of the slick, insider "Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International" reported that "global engineering and technical services powerhouse KBR [Kellog, Brown & Root] announced in January 2006 that its Government and Infrastructure division was awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract to support U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities in the event of an emergency." "With a maximum total value of $385 million over a five year term," the report notes, "the contract is to be executed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," "for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) - in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs." The report points out that "KBR is the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton." (3) So, in addition to authorizing another $532.8 billion for the Pentagon, including a $70-billion "supplemental provision" which covers the cost of the ongoing, mad military maneuvers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places, the new law, signed by the president in a private White House ceremony, further collapses the historic divide between the police and the military: a tell-tale sign of a rapidly consolidating police state in America, all accomplished amidst ongoing U.S. imperial pretensions of global domination, sold to an "emergency managed" and seemingly willfully gullible public as a "global war on terrorism."

Make no mistake about it: the de-facto repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA) is an ominous assault on American democratic tradition and jurisprudence. The 1878 Act, which reads, "Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both," is the only U.S. criminal statute that outlaws military operations directed against the American people under the cover of 'law enforcement.' As such, it has been the best protection we've had against the power-hungry intentions of an unscrupulous and reckless executive, an executive intent on using force to enforce its will.

Unfortunately, this past week, the president dealt posse comitatus, along with American democracy, a near fatal blow. Consequently, it will take an aroused citizenry to undo the damage wrought by this horrendous act, part and parcel, as we have seen, of a long train of abuses and outrages perpetrated by this authoritarian administration.

Despite the unprecedented and shocking nature of this act, there has been no outcry in the American media, and little reaction from our elected officials in Congress. On September 19th, a lone Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted that 2007's Defense Authorization Act contained a "widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the National Guard [adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will make it easier for this or any future President to use the military to restore domestic order WITHOUT the consent of the nation's governors."

Senator Leahy went on to stress that, "we certainly do not need to make it easier for Presidents to declare martial law. Invoking the Insurrection Act and using the military for law enforcement activities goes against some of the central tenets of our democracy. One can easily envision governors and mayors in charge of an emergency having to constantly look over their shoulders while someone who has never visited their communities gives the orders."

A few weeks later, on the 29th of September, Leahy entered into the Congressional Record that he had "grave reservations about certain provisions of the fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill Conference Report," the language of which, he said, "subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military's involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law." This had been "slipped in," Leahy said, "as a rider with little study," while "other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals."

In a telling bit of understatement, the Senator from Vermont noted that "the implications of changing the (Posse Comitatus) Act are enormous". "There is good reason," he said, "for the constructive friction in existing law when it comes to martial law declarations. Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty."

Senator Leahy's final ruminations: "Since hearing word a couple of weeks ago that this outcome was likely, I have wondered how Congress could have gotten to this point. It seems the changes to the Insurrection Act have survived the Conference because the Pentagon and the White House want it."

The historic and ominous re-writing of the Insurrection Act, accomplished in the dead of night, which gives Bush the legal authority to declare martial law, is now an accomplished fact.

The Pentagon, as one might expect, plays an even more direct role in martial law operations. Title XIV of the new law, entitled, "Homeland Defense Technology Transfer Legislative Provisions," authorizes "the Secretary of Defense to create a Homeland Defense Technology Transfer Consortium to improve the effectiveness of the Department of Defense (DOD) processes for identifying and deploying relevant DOD technology to federal, State, and local first responders."

In other words, the law facilitates the "transfer" of the newest in so-called "crowd control" technology and other weaponry designed to suppress dissent from the Pentagon to local militarized police units. The new law builds on and further codifies earlier "technology transfer" agreements, specifically the 1995 DOD-Justice Department memorandum of agreement achieved back during the Clinton-Reno regime.(4)

It has become clear in recent months that a critical mass of the American people have seen through the lies of the Bush administration; with the president's polls at an historic low, growing resistance to the war Iraq, and the Democrats likely to take back the Congress in mid-term elections, the Bush administration is on the ropes. And so it is particularly worrying that President Bush has seen fit, at this juncture to, in effect, declare himself dictator.


(1) and See also, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, "The Use of Federal Troops for Disaster Assistance: Legal Issues," by Jennifer K. Elsea, Legislative Attorney, August 14, 2006


(3) Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International, "Recent Contract Awards", Summer 2006, Vol.12, No.2, pg.8; See also, Peter Dale Scott, "Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps," New American Media, January 31, 2006.

(4) "Technology Transfer from defense: Concealed Weapons Detection", National Institute of Justice Journal, No 229, August, 1995, pp.42-43.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Real Skinny on the MCA

Alex Jones and Paul Watson have put together a few quotes by legal scholars which confirm what we already knew about the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Still, the quotes are useful in dispelling disinformation from the right-wing talk radio types...

Top legal experts and scholars are nearly unanimous that the Military Commissions Act does affect American citizens.

Yale Law Professor Bruce Ackerman states in the L.A. Times, "The compromise legislation....authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights."

Similarly, law Professor Marty Lederman explains: "this [subsection (ii) of the definition of 'unlawful enemy combatant'] means that if the Pentagon says you're an unlawful enemy combatant -- using whatever criteria they wish -- then as far as Congress, and U.S. law, is concerned, you are one, whether or not you have had any connection to 'hostilities' at all."

Professor Jonathan Turley, who teaches constitutional law at George Washington University, agrees that the bill contains no provision in which American citizens are exempt from the intent of the legislation, and outlined this during a recent appearance on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show.

OLBERMANN: "I want to start by asking you about a specific part of this act that lists one of the definitions of an unlawful enemy combatant as, quote, 'a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a combatant status review tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the
president or the secretary of defense.'

"Does that not basically mean that if Mr. Bush or Mr. Rumsfeld say so, anybody in this country, citizen or not, innocent or not, can end up being an unlawful enemy combatant?"

JONATHAN TURLEY: "It certainly does. In fact, later on, it says that if you even give material support to an organization that the president deems connected to one of these groups, you too can be an enemy combatant. And the fact that he appoints this tribunal is meaningless. You know, standing behind him at the signing ceremony was his attorney general, who signed a memo that said that you could torture people,
that you could do harm to them to the point of organ failure or death. So if he appoints someone like that to be attorney general, you can imagine who he's going be putting on this board."

OLBERMANN: "Does this mean that under this law, ultimately the only thing keeping you, I, or the viewer out of Gitmo is the sanity and honesty of the president of the United States?"

TURLEY: "It does. And it's a huge sea change for our democracy. The framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or good mood of the president. In fact, Madison said that he created a system essentially to be run by devils, where they could not do harm, because we didn't rely on their good motivations. Now we must. And people have no idea how significant this is. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and
what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values."

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