Daily Archive: 02/24/2014

Feb 24 2014

Deep State, the Secret Government Exposed

Former GOP congressional staff member with the powerful House and Senate Budget Committees and author of “The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted,” Mike Lofgren was a guest on “Moyers and Company” and discussed with host, Bill Moyers, how elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests.

The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight



Transcript can ge read here

Mr. Lofgren also wrote this essay in conjunction with the show: Anatomy of the Deep State

There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.

During the last five years, the news media has been flooded with pundits decrying the broken politics of Washington. The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. That is certainly the case, and I have been among the harshest critics of this development. But it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system. On one level, the critique is self-evident: In the domain that the public can see, Congress is hopelessly deadlocked in the worst manner since the 1850s, the violently rancorous decade preceding the Civil War.

As I wrote in The Party is Over, the present objective of congressional Republicans is to render the executive branch powerless, at least until a Republican president is elected (a goal that voter suppression laws in GOP-controlled states are clearly intended to accomplish). President Obama cannot enact his domestic policies and budgets: Because of incessant GOP filibustering, not only could he not fill the large number of vacancies in the federal judiciary, he could not even get his most innocuous presidential appointees into office. Democrats controlling the Senate have responded by weakening the filibuster of nominations, but Republicans are sure to react with other parliamentary delaying tactics. This strategy amounts to congressional nullification of executive branch powers by a party that controls a majority in only one house of Congress.

Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented – at least since the McCarthy era – witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory. Despite the habitual cant of congressional Republicans about executive overreach by Obama, the would-be dictator, we have until recently heard very little from them about these actions – with the minor exception of comments from gadfly Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats, save a few mavericks such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, are not unduly troubled, either – even to the extent of permitting seemingly perjured congressional testimony under oath by executive branch officials on the subject of illegal surveillance.

These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend to be disregarded as background noise. During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude.

The entire article is a must read.

Feb 24 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Dean Baker: Release of Fed Transcripts Show Fed Scary Ignorant in 2008, WaPo Scary Ignorant in 2014

It’s great to be an economist in a top policymaking position in the United States. Unlike dishwashers, cab drivers, and most other workers, you are not held accountable for the quality of your work. We already knew that, since almost none of the people responsible for allowing the housing bubble to grow large enough to collapse the economy have paid any career price. (Ben Bernanke is praised for avoiding a second Great Depression. Talk about setting the bar low.)

Anyhow, the release of the 2008 transcripts of the meetings of the Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) once again show a group of people that is frighteningly ignorant of the economy. The housing market was already in a full-fledged collapse by the end of 2007 with prices falling at the rate of 1.5 percent a month. That translates into a loss of $300 billion in household wealth every single month. Yet the transcripts show the Fed debating whether the economy would see a recession until well into 2008. (The pace of decline eventually accelerated to 2.0 percent a month.) [..]

As it is, these transcripts should make readers furious that the FOMC members were getting big paychecks for their work and will enjoy fat pensions in retirement. Unlike workers in Detroit and Chicago, they did mess up on their job, big-time. Read em and weep.

Robert Kuttner: ‘Trade’ Deals on the Ropes

The globalization agenda of American financial elites that has dominated both parties’ trade policy for three decades is on the verge of crashing and burning. There is escalating, perhaps fatal, opposition to the proposed Pacific and Atlantic deals in both the U.S. Congress and among partner nations.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is opposed to granting the required “fast track” trade negotiating authority. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, opposes fast track’s up-or-down vote provisions as well. The new Senate Finance chair, Ron Wyden, is far more of a skeptic than his predecessor, Max Baucus. Last week’s “Three Amigos” NAFTA 20 anniversary summit meeting in Mexico accomplished nothing other than photo ops. [..]

The agenda of global finance, carried out via “trade” deals, has diverted attention from the real economic issues — rising inequality and insecurity for ordinary people, the use of globalization as a battering ram to empower capital and weaken labor, and to prevent government interventions from averting financial speculation and collapse.

Amid these real crises of neo-liberalism, enhanced trade has been portrayed as a deux ex machina, which will solve our problems if only we get rid of what’s left of the mixed economy. It won’t. The proposed deals would only make matters worse.

Glen Ford: Detroit’s Agony Shows Why Black America Needs a People’s Plan for the Cities

Having stolen local democracy, corporate planners now trip over themselves to create the grid for a new

Hundreds of low-wage surveyors scour the depopulated streets of Detroit, mapping the extent of “blight” that has consumed the city. The three-person teams of the Blight Removal Task Force are financed by private corporations and foundations whose mission is the “orderly” destruction of the nation’s largest Black metropolis, to clear the way for a “new” city – one in which marginalized people like the surveyors themselves will be relegated to the shadows. The resulting data-base will allow real estate moguls like Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, the task force sugar daddy, to create an urban grid that maximizes land values and forms the basis of future city planning. The corporate schemes that flow from the survey, beginning with recommendations to be released in late March, will dictate the types of people that the city will accommodate, and their “place” – if any – in the new urban configuration. Other corporate-financed demolition planners, under the so-called Detroit Blight Authority, have already begun clearing land for private exploitation.

