Who Rules Washington?

By: Monday August 4, 2014 7:15 pm

As every schoolchild knows, there are three check-and-balance branches of the U.S. government: the executive, Congress, and the judiciary. That’s bedrock Americanism and the most basic high school civics material. Only one problem: it’s just not so.

During the Cold War years and far more strikingly in the twenty-first century, the U.S. government has evolved. It sprouted a fourth branch: the national security state, whose main characteristic may be an unquenchable urge to expand its power and reach. Admittedly, it still lacks certain formal prerogatives of governmental power. Nonetheless, at a time when Congress and the presidency are in a check-and-balance ballet of inactivity that would have been unimaginable to Americans of earlier eras, the Fourth Branch is an ever more unchecked and unbalanced power center in Washington. Curtained off from accountability by a penumbra of secrecy, its leaders increasingly are making nitty-gritty policy decisions and largely doing what they want, a situation illuminated by a recent controversy over the possible release of a Senate report on CIA rendition and torture practices.

All of this is or should be obvious, but remains surprisingly unacknowledged in our American world. The rise of the Fourth Branch began at a moment of mobilization for a global conflict, World War II. It gained heft and staying power in the Cold War of the second half of the twentieth century, when that other superpower, the Soviet Union, provided the excuse for expansion of every sort.

 

Late Night: A Leaf in a Burning Forest

By: Monday June 23, 2014 8:00 pm

I have become a leaf in a burning forest. How many of us feel that way? When we see the flames raging all around us, the flames of corporate greed, of Wall Street fraud, of political and judicial and media corruption. That fire keeps blazing, keeps spreading…

There’s No Need To Say Goodbye

By: Sunday January 26, 2014 12:00 pm

The winds are blowing, the skies are turning grey. Democracy’s sun is setting, but it will rise another day.

Americans See Our Broken Government as Our Most Important Problem

By: Wednesday January 15, 2014 9:08 am

Once again Americans see our broken government as the most important problem facing our country. It soared to the top of the list starting with the government shutdown and has remained there ever since.

Americans Lack Faith in Their Government

By: Thursday January 2, 2014 10:14 am

70 percent of Americans are “not very” or “not at all” confident that the federal government will make progress in the important issues facing our country.

Late Night: Crappy New Year

By: Thursday December 26, 2013 8:00 pm

On the bright side, David Gregory will finally fail at least laterally, and I’ll drink to that.

Late Night: Who Needs a Bathtub?

By: Thursday October 24, 2013 8:00 pm

Why don’t we just admit that Grover Norquist’s work here in these United States is, well, done? Yes, the federal government is technically back in business, but only just in time to let Foster Farms continue selling salmonella-tainted chicken, JPMorgan Chase escape its latest fraud with a laughably small fine, and Sinclair Broadcast Group snap up a dozen or so more local television stations. And that’s just this week.

Late Night: The Ghost of Ronnie

By: Thursday October 10, 2013 8:00 pm

It’s become commonplace in what remains of the mainstream media to say that the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that even St. Ronnie wouldn’t make the cut, which is true as far as it goes. But thanks to Reaganism, it doesn’t need Ronnie anymore.

Wall Street Lobbyist Wrote House Democrats’ Letter to Weaken Investor Protections

By: Thursday August 15, 2013 9:45 am

Despite the incredible suffering the 2008 financial crisis caused on the traditional constituents of the Democratic Party it seems Wall Street still calls the shots. A letter sent to federal regulators from so-called progressive Democrats calling for weaker investor protections for retirement accounts was actually written by a Wall Street lobbyist.

Late Night: Cold War Mentality, Indeed

By: Thursday August 8, 2013 8:00 pm

In President Obama’s lie-laden softball interview with an increasingly doddering Grandpa once known as Jay Leno, he said one thing that made me laugh out loud, rather than merely shake my fist, slap my forehead, and down ever-larger gulps of alcohol, as I had been doing before and after. In that Harvard-esque, dismissive tone that infuriates me just as much as it does your average tooth-deficient Confederate-American, Mr. Hope and Change had the gall to utter that Russia was relapsing into a “cold war mentality.”

He really said that.

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