Joe Firestone: The Lawless Society

Yves here. This post lays bare the depth of corruption in the US. We addressed the problem of what Joe Firestone calls “the lawless society” and presented some initial thoughts about the necessity of pressuring political parties rather than working within them in our Skunk Party Manifesto. A key section:

Corruption is the biggest single problem. Until we tackle that, frontally, it will be impossible to get any good solutions or even viable interim measures to the long and growing list of problems we face. Conduct that would have been seen as reprehensible 40 years ago, like foreclosing on people who were current on their mortgages, or selling drugs even when the company knows they increase heart heart attack and stroke risk enough to be fatal for a meaningful percentage of patients, barely stirs a raised eyebrow today.

As Frederick Douglass said:

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

It has become fashionable to talk of outrage fatigue, but political and economic abusers have used that to press for more advantage. And events of recent weeks suggest that even a downtrodden and disenfranchised public is capable of rousing itself and acting when they have finally been pushed too far. Escalating violence by police and the utter indifference of local authorities to it has produced not just a backlash, but sustained protests. Similarly, while the publication of the CIA torture reports is unlikely to lead to real reform of the CIA, it has embarrassed our foreign collaborators and has confirmed the worst of what US critics and skeptics overseas believe. Even if the report produces little change in the US, it has ended any pretense that the US has moral authority in the world at large.

By Joe Firestone, Ph.D., Managing Director, CEO of the Knowledge Management Consortium International (KMCI), and Director of KMCI’s CKIM Certificate program. He taught political science as the graduate and undergraduate level and blogs regularly at Corrente, Firedoglake and Daily Kos as letsgetitdone. Cross posted from New Economic Perspectives

The release of the Senate’s torture report reminds us of the central fact of American society, today. Any semblance of equal justice under the law is now gone from what our leaders claim is the world’s leading democracy.

Instead, of a constitutional democracy living under the law. We have a gangster government that fails to enforce the law, but instead prosecutes whistle blowers who make public, violations of it. Here is an off the top of the head list of our continuing and systematic failures to create justice.

— Failure to prosecute, indict, and convict violators of US laws and international treaties prohibiting torture who then lie about it under oath, and when found out justify their illegal acts by claiming that they worked to make America safer, as if this excuses law breaking;

— Failure to investigate, prosecute, indict, and convict government officials who engage in unconstitutional surveillance activities and then lie about it under oath;

— Failure to investigate, prosecute, indict, and convict financial banksters and fraudsters for crimes resulting in the loss of many trillions of dollars of asset value owned by middle and working class Americans

— Failure to indict, and convict some police murders, and to even investigate and prosecute most of them

— Failure to investigate, prosecute, indict, and convict police for rapes

— Failure to investigate, prosecute, indict, and convict police for unlawful seizure of private property

— Failure to investigate, prosecute, indict, and convict police violations of constitutional rights to freedom of speech, assembly, and press

— DHS collaboration in violations of First Amendment Rights by State and Local Governments

— Failure to enforce tax laws prohibiting 501 (c)(4) tax exemption claims by organizations not exclusively engaged in social welfare activities

— Failure to enforce immigration law.*

This is a crime wave composed of wholesale obstruction of justice. If we can’t end it, then democracy will be gone for good. And, if we take too long to end this lawless society, then “the beatings will continue” with much suffering among the vast majority of people.

On the other hand, ending the crime wave won’t be easy, because as we see from my list it results as much from political decisions not to enforce the law, as it does from the violations of law themselves. But this brings us to the political system and its present state of dynamics, which only very rarely results in outcomes that represent the public interest. One of our major parties seems completely consumed by the need to serve financial, defense industry, civil suppression and war making, energy, health industry, and other elites, While the other seems to be a bit less consumed by the need, but also very afraid of acting in ways that are hostile to what they want.

In short, the political system seems captured by money and power, and incapable of turning toward the public interest barring effective disruption of the two party system supported by mass communications networks serving as propaganda arms of elite ideology with its quasi-fictional interpretations of the way the world is and works. So, change comes down to the answer to this question:

— how can we disrupt the two party system, neuter the influence of mass communication elites, and render big money powerless in politics, so that voters can self-organize from the bottom-up in ever larger circles of widening consensus that transcend the bought political parties and produce emergent policy options that are likely to grapple with and solve our myriad problems?

I won’t try to answer that critical question in this post. But I will say that if we don’t arrive at an answer that will work and open up our political system again, then the result will be that the above crime wave will never end, but will eventually evolve into a feudal society where political power makes right and the only protection for individuals will be to join the political empire of one of the oligarchs who will be running the United States.

*I empathize with undocumented immigrants, and favor very aggressive action in getting them integrated into American society. However, the President’s decision to cease enforcing the law on this issue is part of the pattern, the crime wave, I’m pointing to above.

One can’t object to all the other instances of failure to enforce the law while ignoring immigration. Immigration law is unjust and inhuman, and it needs to be changed by Congress immediately, but the President, regrettably, doesn’t have the authority to fail to enforce it.

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  1. R Foreman

    The political power-elite have decided the only people they need are the techies who build those wonderfully powerful weapons and other advanced technologies, and a small cabal of insider-bureaucrats to carry out their edicts.

    The techies can be convinced into fealty either by the lure of significant pay with comfortable lifestyle, or by threat of force if necessary. The bureaucrats are just elite in waiting, so they will obey.

    Oh and another necessity is a military-armed domestic law enforcement structure, highly trained and organized with the best communications equipment and protective gear, and incentivized with the well above-average pay and other perks. This is effectively an occupying army, in all but name, with the task of suppressing all dissent. Maintaining order is already an innate goal of almost all within this group, and using deadly force in a proactive way is only a small additional step to take.

    Everyone else not in these groups are just considered expendable. They will be tolerated for a time, but they simply represent stock for replenishing the other essential groups. If you wish to stay alive and prosper you must join one of the establishment-necessary groups.

    1. Dino Reno

      Exactly. The Pretorian Guard protects the elites from the masses. But who will protect the elites from the Pretorian Guard? That thought alone should keep them awake at night. Because one night, that highly trained, well-equpped and militarized force will come for them and make demands that may or may not be met. That’s the nightmare scenario that should haunt the minds of the crooked bureaucrats and their corporate masters. For one brief moment, before they are put to the sword, they may regret the path they chose for this country.

      1. Jef

        Which came first;

        Their paranoid fears which inspires them to ever greater oppression?


        Their ever increasing oppression causing the population to speak out against power eliciting their paranoia?

        Sounds like a positive feedback loop at any rate.

        1. TheraP

          This is why all dictators systematically purge all contenders who might rise up, closest friends and relatives not excepted. Over and over. Rinse and repeat.

        2. R Foreman

          It’s probably some kind of ratcheting effect that got us here. Both sides ratchet up their responses.

      2. chris

        Look at what happened with the Mexican drug cartels and Los Zetas. They started out as the protectors and then realized they were getting screwed out of the majority of the profits and decided to take over.

        This is the exact same thing.

  2. Eureka Springs

    Great post. A few thoughts.

    We are not a Democracy. The Constitution never utilizes the word. Nor did we the people with the exception of Rhode Island whose voters rejected it by 90 percent ever have the opportunity to vote upon the Constitution itself. We are not defending or preserving something (Democracy) which we never had. That said, rule of law applied, especially at the top, is a must.

    Your list of a short train of abuses should at the very least include lying the nation into wars. Waging wars which are and never have been about defense. They are in fact entirely acts of world wide terrorism. It’s who we are … and yes, it’s turning further within with each passing day.

    I think posts like yours are vitally important, but I think the Skunk partiers among us need to spend much more time creating alternatives in specifics, from simple items like Lamberts/Corrente 12 point plan to penning an entirely new Constitution. I don’t think what we have now is worth trying to preserve. More torture, more wars, more totalitarian abuse and surveillance, even more looting and abrogation of rule of law is guaranteed if we keep playing Dem. vs Reps with a document which doesn’t even use the word Democracy expecting different results.