There is no question that Detroit’s state-imposed bankruptcy has dramatically quickened the pace of the land rush. However, private capital has always positioned itself on the ground floor of urban planning in the United States, where cities are first configured by profiteers and then occupied by those populations that can manage to fit themselves into the capitalist-contoured framework. The phenomenal, stunning – and wholly unplanned – explosion of Black urban pluralities and majorities in the Sixties and Seventies occurred when capital followed white populations in flight from the cities. Capital later reasserted itself, paving the way for gentrification with its “renaissance” projects in cities across the nation, thoroughly suborning the newly established Black political (misleadership) class to the task of African American removal.

Matthew Shears: Snowden and The Politics of Internet Governance

The Snowden revelations about the mass surveillance programmes of the NSA and the complicity of other Western security agencies have generated a lot of talk about the supposed lack of trust in the Internet, current Internet governance mechanisms, and the multistakeholder governance model. These revelations have been crucial to fueling the surveillance reform effort (see CDT’s NSA surveillance reform work here). However, most commentary linking surveillance and global Internet governance conflates two important issues in inaccurate – and politically motivated – ways, driving long-standing and potentially damaging agendas related to the management of the Internet. [..]

Governments are using the Internet to undermine our fundamental rights and threaten, as the UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue has suggested, the foundations of democratic society. Our response should not be to increase government control over the management of the Internet. Instead, we should reaffirm the need for open, inclusive, participatory Internet governance processes (nationally and internationally) and resist unilateral or multilateral decision-making on Internet-related policy issues.

Ralph Nader: The Cruel and Shameless Ideology of Corporatism

Like ravenous beasts of prey attacking a weakened antelope, the forces of subsidized capital and their mercenaries sunk their fangs into the United Auto Workers (UAW) and its organizing drive at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The UAW narrowly lost – 712 to 626 – and the baying pack of plutocrats exalted, as if they had just saved western civilization in the anti-union, lower-wage South.

The days preceding the vote were a corporatist frenzy with corporatist predators bellowing ‘the sky is falling.’ VW, which sensibly stayed neutral, but privately supported the UAW’s efforts and its collateral “works councils” (an arrangement that had stabilized and made their unionized, higher-paid workers in Germany more productive), must have wondered on what planet they had landed.

Feb 24 2014

Wanted: Trojan With Soul

Interested in working for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence?

Then visit us online next Wednesday, Feb. 26, during the Intelligence Community Virtual Career Fair.

We’ll have recruiters and other experts available to chat while you visit virtual booths, watch presentations and network live with other job seekers.

To learn more or register today to reserve your spot visit: www.icvirtualfair.com

Heads up! Are YOU a real geek?

A computer wizard (whizzerd?) who can make the machine dance to your own tune with a couple of keystrokes while giving Clapper a stroke?

Have a winning smile and the ability to seduce a government HR hiring manager in seconds flat? Do you have a pocket full of thumb drives?

Have you been writing trojans but secretly always wanted to BE a trojan?

Here’s the opportunity you’ve been waiting for!

This Wednesday Feb. 26 James Clappers Office of the Director of National Intelligence will hold an Intelligence Community Virtual Career Fair!

Are YOU the next Ed Snowden?

Go for it! Reserve your page in history!

Ruin Clappers day while making him pay you to do it, and have fun too!

Feb 24 2014

On This Day In History February 24

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 24 is the 55th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 310 days remaining until the end of the year (311 in leap years).

On this day in 1803, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Marshall, decides the landmark case of William Marbury versus James Madison, Secretary of State of the United States and confirms the legal principle of judicial review–the ability of the Supreme Court to limit Congressional power by declaring legislation unconstitutional–in the new nation.

Marbury v. Madison is a landmark case in United States law and in the history of law worldwide. It formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution. It was also the first time in the world that a court invalidated a law by declaring it “unconstitutional.”

This case resulted from a petition to the Supreme Court by William Marbury, who had been appointed by President John Adams as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia but whose commission was not subsequently delivered. Marbury petitioned the Supreme Court to force Secretary of State James Madison to deliver the documents, but the court, with John Marshall as Chief Justice, denied Marbury’s petition, holding that the part of the statute upon which he based his claim, the Judiciary Act of 1789, was unconstitutional.

Marbury v. Madison was the first time the Supreme Court declared something “unconstitutional,” and established the concept of judicial review in the U.S. (the idea that courts may oversee and nullify the actions of another branch of government). The landmark decision helped define the “checks and balances” of the American form of government.

