Bill Moyers Outdoes Himself with Guest Mike Lofgren: “The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight”
By bobswern, published on February 23, 2014
When Bill Moyers covers a subject one may always anticipate that it will be journalism at its most consistently sublime, at least in comparison to the work of virtually everyone else that claims any affiliation with this country’s mainstream media. However, on Friday night, with former congressional staffer Mike Lofgren, author of “The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted,” as his guest, in “The Deep State Hiding In Plain Sight,” Moyers outdid himself, IMHO; both on his show, publishing Lofgren’s exceptionally powerful essay at the show’s website, and with regard to the outstanding variety of incisive analyses about the show and its subject matter that are now accessible at BillMoyers.com.
There’s little more that I need or wish to say here other than–making a feeble attempt to convey the content, which I refuse to do, especially when it comes to Moyers’ and his guests’ work—to provide readers with the video and related links that speak for themselves.
From Friday evening, here’s Moyers’ “The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight”…
Full Show: The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight
February 21, 2014Everyone knows about the military-industrial complex, which, in his farewell address, President Eisenhower warned had the potential to “endanger our liberties or democratic process” but have you heard of the “Deep State?”
Mike Lofgren, a former GOP congressional staff member with the powerful House and Senate Budget Committees, joins Bill to talk about what he calls the Deep State, a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state, which is “out of control” and “unconstrained.” In it, Lofgren says, elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests. “It is … the red thread that runs through the history of the last three decades. It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion or our civil liberties and perpetual war,” Lofgren tells Bill.
Lofgren says the Deep State’s heart lies in Washington, DC, but its tentacles reach out to Wall Street, which Lofgren describes as “the ultimate backstop to the whole operation,” Silicon Valley and over 400,000 contractors, private citizens who have top-secret security clearances. Like any other bureaucracy, it’s groupthink that drives the Deep State.
In conjunction with this week’s show, Mike Lofgren has written an exclusive essay, “Anatomy of the Deep State.”
Here’s the LINK TO THE TRANSCRIPT of the show.
And, here’s the opening excerpt to Lofgren’s essay (I know the term’s overused, but this really is a “must-read”), “Anatomy of the Deep State.”
Exclusive Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State
by Mike Lofgren
February 21, 2014
Rome lived upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face. Industry is the only true source of wealth, and there was no industry in Rome. By day the Ostia road was crowded with carts and muleteers, carrying to the great city the silks and spices of the East, the marble of Asia Minor, the timber of the Atlas, the grain of Africa and Egypt; and the carts brought out nothing but loads of dung. That was their return cargo.– The Martyrdom of Man by Winwood Reade (1871)
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. 
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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.
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…
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…
I would like to emphatically suggest that you take the time to read Lofgren’s entire essay. To say, “It is powerful,” would be an understatement.
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Reactions to Mike Lofgren’s Essay on The Deep State
February 21, 2014This week, Mike Lofgren spoke with Bill about what he describes as America’s “Deep State,” where elected and unelected officials collude to protect and serve powerful, vested interests. In conjunction with the show, Lofgren’s essay, “of the Deep State,” has been published exclusively by BillMoyers.com. We asked a number of people, including several previous Moyers & Company guests, to share their reactions to the Deep State.
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Andrew Bacevich on Washington’s Tacit Consensus
Andrew Bacevich is a Military Historian
February 21, 2014What words best describe present-day Washington politics? The commonplace answer, endlessly repeated by politicians themselves and media observers alike, is this: dysfunction, gridlock, partisanship and incivility. Yet here’s a far more accurate term: tacit consensus. Where Republicans and Democrats disagree, however loudly, matters less than where their views align. Differences entertain. Yet like-mindedness, even if unacknowledged, determines both action and inaction…
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Heidi Boghosian on Mass Surveillance
Heidi Boghosian is the Director of The National Lawyers Guild
February 21, 2014Mike Lofgren’s exceptional essay, “Anatomy of the Deep State,” delivers the roadmap that bewildered Americans need to navigate the past year’s glut of news about mass surveillance. The term “Deep State” aptly conveys how the private security industry has melded with government. It is soldered by plutocracy, perpetual war, reduction of industrial capacity, US exceptionalism and political malfunction. Lofgren is a credible and welcome interpreter of how these factors combine to exert control over us…
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Danielle Brian on Legalized Corruption
Danielle Brian is a Government Watchdog
February 21, 2014Forget about the Machiavellian drama that plays out in the hit series The House of Cards, if you really want to be educated (or frightened) about what goes on in the nation’s capital, just let everything you read in Mike Lofgren’s essay sink in.
We don’t need fictional Frank Underwoods to tell us that Washington is rotten at its core. That’s because, as is often the case, the truth is much scarier than fiction…
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Juan Cole on the Vulnerability of the Network
Juan Cole is Professor of History, University of Michigan
February 21st, 2014“Lofgren seems to me to put too little emphasis on the impact of the September 11 attacks in allowing the vast expansion of the Deep State. It paralyzed Congress and the judiciary with regard to security and terrorism. So too did World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution allow the post-war Red Scare. These moments of timidity have occurred repeatedly in US history, but have been time-bounded. As 9/11 recedes, there will likely be a reassertion of other interests, as the author implicitly admits. A Federal judge has already called NSA domestic spying “Orwellian.” As Lofgren notes, Silicon Valley’s brand name is now endangered by being tagged in international markets as spyware, and powerful tech firms with plans for cloud computing are unlikely to take it lying down…”
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Lee Fang on the Glimmer of Hope
Lee Fang is a Contributing Writer at The Nation and Republic Report
February 21, 2014“In a media environment now dominated by flickering GIFs of dogs and cats, the best truth-tellers have emerged from quite unlikely backgrounds. Just as nobody could have predicted that a Hawaii-based consultant for the NSA would singlehandedly expose the largest surveillance system in human history, Mike Lofgren’s path from the Republican staff of the Senate Budget Committee to the pages of Truthout might seem just as puzzling. And just as Edward Snowden’s revelations exposed a world increasingly controlled and watched by an unaccountable bureaucracy, Lofgren has seamlessly articulated an ascendant American power elite that many tacitly acknowledge; yet few understand…
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Henry Giroux on Resisting the Neoliberal Revolution
Henry Giroux is Professor of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, Visiting Professor at Ryerson University, Author and Cultural Critic
February 21, 2014“Two things are essential for challenging the new authoritarianism. First, there needs to be a change in collective consciousness about what democracy really means and what it might look like. This is a pedagogical task whose aim is to create the formative culture that produces the agents necessary for challenging neoliberal rule….”
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Tim Wu on the Partisan Sideshow and Silicon Valley
Tim Wu is a Cultural Critic
February 21st, 2014“The mistake that Lofgren makes is to think that what he describes is only the case for a “Deep State” centered on national security or law enforcement. To be sure, the attention is warranted, for these are the parts of the government that wield the most terrifying powers, particularly overseas. But anyone who has worked for other parts of government knows that they too operate under the radar screen. And here, in the real business of government, we find that parties are often less relevant than are industry loyalties; instead of really being a Democrat or Republican, one is more accurately loyal to the cable industry, big oil, Hollywood and so on…
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