    Why just the last weeks legislation in D.C. ought to be enough to prove it. But we’ve been watching lame duck congress do this for decades or more.

    Abolish the United States Senate.

    1. John Culpepper

      Technically, we have never been a “democracy”, rather we are a democratic republic, or more accurately a democratically elected, representative republic with separation of powers. But so what.

    2. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      Hi ES, Hwe are a Republic and not a Democracy. However, the informal operation of our political system during the first 30 years of the post-WWII period led most people to characterize us as one of the world’s leading constitutional (or liberal) democracies. During the last nearly 35 years, however, our informal political system has changed. Our economic elites have become much more powerful by buying politicians, and now we are no longer a democracy.Nor are we very constitutional either, since if we were I would never have had to write this post. So, we have to change the system, both informally and eventually formally if we are to create a constitutional democracy once again.

      1. Min

        Enough of this a republic not a democracy BS. Plutocracy not a democracy, maybe. Unless we take action.

        But the US was conceived of as a democratic republic instead of an aristocratic republic, those being the two kinds of republics that Americans conceived of in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Abraham Lincoln referred to both republic and democracy in the Gettysburg Address. “Gov’t of the people” = a republic. “Gov’t by the people” = a democracy. Both-and, not either-or.

        1. Jason Ipswitch

          Thank you! Seeing the republic vs. democracy argument makes me ill. Their basic etymology is *the same*, only one comes from Greek and the other from Latin. Both describe a government that belongs to the public. Quibbling over the details of the exact type of government we don’t actually have is exactly the sort of behavior the people running the plutocracy want to see from those who might oppose them.

          1. hunkerdown

            No, this is extremely important! Who cares if the etymology is the same if they represent markedly different power structures? Isn’t the question *right now* one of whose will is binding, the people’s or the oligarchs’?

            A public that can’t differentiate democracy from American Idol is far more appealing to the oligarchs than the threat of people who actually agree on the meanings of words and use them properly instead of talking like children.

            Joe — if you used your words properly there would be no such arguments. Kindly take heed and spare us the sales-speak of what never was and, under the present Constitution, what never can be. Rewinding the tape doesn’t change the song.

  3. edmondo

    I just had to click on the link to the Skunk Party Manifesto. I was disappointed to learn that it was issued in 2013. I don’t remember seeing any Skunk Party candidates on my 2014 ballot here in New Jersey. While it’s cute to be witty, pretending to fight the corruption with pithy words, the Skunk Party seems to be no different than Obama in 2008 – its there to give false hope to the thousands of Americans who need a cudgel to fight for the powerless and disaffected. Actions count.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Evidently you did not read the post.

      It explicitly says that the Skunk Party is not a political party. Its model is groups that worked outside the two party system to apply pressure to them to achieve specific goals.

  4. James

    It is indeed a crime wave, but one that’s already become endemic throughout our entire society. And in that case, where do we even start? We already know that much of the failure to prosecute is due to the fact that once prosecutors begin pulling on those strings they know the whole ball of yarn will come undone. Needless to say, the powerful have and will continue to cut off any such efforts post haste, but many of the innocent little people resist them too (Ferguson?), unable to deal with the cognitive dissonance that the truth would reveal. Case in point and 900 pound gorilla in the room: an honest to goodness 9-11 investigation. To my mind, until that mystery is solved and put right, everything that’s happened in it’s aftermath is fully justified. Make no mistake about it, the truth about 9-11 would bring down the whole global shooting match, and in its wake there’s no need to speculate about our democracy being replaced by a “prospective” neo-feudal order. The coup was a silent one for most people, but it was a coup all the same. All we’re experiencing now is just the new neo-feudal normal.

    1. Lambert Strether

      I continue to be amazed how many otherwise intelligent people, with the largest upward transfer of wealth in world history just accomplished, a theory of the case in the form of accounting control fraud very well developed, and the perps highly visible in many public forums, continue to veer off in the direction of — let me radically mix metaphors here — bright shiny hairballs suitable for little else than endless discussion among competing factions of hobbyists. It’s astonishing. It’s the most successful “Look! Over there!” distraction I’ve ever seen, and almost religious in its intensity.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        We are so far past “pitchfork time” that this latest chronicling by “competing factions of hobbyists” seems to be hypocrisy of the worst kind: the fully-conscious kind. Obomba is the poster boy for this, Hitlery, their minions, media yes-men, and all of the consciously-formed mendacity that they emit…at least Cheney had the integrity to snarl at us while applying the jackboot. The Smiling Fascism of the Vichy Left is far more dangerous than the honest variety from the likes of Lindsay Graham, at least Cheney/Graham could inspire what used to be termed “opposition”. Feckless Berkeley-ites in Chanel suits at the podium at the State Department are a much more insidious form of monster because instead of running away in terror we invite them to take up residence under the bed.

        The problem is not them, it’s us:

      2. not_me

        with the largest upward transfer of wealth in world history just accomplished, Lambert

        So you agree that restitution is called for? Or just a guaranteed job?

          1. not_me

            So we have what is essentially theft but no restitution is called for? Not even a Steve-Keen-like modern debt jubilee?

            At some point amoral becomes immoral – when it is indifferent to justice.

      3. colinc

        Lambert, thank you for providing a moment of mirth in such a superbly constructed paragraph! :) I hope you had as much delight creating it as I did reading it. I would posit that the multitude of minions, spawned from any source, have indeed become addicted to distraction, i.e. actively seeking the next “Squirrel!” moment in order to avoid more than a micro-second of consideration regarding any one topic so that any and all of the delusions they hold dear cannot be challenged, let alone have time for “introspection.” Kudos to you, sir.

      4. different clue

        Perhaps the coup-plotters behind the successful carrying-out of 9-11 are the same coup-plotters behind the upward redistribution of wealth, and their power to get away with one enhances their power to get away with the other. Perhaps both rolling-coups have to be understood and successfully fought and counter-couped at the same time. And if enough intelligent people think so, perhaps you should stop expecting them to flatter your prejudices as to what is NOT important. Or you can just keep dismissing them as “otherwise” intelligent as they keep increasingly failing to flatter your prejudices about what is NOT important.

        1. James

          Just coincidentally, just saw Lance Armstrong: Stop at Nothing on Showtime and was once again reminded at how dead sure everyone was that Lance Armstrong was above reproach too. I was a cyclist at the time, so I followed the whole damn thing pretty closely, and I wanted so much to believe it too. But like a lot of people, I knew even then that something wasn’t right and I began to suspect it was all too good to be true. Lance fought all the allegations quite successfully tooth and nail for quite a number of years, burning bridges all along the way. Unlike Lance however, I doubt 9-11 will ever be fully exposed. Way too much money and power with life and death interests in perpetuating the lie. Like JFK, the truth will eventually come out to those who can bear to handle it, and I expect that’s as close as we’re ever going to get to any kind of “justice.” In the meantime of course, it pretty much delegitimizes whatever lingering scraps of legitimacy that the US government can still claim. And yes, 9-11 pretty much signaled it was open season to the Wall St/MIC/Corporate kleptocracy that run things, and everything we’ve seen since – the GWOT, Syraqistan, the torture, the bailouts, the police murders, all of it – follows as sure as night follows day.

      5. James

        I agree totally. The “bright shiny hairball” of 19 hijackers was indeed so outlandishly crazy that I’m surprised that anyone could take it seriously. Unfortunately, Americans continue to defy the odds.

      6. human

        Lambert, I put to you that the events of 9/11 and their official narratives are the distraction, repeated incessantly and used regularly to justify the observed consequences.

        How is it that now that the fact that the bulk of the official report of the event is a consequence of torture is public knowledge, that you continue to refuse to revisit the event to possibly reform any opinion?