The Issue

There are three ways a case can be heard in the Supreme Court: (1) filing directly in the Supreme Court; (2) filing in a lower federal court, such as a district court, and appealing all the way up to the Supreme Court; (3) filing in a state court, appealing all the way up through the state’s highest courts, and then appealing to the Supreme Court on an issue of federal law. The first is an exercise of the Court’s original jurisdiction; the second and third are exercises of the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction.

Because Marbury filed his petition for the writ of mandamus directly in the Supreme Court, the Court needed to be able to exercise original jurisdiction over the case in order to have the power to hear it.

Marbury’s argument is that in the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress granted the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over petitions for writs of mandamus. This raises several issues that the Supreme Court had to address:

  • Does Article III of the Constitution create a “floor” for original jurisdiction, which Congress can add to, or does it create an exhaustive list that Congress can’t modify at all?
  • If Article III’s original jurisdiction is an exhaustive list, but Congress tries to modify it anyway, who wins that conflict, Congress or the Constitution?
  • And, more importantly, who is supposed to decide who wins?
  • In its answer to this last question, the Supreme Court formalizes the notion of judicial review. In short, the constitutional issue on which Marbury v. Madison was decided was whether Congress could expand the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

    Feb 24 2014

    The State of Obama 2014, Part Two.

    The article closes with a question:

    “So what does he want to be in the history books for? I don’t quite know the answer to that yet.”

    The answer is that he wanted to “be” president. That was his goal, and he accomplished it. Looks great on the resume.

    What did he want to “be” president for? That’s it. Just to “be” president. To be part of the big club. That’s all.

    What the hell is Barack Obama’s presidency for?

    by Gary Younge, The Guardian, Sunday 23 February 2014

    If there was a plot, he’s lost it. If there was a point, few can remember it. If he had a big idea, he shrank it. If there’s a moral compass powerful enough to guide such contradictions to more consistent waters, it is in urgent need of being reset.

    […snip…]

    it was Obama who set himself the task of becoming a transformational political figure in the mould of Ronald Reagan or JFK. “I think we are in one of those fundamentally different times right now where people think that things, the way they are going, just aren’t working,” he said. It was he who donned the mantles of “hope” and “change”.

    It was obvious what his election was for. First, preventing the alternative: presidential candidates in the grip of a deeply dysfunctional and reactionary party. His arrival marked a respite from eight years of international isolation, military excess and economic collapse. He stood against fear, exclusion and greed – and won. Second, it helped cohere and mobilise a new progressive coalition that is transforming the electoral landscape. Finally, it proved that despite the country’s recent history Americans could elect a black man to its highest office.

    So his ascent to power had meaning. It’s his presence in power that lacks purpose. The gap between rich and poor and black and white has grown while he’s been in the White House, the prospects for immigration reform remain remote, bankers made away with the loot, and Guantánamo’s still open. It’s true there’s a limit to what a president can do about much of this and that Republican intransigence has not helped. But that makes the original question more salient not less: if he can’t reunite a divided political culture, which was one of his key pledges, and his powers are that limited, then what is the point of his presidency?

    […snip…]

    “If you’re going to be president, then I guess you obviously want to be in the history books,” said Susan Aylward, a frustrated Obama supporter in Akron, Ohio, shortly before the last election. “So what does he want to be in the history books for? I don’t quite know the answer to that yet.” Sadly, it seems, neither does he.

    more, or less…

    Feb 24 2014

    Sunday Train: Carolina High Speed Rail & The Piedmont Service

    The Southeast HSR corridor can be divided between the “real” SEHSR corridor, where there is actual, ongoing work on improving the speed and, even more critically, the capacity of the corridor in support of services that will begin operating within the current decade, and the “notional” SEHSR corridor, the land of feasibility studies and preliminary planning, where even if a pedal to the metal intercity rail investment program were to commence in 2017, any new services entering into operation before the latter half of next decade would be subsidized conventional rail service.

    And given the importance of state governments in the current bottom-up process of intercity rail development, it should be unsurprising that the boundary between the two part of the SEHSR runs quite close to a state boundary. As discussed two weeks ago, Georgia lies in the middle of “notional” SEHSR country, with Rapid Rail connections to Birmingham; Columbus, GA; Savanna; Charlotte, NC; and Chattanooga / Nashville / Louisville at various stages of being studied, but without active ongoing investment. By contrast, there is current active investment and planned roll-out of new service throughout Virginia and North Carolina, all the way through to Charlotte, NC.

    One reason that Virginia and North Carolina are engaged in ongoing investment is that they are well positioned for incremental development of Rapid Rail passenger service, with a legacy of through Amtrak corridors providing a platform to build upon, urban development taking place along urban arcs in both states, and close enough to the growing major metropolitan center of Washington, DC to use Washington as an anchor for longer distance intercity transport.

    The greatest current focus of investment in the “real SEHSR” is the Piedmont Corridor in North Carolina, which is the focus of this week’s Sunday Train.