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.

 

Russia Annexes Part Of Ukraine As President Obama Warns Of ‘Consequences’

By: Monday March 3, 2014 6:56 am

Funny things happen when you foment an uprising. After factions in Western Ukraine overthrew the Russian backed government, Russia has responded by invading parts of Eastern Ukraine, specifically the Crimea, which is dominated by Russian speakers and those friendly to Russian influence. The invasion sparked a rhetorical threat from President Obama that there would be “consequences” for Russia though he never made exactly clear what that meant as numerous observers questioned what Obama even could do.

‘The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight’: Mike Lofgren With Moyers

By: Monday February 24, 2014 7:15 pm

While Lofgren is chillingly correct overall, there are a few things to quibble with here. One is that the Democrats could have eliminated the filibuster altogether during their majority had they so chosen, as they did last year for judicial and other executive branch appointments. A lot of ink has been spent discussing why they chose not to.

CIA Enlists Lawmakers to Maintain Edge in Turf War, Keep Authority to Launch Drone Strikes

By: Thursday January 16, 2014 9:57 am

President Barack Obama’s reported plan to shift control of armed drone operations from the CIA to the Pentagon has apparently been disrupted by lawmakers who have stepped in to help the CIA stay in the killing business.

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