        Cognitive dissonance can be both deeply debilitating or shallow to allow dismissal as fluff. The only problem I see to holding “those” accountable for our current situations is a lack of a sufficient number of lamp posts hung with very unseasonal decorations (depending on your point of view.) Once again; The System is not broken. It works to a T.

        1. James

          Good points and to my points above. Once you accept the official 9-11 narrative, the torture and all the rest of the war crimes committed since, naturally – by design – just follow. It’s only amazing to me that so many otherwise seemingly intelligent people can’t connect the dots. Cognitive dissonance will do that to ya!

      7. Jason Ipswitch

        What makes you think such diversions are the result of honest delusion and not establishment propaganda? The scope of NSA surveillance proved to exceed the dreams of even the most extreme tinfoil haberdashery. Why should we expect government social engineering and propaganda to be any less pervasive?

    2. Damian

      James you said: “an honest to goodness 9-11 investigation”

      There was a very organized effort last summer – – which was designed to address building standards in NYC via a study to investigate the causes of building #7 collapse. Privately funded.

      Building #7 was not burdened by the collateral issues of the planes crashing into #1 & 2 – so would be a simpler investigation and analysis which then could be applied elsewhere given certain characteristics of the demolition.

      Under the auspices of a building code review – 35,000 petition signatures were gathered of NYC “registered voters” for a ballot initiative in November 2014. Only 15,000 were required. The city reviewed the documents and knocked out about 3,500 in the first round and most were restored to the rolls via an audit of the voter rolls at Board of Elections, Brooklyn, Adams Street, Fourth Floor in August.

      there were also legal challenges by the city on the wording and scope of the use of funds for the study and how the investigation would be conducted independently, among many other issues which were all minor and technical in nature. The Judge was very difficult with a very simple initiative.Then the city came back a second time and knocked out 15,000 shortly before the election and an additional audit was mobilized to restore the rolls at the last minute. I can tell you the signatures were gathered properly this was a high energy attack by the city to eliminate the ballot initiative

      Bottom line – de Blasio is a progressive fraud. He was against the review from day one even for building codes revisions being the objective of the study.

      For your information, The people doing the audit were all men middle age and older who based upon my conversations (I participated in the audit at the Bd. of Elections but did not organize the initiative) were individuals who were actively or formerly Structural Engineers, Architects, Building Inspectors NYC, Developers, Owners of buildings, Physicists, Chemical Engineers and other people – All serious people – no nut jobs! NONE believe the establishment explanation – NONE.

      what we have in this country is a systematic obstruction of justice and propaganda at every level domestically and internationally to keep the information out of the citizens hands.

      1. James

        Thanks Damian. I look into the issue about every six months or so now just to catch up on the latest developments. Rest assured, I’m under no illusion that the US government ever would or could admit what happened on 9-11, as it would likely be the end the end of the Republic as we know it. Nevertheless, I’m continually astounded at the progress each time and how transparently obvious it increasingly becomes that the government version is total bullshit! And like I said above, I think Americans inability to come to terms with the facts can only be ascribed to the pain in relinquishing their cherished America uber alles delusions that are now largely enabled by the lie of 9-11. They’d rather continue the world-wide crime wave and killing spree that their government carries on in their names every day than to come to grips with the fact that they live in a nation that has been taken over by an organized criminal enterprise of unprecedented scope and capability. We can bitch about all the little stuff on boards like this until the cows come home, but until 9-11 is dealt with, it will remain the primary cancer that metastasizes into all the little ones we now see everyday.

      1. James

        Agreed, and the banksters and the police murderers start right at the top. Reopen 9-11 and nip the cancer in the bud. Only then can we have an honest conversation about where to go from here.

  5. sleepy

    One of my favorite quotes is from Nadia Mandelstam, the wife of imprisoned Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, who wrote in her memoir “Hope Against Hope” that as the heretofore unimaginable became more and more common under Stalin in the 30s, she and other Soviet citizens had “lost their sense of awe”.

    Of course, we don’t live under Stalin, but I think her sentiment resonates with what has occurred in the US the past 15 or so years.

  6. Jim Haygood

    Eric Margolis, a journalist who spent decades reporting from the Middle East, offers an analysis which dovetails nicely with Joe Firestone’s:

    If America does not take action to bring to justice those senior politicians and officials who egregiously broke the law, it has no longer any right to boast of being a “city on a hill” or preach similar claptrap to other nations.

    Alas, this is unlikely to happen. America’s Justice Department is protecting the guilty, courts won’t take action, and the Republicans are coming. Democrats who rubber-stamped the unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are mostly muted. Obama urges we not rehash the past – unless it has to do with Nazi crimes.

    It may be up to other nations with a higher regard for human rights and law to pursue the matter. That’s clearly why prime malefactors George Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Tenet and Hayden of CIA, and Condoleeza Rice are so nervous about traveling abroad. They and Britain’s mendacious Tony Blair have much to answer for.

    The reason ISIS – which was formed in Abu Ghraib prison – dressed its beheading victims in orange prison suits was to make the obvious link to Guantanamo. Our sins are coming to haunt us.

    The whole world expects a higher standard of law, government, and behavior from the United States. That’s why I was always proud to be an American and to wear my nation’s uniform. That was before Bush & Co. brought so low our nation, fouled its honor, and made it into a world-class hypocrite. Time to clean out our Augean Stables.

    Torturers are never patriots. They are criminals.

    1. Banger

      Sadly a substantial number of American favor torture mainly due to Hollywood movies glorifying it constantly. It isn’t only the news media that needs to be held to account but the entertainment media may be even more culpable.

      1. jgordon

        That may be a charitable explanation. As with the Christians being thrown to the lions for the amusement of Roman peasants, torture seems to revel in that darker aspect of human nature that comes to the fore when empires are in collapse. Our enemies are threatening the Social Order and therefore they must be subjugated and subjected to horrific retribution for their temerity. A significant part of the population in America likely feels tremendous pleasure knowing that we are making some of the Evil Doers miserable, outside of any mass media prodding.

        1. Banger

          And, interestingly, the “enemies” are largely imagined or caused by the U.S. brutal treatment of subject people.

        2. James

          Agreed. I think we overestimate the “media effect” as just another way of underestimating our own laziness and culpability. In truth, the American voting public is ultimately to blame regardless.

        1. jrs

          They do, authoritarians compare it with voluntary if kinky sexual acts, and ask: “if some people enjoy that then what’s so wrong with torture?” Or they compare it to colonics or other alternative medicine procedures and ask “if people willing do that what’s so wrong with rectal feeding?” With all the logic of: if people choose to have intercourse, what’s so wrong with rape?

          There’s no sex in your violence.

      2. Jill

        Banger and Joe,

        After 2005, people in the US turned against torture. By the time of Obama’s near election, he was running on a platform of bringing anyone involved in torture, to include those at the highest levels in for prosecution. People agreed that torture was wrong and in part, elected Obama because they thought he would prosecute torturers and stop torture. Of course he did neither. But the more important point to me is that people are being easily turned either for or against torture depending on how we are being manipulated.

        So a big part of the problem is counteracting being manipulated. The grassroot teach-in part of Occupy was somewhat effective at this. I think if it means we go to libraries and meet with 2 other people at a time, it’s worth doing. Reaching out to others with help does two things: 1. gets us off the news/electronic feeding tubes, back into reality and 2. bonds people in a common cause for each other’s welfare.

        My experience is that many people have lost the idea of a common welfare while at the same time they are generous hearted with no place to go! We should create a place for these impulses to do good, to be kind to flourish. There’s a whole different world of another kind of power out there. It needs to be tapped into.

        1. Ulysses

          “My experience is that many people have lost the idea of a common welfare while at the same time they are generous hearted with no place to go! We should create a place for these impulses to do good, to be kind to flourish. There’s a whole different world of another kind of power out there.”

          Excellent observation! I was very moved by some of the apolitical, ordinary people I met that came together to work with Occupy Sandy after the storm. So many were awakened to how many good and decent people lived among them, and how much they could accomplish by working together.

    2. Cynthia

      The idea that torture produces “fabricated information” is an important point. But an even more important point about torture is that it is wrong and when we’re wrong in what we do, we weaken ourselves internationally and domestically. We betray every decent aspiration that might have gone into the making of this nation by those who came before us. In short, we betray our history, we destroy our future, and we sell our souls for personal safety. Jesus said “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” That is the position we are in. If we could face up to that, we might be able to change our behavior and become once more an honorable people.

      1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

        I agree. But not only was the torture wrong. It was also illegal, so that the torturers committed particularly heinous crimes. To allow them to go without punishment is to create a dangerous moral hazard. We see this moral hazard illustrated by Jerry Ford’s pardoning of Richard Nixon. Ford is praised for that because most think that it spared the US much pain to look forward rather than backward. But Dick Cheney was working for Ford at the time, and he learned the lesson from Ford that presidents who committed crimes would not be held accountable and might be in a position to protect their Vice Presidents and their staffs. So, he, Cheney, is the embodiment of the moral hazard lesson. If Ford had gone ahead and prosecuted Nixon, then it is very unlikely that Cheney would so cavalierly proceeded down the torture path. So, by cheerfully accepting Ford’s decision our nation has earned the wages of sin in a particularly horrible way. The torturers need to be prosecuted and that includes Bush and Cheney, if we are ever to win back our souls.

    3. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      “The whole world expects a higher standard of law, government, and behavior from the United States”. Not any more they don’t, that ship has already sailed. The only thing that would work right now is a global Truth & Reconciliation Commission a la South Africa. 12-step program, admit your crimes, beg for forgiveness, and commit to restitution.

    4. Cynthia

      Also, a society that believes assassination is an acceptable and legal method of war should not feign surprise and outrage when it’s used by the growing list of enemies in the “homeland” to show displeasure. It’s only a matter of time before the US experiences the horror we’ve been using on other nations.

      1. James

        A matter of time? We’ve already used it on our own for quite some time now. Assassination is “old school” already.

    5. Alex

      The whole world expects a higher standard of law, government, and behavior from the United States.

      Only Americans ever say this. The sad truth is that no one outside the USA expects anything but the current behaviour from the United States: Arrogant, bullying, self-serving, greedy, lying and more often than not, downright evil for no clear reason.

      Perhaps this was different in the past, but that past is long gone.

  7. McMike

    Immigration doesnt have to be on the list. There is moral and even legal basis for refusing unjust laws.

    The critique of immigration requires a slightly more nuanced analysis to show how the status quo favors the elite at the expense of the ordinary people. Complicated by some identity politics pandering around the edges.

    I would argue that the clear line is not about enforcement versus nonenforcement of laws on the books per se, but rather an imbalance of justice in the laws themselves, as well as how they are selectively enforced.

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      I agree that your argument can be made, and I also think that if this Administration were a model of rectitude in its law enforcement would be in a better position to make the unjust law argument. However, the fact remains that this Administration uses it discretion based on its utilitarian calculations again and again in area after area. So, it has not really made the argument that it is choosing not to enforce immigration law because it violates the higher law of justice. In addition, I think one has to acknowledge that Presidents are not, under our constitution, supposed to have the authority to decide what laws to enforce because they are just and what laws to ignore because they are unjust, and also that it would be dangerous to acknowledge that presidents have that kind of authority. It is only a short step from there to acknowledging that presidential signing statements have the force of law. A doctrine that Bush and Cheney were only too anxious to have the rest of us accept.

    2. bostonandreww

      Zero population growth is necessary for the survival of so called “civilization”. Immigration needs to me curtailed. Illegal immigration was permitted because it was profitable; as is throwing American workers under the bus. Illegal immigration is insane public policy.

    3. bostonaddreww

      “There is moral and even legal basis for refusing unjust laws.”
      and there are bullets to deal with those who attempt to do so …

    4. not_me

      The question to be asked is why immigration (and outsourcing, free trade and automation) does not benefit ALL of US instead of just the rich. The answer is because of the continued insistence of some on JAWBS instead of true reform and just restitution.

        1. not_me

          What was passive about it? Progressives got us in this mess and their “solutions” are more pragmatic garbage to perpetuate the injustice. It’s hard not to wonder just whose side they are on.

          As for intangible, a Steve-Keen-like universal bailout is a very tangible minimum solution. So where’s the JG folks on that? Conspicuously silent?

          You’d might start wondering about such intangibles as justice since, as far as I can tell, life is not an IQ test but a test of our moral character.

          1. Lambert Strether

            The passive-aggressive part is “the continued insistence of some.” Who?

            Look, I’m for apple pie, too, in addition to justice. Ponies, too. So what?

            I’m not responsible for “the JG crowd.” Personally, I’m on the record as being in favor of a debt jubilee; whether Keen’s implemenation or not, I’m not sure.

          2. Ben Johannson

            That’s it. Attack the jobs guarantee whether it’s the subject of discussion or not. That way no one will mistake you for an obsessive-compulsive troll.

  8. Banger

    Very important article by Firestone–he frames the issue very well and we all need to see everything through the lens of corruption. Our society is falling apart because it is based on rule-of-law and we no longer have that. All the blather in the media is worthless bullshit to keep our eyes off the ball–it’s a magic trick we should get wise to. Police violence occurs because the police don’t feel bound by the law or even their own procedures. Wall Street doesn’t feel bound by the law. Who does? I don’t–if I can get away with breaking the law I will because I know that the law in the classic sense of the meaning in like the famous parrot in the Monty Python sketch–it is dead!

    What to do? First we must deconstruct all “issues” as manifestation of lawlessness. Second we must address the even more important issue of denial. People don’t want to see what sort of society we have become and it is why the MSM and their government handlers can produce gross distortions and lies about our military adventures both past and proposed. We are not a force for “freedom” in the world (except freedom for oligarchs to eat their citizens). We must, at all costs, even of pissing of veterans, deconstruct American Exceptionalism–those people did not fight for our freedom or our security and should understand that. They are living in a dreamworld that their to frightened to see through.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      The late Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice, in 1928, agreed with you:

      Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means — to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal — would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this court should resolutely set its face.

      But apparently, none of Wall Street’s justices agree.

      1. James Levy

        The courts permanently blew it when they allowed the police to lie to people in custody. Men who will lie to trick you into something will lie on the witness stand to make sure you are convicted–why not, if lying is sanctioned in the service of getting convictions in one setting, why not all settings? And not many big-city priests want to get up in front of their Irish and Italian cop congregations and point out that bearing false witness is a one-way ticket to hell. So the failure of those who are supposed to be committed to justice, and those who are supposed to be committed to morality, is complete.

        1. Banger

          Great point! That is something that I had not thought of and, on reflection, it is of critical importance. There’s a reason why that Commandment exists and it strikes at the heart of culture. If the authorities, on all levels, can lie to us then they are, by definition of most ethical frameworks, evil. That’s a good metric to use–if lies are plentiful then the government is illegitimate and should not be supported–as Confucius would tell us.

        2. Jim Haygood

          It doesn’t work the other way round: 18 U.S.C. § 1001 makes it a crime to lie to an FBI agent. They can mislead you. But if you mislead them, you’re goin’ to prison.

          This statute is another War Between the States legacy from that great civil libertarian, ‘Honest Abe’ Lincoln. /sarc

    2. Cynthia

      The rule of law is dead. It was on life support for many years, but it died the day Obomber and his regime took control. Now, he only enforces the laws that further his political objectives, and ignores the laws that impede his political objectives. If he can’t get the Republican-controlled Congress to cooperate, he’ll just issue an executive order to bypass the law.

      1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

        I don’t mind Executive Orders that involve legitimate exercises of executive authority, but those that involve prohibiting law enforcement are mostly illegitimate. But if the president orders higher pay for federal workers to impact minimum wage legislation, or orders minting a $100 Trillion platinum coin, then these are fine because she/he clearly has the authority to do such things.

        There are even instances where I believe the president has the authority to overturn laws, as was the case when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, because in that case the “property rights” of people who, in rebellion against the United States, could hardly claim that they were entitled to the protection of its laws, and whose “ownership” of others was a heinous moral crime, was ended. But in most cases, the distinction between failing to enforce laws and ordering actions that do not conflict with laws or the Constitution is the critical one, and here I think the President has used his legitimate discretion beyond reasonable bounds.

    3. TimR

      Maybe. I’m sure that’s partly true at least, but is it the whole picture?

      Lately I’ve been giving more weight to a phrase I first came across probably years ago, maybe on James Howard Kunstler’s site: “Systemic Collapse by Design”

      I feel like I’ve seen it other places too, and heard it tossed around in interviews. It did not entirely make sense to me before, but gradually I feel like I’m getting the puzzle pieces in place to understand what it means.

      In a nutshell, I begin to suspect that (what some have alleged) the US as nation-state is being intentionally crashed, by the very highest powers in the land, in order to phase into some form of continental-scale / global government. Of course they may just be pushing on already-unsteady foundations, but I think they are pushing.

      I can’t get into my full reasoning at the moment, I hope to write more later, that’s just my 2 cents based on where my reading and observing has taken me.

  9. TG

    Thank you for at least suggesting that refusing to enforce immigration law is lawless – most progressives have been so conditioned on this topic that they won’t even mention it. I applaud your intellectual integrity.

    Franky I am not that sympathetic to foreign nationals that are in the country illegally, and that are driving wages down and rents up. They have their own countries thank you very much, and if they have made their own lands intolerable well perhaps they should clean up their own mess. This may sound harsh, but no harsher than you would be if your interests were being trampled. I mean, if you came home and found that 20 random strangers had broken into your house, would you want them ‘integrated into your family’? (After all, they are ‘undocumented’ members of your family who only want a better life!) Or would you want the police to evict them post haste?

    We also need to remember that amnesty for a paltry few million foreign nationals who are already here is just a distraction. The main event is the almost total opening of the border to additional foreign nationals. We are looking at effectively unlimited legal immigration, effectively unlimited ‘refugee’ programs, effectively no enforcement of the laws against future illegal immigration… THAT is what threaten the American worker.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Agreed, and Obama’s unilateral selective immigration exceptions only aggravate the ills of unregulated immigration and ensure their increase. This is all about cheap labor and expendable cannon fodder, not compassion or family values.

      That said, please don’t allow elite divide-and-conquer tactics to succeed, and worse, to harden your heart and rob you of empathy and humanity, and to distract you from the real villains in this, the financial-military-complex, that have directly fostered the lawlessness. WRT immigration, the drug war and NAFTA/CAFTA/SHAFTA, and CIA coups have created anarchic failed states to the south with dysfunctional economies, and dumped US taxpayer-subsidized ag products resulting in dispossessing millions of ejido and campesino farmers who are forced to emigrate or starve.

      The ultimate solution is to evict wall street’s illegal representatives in all branches of government not to inflict outrage on those below us on the ladder. They are driven by a moral imperative to feed their families.

      1. different clue

        NAFTA was designed on purpose to destroy the Mexican agricultural economy in order to drive millions of Mexicans off their farmland into the megacity slums and border maquiladoras. Then MFN for China engineered the mass export of most maquiladoras to China instead, leaving the Mexican economic exiles nowhere to go but on over the border into America.

        Perhaps if we called them NAFTAstinians we might have a clearer understanding of the process. A long-term cure for the problem would be the abolition of NAFTA, the freedom to reverse every law and reg passed thereunder, and esPECially Mexico’s reconquest of its right to re-protectionize its agriculture and industry.

    2. Banger

      Many years ago before I was excluded from commenting on DKOS I brought up just what you are saying–illegal immigration is indeed, well, illegal and it undermines the idea of rule-of-law if you allow it to happen. I was assailed as a “racist” and so on. The point is that the ruling elites want cheap labor to drive down pay sure–but mainly they want a labor force that won’t complain or organize.

      1. McMike

        It is more correct to say that an allegedly principle-based insistence on the unblinking enforcement of the “rule of law” in the case of immigration is generally naive or selective.

        Yet when you peel back the onion on this insistence, it does not usually take long to find out that the pendulum was tipped by racist inclination racial framing, or racial bias of some sort.

        Your own post is incoherent; you hint that the law itself is illegitimate in its conception and intent, but then you insist that regardless of the law itself, it must be zealously enforced in order to protect the sanctity of the law. My God this is the sort of thinking that leads churches to cover up pedophiles.

        Nonsense, it is a crappy and unworkable law, subverted by its own corruption and self-contradictions, and deserves to be ignored until reformed. And it can’t be reformed until the neoliberal and imperialist paradigm is reformed. Until that time, our system will insist on creating classes of dislocated and desperate people, and the desired chaos will continue. Any laws pretending to be to the contrary of this are doomed to fail, and exist mainly as theater and political grandstanding, if not serve the self-perpetuation of the broken system itself.

        Do you also insist that police zealously enforce the laws against loitering, obstructing traffic, unpermitted public assemblies, wearing knapsacks and bandana in public, and recording the police? If the cops just ignore those laws and let people mill about in public, the entire system might collapse. Hmm.

        1. Banger

          I appreciate your critique but incoherent I am not. As you said, if you don’t enforce that law then, in a system where law is paramount, as ours is, then not enforcing or selectively enforcing the law is undermining the Law. Whether it is a bad law or not that has to be true. Now a bad law should be repealed in a sensible world and it would be had anyone cared. Another avenue, if cases go to trial, is the whole idea of jury nullification, i.e., if the law is applied wrongly or the law is no good then juries should so rule. I think, when a defendant is on trial he or she has the right to question the law itself.

          In terms of my feeling about the law I believe in open borders at this point in history for a variety of reasons I was just giving the reason why the ruling class wants both immigration to be illegal and, at the same time, doesn’t want the laws to be enforced. What is incoherent about that?

          1. Banger

            I also want to add that, at this point in history, all laws should be declared null and void since the enforcement of those laws falls on illegitimate authorities who exercise “justice” in a random, petty, and frivolous manner. I’m, at this point, in favor of ending the current State and creating alternate structures.

          2. Praedor

            Ugh. I have to stand in absolute opposition to “Truth and Reconciliation”. Reconciliation means forgive and let go. Reconciliation means the guilty get a pass.

            “My bad! Sorry. Well…see ya.”

            No. No pass, no apology (totally unfelt, unreal, disingenuous) and then on with their wealth and pleasure, free to roam. Unacceptable.

            What was done, is being done, is unforgiveable.

          3. Praedor

            You do understand that there are hundreds of old, defunct laws on the books that have long been selectively UNenforced?

            Enjoy your blowjobs or going down on a woman? Illegal, technically. Should the Rule of Law” be taken to the point of absudity and arrest all “sodomites”, people living together sans marriage, or engaged in extramarital affairs?

            Careful about demanding ABSOLUTE fealty to laws irrespective of their illegitimacy or ridiculousness.

            1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

              I’m not advocating absolute fealty to the law for everyone. What I’m saying is that the President doesn’t have discretion to refuse to enforce certain laws under our constitution on what amount to political grounds. Of course, not all laws can or will be enforced due to resource limitations. Also, citizens and others who are the targets of unjust laws may have an obligation to break them, since resistance to unjust laws is demanded of us, especially if the political system has stacked the cards against change.

              But the President has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and there are no exceptions in that oath for unjust laws passed by Congress. So, I believe he is bound to do his sworn duty even where ordinary citizens may have the right and duty to resist.

      2. kj1313

        You can’t say enforce enforce immigration laws while ignoring America’s direct actions in the many crises caused in Central and South America. America and yes the American public are culpable.

        1. jrs

          What are they culpable of again? Not leaving the country? Paying taxes? Not singlehandedly become a Martin Luther King Jr type and leading a movement to reform u.s. foreign policy all by their lonesome self? They vote for it? Nope, not if they don’t vote or don’t vote duopoly they don’t.

          But yes, all Americans deserve to lose their jobs to H1Bs or something, because they can’t single handedly change elite foreign policy all by themselves. Meanwhile the elite continue to profit off cheap labor.

        2. Banger

          I agree–the cause of a lot of immigration is U.S. meddling and encouraging genocide and gangsterism in Central America.

          But we are beyond that now–no law is sacred because the whole system is so rotten that it should be ignored as we build alternatives.

      3. Yves Smith Post author

        Tell me where you rule of law argument goes in Nazi Germany or in the US South before the end of the Civil War. Harboring Jews and smuggling slaves north were breaking the law.

        1. Sam Adams

          Grimke sisters, charleston SC, Utica NY.
          The White Rose,
          They changed the law. They gave strength to those that followed to change

        2. Banger

          You are missing the point. If you have a system where rule-of-law is important and applied equally (see the Brandeis quote upstream) then you must apply the law–if you don’t the system breaks down and becomes a system of decrees by whatever power holds the guns. The Nazi regime did not have rule-of-law as something to be enforced fairly–that was obvious.

          In fact, I commented that we are not obliged (as Confucius believed) to follow the laws of an illegitimate regime which the current status-quo is so we are not obliged to follow the law, including immigration–but if the system was supposed to function as it should, as Firestone suggests then we have to enforce all laws–or change them–or as I say through jury nullification.

    3. McMike

      if they made their own lands intolerable

      Utter nonsense. The US has spent the last century and a half making damn sure that everyone else’s lands were intolerable.

      This line of reasoning of yours bears a disturbing kinship to the notion that blacks only have themselves to blame for their poverty. As if we had no history of freaking human slavery (including systematic kidnapping, eugenics, torture, and a variety of other crimes against humanity), followed by a century of overt, covert, and institutionally racist policies.

      Get this through your thick head: capitalism needs poor people. And given it’s way, capitalism will have poor people. By herding them around if need be. At the point of a gun if need be.

      This notion that immigration laws are invalid on their face and must be upheld requires that you hold an “intellectually consistent” view that all laws passed by Congress are de facto valid and require vigorous enforcement, regardless of what they say. Do you believe this?

      Immigration laws are built on a premise that holds capital to a different standard than labor. Their legitimacy ends right there.

      You are buying into the elite’s endless game of pitting poor saps against poorer saps. Scottish v. Cherokee. Irish v. Chinese. Union v. scab. US labor v. third world labor. Black former slave v. white sharecropper. and on and on and on. Now its white trash rednecks v poor brown people. Get a clue sir, you are part of the problem..

      1. Salamander

        I’m just curious… Could you explain this notion you have that immigration laws hold capital to a different standard than labor and are therefore “illigitimate?”

        1. jrs

          Capital is free to move around the world, and labor isn’t. However the best labor will get for moving is to labor in the United Slaves of America – notice nowhere with any better labor conditions let’s anyone in. And in the United Slaves of America, where labor conditions actually have few if any bottom, if all they have to be is better than some country the U.S. destroyed for capital, it’s not much of a real triumph of labor. Capital still holds the cards.

          1. Salamander

            I got that. I think you both mean to write “goods,” “materiel” or “inputs” rather than or at least in addition to capital, but I see what you are driving at. I’m curious about the framing, which I see more frequently these days.

            Is free trade a moral imperative, or merely a Reciprical agreement that sovereign nations may elect to accept? And – putting aside the issue of whether free trade functions in a real world as it is supposed to according to the theory of competitive advantage – does it therefore follow that nations are obliged to permit the free movement of labor? Is the decision to permit the free movement of one while restricting the other immediately illigitimate as McMike suggests? Is it irrational, or illogical? Why?

            It is not intuitive IMHO that labor and capital must be “held to the same standard.” I’m not even sure what that means.

    4. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      I’m also troubled about the shredding of the immigration laws since the last amnesty in the Reagan Administration. That bill was passed partly in a deal with labor, which was never honored once the legislation was passed. And this was done to serve the interests of business looking to suppress wages. However, things are not as simple as this.

      First, immigration was only one factor depressing wages. Even more important was management of fiscal policy to produce constant fiscal drag which prevented us from reaching full employment from the Administration of Gerald Ford until the present. We never ran deficits that were large enough to create full employment, and we never deficit spent on the programs that would have created it. Had we done so, wages would have kept pace with productivity gains even with the immigration we’ve had.

      Another more important factor was the Federal Reserve. Since Paul Volcker, the Fed has ignored the mandate of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment to promote BOTH Full employment and price stability. It, in my view, has broken the law, by placing emphasis almost entirely on keeping inflation low during this period while cheerfully accepting high unemployment and under-employment. It has done this to the extent that it has used wage increases as a leading indicator of inflation and has raised interest rates time and again when it has observed wage increases. Obviously, the Fed cannot contribute to full employment if upon observing wage increases during periods of still high unemployment in concludes that it must restrict further economic expansion by raising interest rates.

      The bottom line is both Fed policy and fiscal policy since 1977, at least, have conspired to prevent tight full employment from occurring. And then everyone acts surprised at the fact that wage gains have fallen far behind productivity gains.

    5. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      Also, I have to add to my previous comments my belief that a liberal immigration policy is good for the United States and is something we should have and maintain. People and their talents have been the real riches of America over the years, and the present waves of immigration will turn out to be good for all of us provided we can invest in our educational system and create the dynamic and growing economy we need to have to integrate them fully.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Not if they’re impoverished peasants who send a lot of their wages (as much as possible) “home.” Then they just bid down the price of labor.

          Having said that, I should also say that the way we treat immigrants is also a huge humanitarian issue. Not only should they be treated decently, but their impact on labor conditions is less if labor laws are applied to them.

          The real solution is to change our treatment of their home countries so we don’t get these waves of economic refugees, chasing the resources we ripped them off for.

      1. different clue

        No. Land, mineral deposits, farmable soil, cuttable forests, etc. are the real wealth of America. Skilled immigrants were merely the personnel able to exploit that wealth. As all that wealth is mined and farmed out and down to zero, the ability to skillfully exploit wealth will matter less and less as there is less and less wealth to exploit.

        1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

          Wealth is a concept tied to property rights and humans who own the wealth, and wealth is also material and non-material, and not a simple matter of finite resources found in a particular physical sphere. From the viewpoint of a human collective called a nation state, its wealth is multi-dimensional and certainly includes its people, their biological heritage, their skills, knowledge, and character. Immigrants to the United States generally have had an abundance of all four of these things and have contributed greatly to our nation. I believe they will continue to do so in the future.

          As for the idea that people will not be needed as much in the future because there will less and less natural wealth to exploit, I think this is BS for two reasons. First, the United States exists for the benefit of its people, including immigrants who have come to live here, not for itself. And second, it may well be the case that the less natural wealth is available, the more wealth in people will be necessary to use it well and in a sustainable way.

  10. wayne gersen

    There is only one potential candidate for POTUS who is willing to “disrupt the two party system, neuter the influence of mass communication elites, and render big money powerless in politics” and that candidate is waiting for voters to demonstrate a willingness and desire to “…self-organize from the bottom-up in ever larger circles of widening consensus that transcend the bought political parties and produce emergent policy options that are likely to grapple with and solve our myriad problems”… and that would be Bernie Sanders. One of his rationales for running WITHIN the Democrat party (as opposed to running as an independent) is the belief that he might be marginalized by the “mass communication elites” if he ran as a third party candidate. Here’s the deal, progressives: don’t be sold on the “conventional wisdom” that Bernie can’t win. He has a compelling message, he is part of a group in Congress that has put together a budget that actually balances, and he’s shown the ability to win races where he presumably had no chance…. and he’ll speak the truth.

    1. Jef

      Yes right, as if Bernie is going to stand up there, kick ass and take names singlehandedly taking down the US government and all the corporate backers. Get real.

    2. Dirk77

      As Eisenhower pointed out, the executive only enforces the law; Congress makes it. While having a decent president helps, it is not the source of the problem.

    3. Banger

      While Sanders is not perfect he is the “marker” for the left like Kucinich was in 08. What did the left do? It feel for the best marketing campaign since “morning in America.” This time the left must never again dilute its vote by supporting the “electable” candidate whoever that might be because they are afraid of the “bad cop” Republicans. This is the last chance for the American left to resurrect itself from the comatose state it has been in since 2001 of maybe even 1992. I think democracy is dead–but I could be wrong–maybe organizing around a left candidate may make a difference–who knows? Maybe the issues that Sanders tends to champion will get exposure on the propaganda organs or maybe he’ll be treated like Howard Dean which may have been the most obvious bit of power-play the the MSM has ever created. Hopefully, we’ve learned from those kinds of dirty tricks.

        1. Banger

          Certainly more formidable–she certainly has gained my respect–she’s not shy about being somewhat Machiavellian. But I’m not sure she will run–I don’t think “serious” candidates “run” unless they have serious backing from powerful forces–again, Howard Dean is the example here–no major force in the power-elite wanted him so it was easy to shut his campaign down–of course Dean was not as cool and thoughtful as Warren. Should be a very, very interesting couple of years politically.

          1. Lambert Strether

            Sanders might well run, but it’s hard to see him making any kind of a dent. Warren might well run — or very reluctantly allow herself to be drafted — if Hillary stumbles. Warren has been raising money hand over fist; she has a power base. Of course, she’s in no sense of the left; you can’t be a hawk on Iran, anti-single payer, and pro-student loan industry and be on the left. You also can’t view citizens as consumers. Nevertheless, or exactly as a result, Warren is kinetic in a way Sander is not.

            1. Banger

              I think being a “hawk” is her Machiavellian move–U.S. Iranian policy is so blatantly irresponsible and irrational that no serious FP expert takes it seriously unless they are Israeli agents. In order not to offend certain gangsters in Washington she must kiss the ring of those martinets in order to be “serious.”

        2. CRLarue

          Warren is a card carrying member of a small middle eastern nation that is holding the US hostage. NO THANKS!!

    4. Jess

      Ah, yes, the magical Bernie Sanders, a man who presumably never met a comb, another progressive hood ornament. Bernie said all the right things about not voting for HCR without at least a public option. Then what did he do? Turned around and sold out for a measly $10 bil in funding for community clinics. IIRC, even that money got stripped out of later year appropriations.

      Bernie is the Dennis Kucinich of the Senate. If he runs as a Democrat I’ll probably vote for him, not out of any illusions but rather just to tweak the noses of the other candidates. (Same with Warren.)

  11. Dirk77

    My question is: was the start of the USA fine, but everything goes off the rails eventually? Therefore we need as Jefferson said, a periodic reboot? Or were their flaws in the creation of this country, that eventually had to destroy it over time? Since people do not have perfect knowledge I would argue the latter, especially as the Constitution was born of compromise, e.g., slavery. What then was wrong at the start? Firestone, like everyone harps on the corruption of money in politics. Is that something that if corrected could be considered a fundamental solution? If so, how does one correct it? I guess I need to read that Teachout book.

    1. TheraP

      Not just slavery. But only male land-owners could vote. And I honestly think that flaws in the constitution have now been exposed. Because even the Supreme Court has been stolen and bought, thus paving the way for a stolen election, corporate citizenship, the rise of secret courts and secret memos endorsing unconstitutional behavior, making it “legal” to defy national and international law, not to speak of trashing the very ethical and moral standards we profess to be such experts in.

      1. Banger

        Slavery and feminism notwithstanding–the U.S. possessed a rational and, in my view, human and progressive Constitution compared to the rest of the world and it adapted very well to major changes. There was always corruption but there was, at least, relative freedom of action for the citizenry. It was only during the early part of the 20th century that the corruption started in earnest. Drug laws, red scares, the Creel Committee, the FBI, FBN/DEA, CIA/NSA, the state of permanent War that has existed since the late 40s, the financialization of the economy, “free” trade/neoliberalism, government by assassination, fake wars and so on all contributed to creating a corrupt State.

        1. sleepy

          If nothing else, a person’s interaction with the federal government in, say, 1840, was probably not much more than saying a daily hello to the mailman.

        2. MaroonBulldog

          The “Constitution” and the “rule of law” are not independent realities to which we can appeal for hope and salvation. They are tools that only work when we make them work. If we don’t: Korematsu.

          Our president professes to be a constitutional lawyer; a professor of constitutional law. I sometimes imagine that he taught his students the Constitution with the same approach that some tax law professors teach their students the Internal Revenue Code: “Don’t let these words stand in your way.” .(Note, Lawyer-President Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears). Korematsu.

          Franklin D. Roosevelt was a great progressive president. Korematsu.

          I forget which Supreme Court Justice it was who revealed the true doctrine–maybe it was Charles Evans Hughes who said: “The Constitution means what the Supreme Court says it means.” Korematsu.

          If the key players need to make the totalitarian state constitutional–again, it will be held to be constitutional–again. Korematsu.

            1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

              America made the amazing assertion that “man has certain inalienable rights” above those of the State. We enshrined those in a document called the Constitution, which doesn’t tell the people how if can behave, it tells the State how it can behave. When presidents swear a legally-binding oath with a hand on the Bible to uphold it, we merely need to hold them to that oath. By my count our current “Constitutional scholar” Basketballer-in-Chief is violating the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, and 8th Amendments, that should be enough.

              1. MaroonBulldog

                The Enlightenment assertion of “inalienable rights” was made in the Declaration of Independence, which is no part of the Constitution, and nothing any constitutional officer has sworn to defend. It is an assertion of the very same theory that legal philosopher Jeremy Bentham mocked as “nonsense on stilts.” I believe that most American law professors subscribe to a philosophy of law and jurisprudence that agrees with Bentham’s notion, and regards the contrary notions of Locke, Montesquieu, and Thomas Jefferson as errors. So don’t expect American trained lawyers to view the Declaration of Independence as anything sophisticated.

                I agree with the judgment that our President should be impeached, and aver his Vice President should be impeached along with him. How willing are you to accept the presidency of Speaker of the House John Boehner that would likely follow under current law?

                1. weinerdog43

                  I’m afraid not at all. Same problem we had when Bush launched an unprovoked war against a country that had done nothing to us. Sadly, you would have had President Cheney, God help us.

            2. MaroonBulldog

              What did Fred Korematsu do? How long did it take him to obtain justice? What would Martin Luther King do? What would Mahatma Ghandi do?

              1. Dirk77

                While I can imagine the path of this country would have been a better one if someone like RFK had lived, it also may not changed much. People of strength are vital, but philosophic trends – of which this prevalent corruption and decay is an example – need to be dealt with too. So there must also be concrete steps to fix things.

  12. TheraP

    The only daylight I see is a tiny opening in the area of “civil suppression” – for widespread demonstrating. Partly because many demonstrations are in multiple places simultaneously (without days or weeks of public advertising of such). Partly that white people are very visible. Partly that certain groups, like doctors and students, even med students and law students are demonstrating. And partly, I think, because Ferguson forced the authorities to see how a militarized response is both counter-productive domestically and peels back the aura of our vaunted “democracy” abroad. And so I now I occasionally hear (to my amazement and delight) that people have a “right” to protest. (Albeit an infiltrated protest…)

    So, at least for now, there’s a foot in the door of civil dissent. Absent that, how can we begin to shake the gates, which are being shut, against Justice, Equality, the Environment, Regulation of corporations and markets, Endless War, torture of citizens and non-citizens alike, Voting, purchasing of elections and influence, etc?

  13. Synoia

    the only protection for individuals will be to join the political empire of one of the oligarchs

    Until they are downsized. They they have to join the army of the unemployed.

  14. Oregoncharles

    ” how can we disrupt the two party system”
    I almost didn’t respond to this, becaus it’s getting tiresome. I look forward to his proposals, because it’s silly, at best, to just leave this hanging.
    The reality is that some of us already did what’s possible: we set up a real alternative to the “legacy” parties. There are actually more than one; besides the Green Party on the left, there are the Libertarians more or less on the right, and a number of others (at last count, Oregon had 8 ballot-qualified parties). So the answer to his question is really very simple: you pick one, and you vote for it. Even more important, you work for it and even drop them a dime or two (nobody pinches pennies like the Green Party).

    Hopefully, he has some useful strategic suggestions for making that happen. So far, he’s refusing to adknowledge reality – and that’s exactly the biggest barrier to real change. The underlying problem is pervasive habit and complacency on the part of the electorate. They’re radically dissatisfied with their options, but unwilling to try others. That’s partly because the media – nearly ALL the media, down to this site most of the time – systematically pretends the alternatives don’t even exist. That’s why I’m losing patience with this sort of article. Some are much worse; authors like Thomas Frank lay out everything wrong with the Democrats, then tell us to vote for them anyway. That’s the fundamental corruption of our system in a nutshell.

    So, hopefully we’ll see some concrete and useful suggestions from Mr. Firestone – soon, before the next campaign season. Because otherwise this article, true though it is, is a waste of space.

    1. NOTaREALmeican

      People won’t vote Green or Libertarian until they figure out why the Greens are NOT left and Libertarians are NOT right. Because that’s not possible (it would require people to think about what left and right actually meant) people will continue to vote Blue and Red. Authoritarian left and right IS tho (unfortunately) exactly what most people want, with roughly half of “the most” wanting one OR the other; but DEFINITELY they don’t want non-authoritarian. I’m not even sure the Greens and Libertarians could rule an authoritarian based society like this one if they somehow managed to stumble into power.

    1. Rostale

      Something l keep meaning to do is lookup if anyone has calculated the economic damage done by the collective inmates in us prisons. Probably would be a useful point of comparison

  15. Paul Tioxon

    The way you initiate someone beyond a point of no return, is to have them kill someone, commit cold blooded murder. The Mafia calls it making your bones. To join an outlaw society, you kill. Gang initiations on the streets of big cities and small towns do the same thing. The group has something on you if you ever get cold feet. America initiated a whole generation by sending them to Viet Nam. When they returned, and got hold of their minds by being in civilian life in America, many realized how wrong the war was. These military vets joined the Viet Nam Veteran against the War. You can go on youtube and find The Winter Soldier film about Viet Nam testimony.

    In Hollywood, a widely seen series of movies called “BILLY JACK”, portrayed the fall of America into another sort of nation during that era. Today, the Afghan/Iraq/Gitmo Crusade is initiating fresh blood. But we don’t see much raging against the night. The following clip shows what a lawless society looked like in the aftermath of Viet Nam and the consequences for our culture as Americans. The torture report is another attempt to rein in the out of control militarism before it destroys what little humanity we have left under the guise stopping terrorists from committing atrocities here and abroad. To draw wide attention, the larger support is required from writers, movie makers, sports figures, and the people in leadership roles, such as doctors, lawyers, business owners and the everyday people just trying to live their lives by going to work, taking care of their families and not breaking the law or cause problems or tensions for their community. The wider American public sees the out of control police and the lack of response by state authorities. The torture report warns the wider public what is being doing in their name. We can’t say we didn’t know, we didn’t hear about it or that our leader in Washington DC did not investigate and publish findings. The findings are before us now.

    At one time, there was a greater voice to dissident opposition that was presented in the print and broadcast media, as opposed to the sanctimonious thanking over and over again for you service to country. When the militarism needs to cleverly avoid the overt naming of national enemies, made up enemies from outer space from video games will do. The soldiers are always impossibly brave, impossibly heroic, with no doubts. But then, they are fighting aliens invading the earth. If we were to see the true face of war across the Arab world, much we participated in for years and years, you would see something like a “BILLY JACK” movie.

  16. NOTaREALmeican

    Corruption and only be solved by increasing the Government’s oversight of society. When the nice people get elected in the upcoming presidential elections then corruption will be eliminated. But, we must win that election FIRST. I’m hopeful it can be done.

  17. Clifford Johnson

    As other posts suggest, the problem is not merely a matter of a failure to enforce the law, but a matter of a Supreme Court that since the late 70s has eviscerated well-established and natural law, for example re white-collar fraud. Rules against misrepresentation in particular have become relegated to a regulatory concern, and de facto legitimated by contrary Supreme holdings that repudiate such rules as unwarranted interference.

  18. Rosario

    I’ve noticed that corruption operates in nation states under two different conditions, extreme economic and social duress (typically via exploitation) and in the midst of extravagant wealth and power (usually the exploiter). Power and its relation to the powerless or less powerful is the common thread. It’s curtailment and balance seems to be a necessity for sustainability.

  19. Jim

    I concur with many of the sentiments expressed by Joe Firestone but since we will soon be facing an intensified political struggle, it seems imperative to think through as carefully as possible the precise nature, identity and location of our political adversaries.

    For example, there has been significant rhetorical outrage about the recent CIA torture report and ongoing demonstrations about the indiscriminate killings and militarization of our local police departments.

    These two issues both fall under what is called national security policy, one primarily international and the other primarily internal.

    Who is responsible for international and internal National Security Policy and where are these individuals located in our State structure of power?

    One of the better attempts to answer this question has come from a recent analysis by Michael J. Glennon entitled “National Security and Double Government.”

    Glennon states in the abstract to his article that “the public believes that the constitutionally-established institutions (Presidency, Courts, Congress) control national security policy, but that view is mistaken.”

    He goes on to say that US national security policy is defined by a network of executive officials who manage the departments and agencies responsible for promoting U.S national security and who, responding to structural incentives embedded in the U.S. political system operate largely removed from public view and from constitutional constraints.

    Glennon adds, more specifically that this network consists of the several hundred executive officials who sit atop the military, intelligence, diplomatic and law enforcement departments and agencies that have as their mission the protection of America’s international and internal security.”

    According to Glennon “these individuals make most of the key decisions concerning national security, removed from public view and from constitutional restrictions.

    He believes that the United States have moved from an imperial presidency to a structure of double government in which even the President now exercises little substantive control over the overall direction of US national security policy.

      1. jonboinAR

        {Shhh} Doncha remember? We learned “Deep State” is nothing but a red herring! (Sorry, Lambert ;-) .)

  20. dearieme

    “Even if the report produces little change in the US, it has ended any pretense that the US has moral authority in the world at large.” Oh, I’m pretty confident that the pretence will continue.

    1. MaroonBulldog

      Those who are making the pretense will continue to make it, but noone will continue to believe it, if anyone still does.

  21. Jay M

    Local teevee station, 7 KGO, reporting that the state is still operating under temporary funding rules, and the budget will occupy the Senate next week.
    Next, from our occasional contributor, Tacitus, on “They make a desolation, and call it Peace . . .”
    If true, the burners are on under the Senators.

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