Must Read: Mike Lofgren on the Deep State

Former Republican congressional staffer Mike Lofgren has penned a disturbing essay on the Deep State, the invisible power structure within our government that goes beyong mere party politics and elected officials. Lofgren left Washington and the Republican party in disgust due to his experience of the Deep State, which he describes in this way:

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

This makes intuitive sense without much understanding of the complexity of the system itself, and upon closer examination, becomes more and more apparent. It seems the natural progression of a government such as ours, which thrives on the military industrial complex and public apathy and ignorance. As more and more money pours into the electoral coffers of our leaders, the hybrid power structure of corporate and national security interests becomes more pervasive. The Deep State has become so entrenched that it has become self-sustaining, no matter who is in office. It matters not who our elected officials happen to be, because they have bought into the very system that usurps any real power they might have to change it. Lofgren quotes Upton Sinclair to elucidate this point:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Deregulation, privatization of historically governmental functions, the economic crisis, and the erosion of our civil liberties after 9/11 has intensified even further the power of the Deep State. Our elected leaders often either do not know that they are puppets, or willingly participate in the ruse of democracy, since when they leave office, they are very often assured of lucrative careers within the very entities that have dictated their public policies. Lofgren, from an interview with Bill Moyers:

Wall Street is, perhaps, the ultimate backstop to the whole operation.  Because they generate so much money that they can provide second careers for a lot of the government operatives.  They’re going to make more money than they ever dreamed they would on Wall Street. And I think a good example of that is the most celebrated soldier of the last decade David Petraeus.  What did he do when he retired?  He went to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, a Wall Street buyout firm with $90 billion in assets under management.

Lofgren states that this results in an ideology neither Republican nor Democrat in nature. On the surface, there are some differences on social issues-what I call wedge issues: gay marriage, abortion, etc. Not least of these are issues which to many define the meaning of AMERICAN. It is my AMERICAN, God-given right to bear arms, refuse service to gays, or beat my child! Yet, too often we do not question why AMERICA is spying on its own citizens, arresting them for speaking their minds, and letting corporate welfare moochers deplete the public wealth while despising the poor for weakness. No matter what party affiliation, there seems to be some concepts that are universally accepted as gospel, which Lofgren characterizes as the “Washington Consensus”:

…financialization, outsourcing, privatization, deregulation and the commodifying of labor. Internationally, they espouse 21st-century “American Exceptionalism”: the right and duty of the United States to meddle in every region of the world with coercive diplomacy and boots on the ground and to ignore painfully won international norms of civilized behavior.

The “mainstream media” tends to support these inviolate principles without question, as it continues to focus on the fractiousness that seems to consume all of public attention and political discourse. American Exceptionalism is the true religion of this nation. To suggest that our nation is not divinely protected and beloved is heresy. It is repeated over again that no matter what mistakes our country has made, it is always with altruistic and benevolent intent. We have always held this truth to be self-evident, and so the Deep State has come into existence due to our own arrogance.

The frightening effects of this state of affairs is becoming apparent. Public infrastructures have long been neglected. A relatively mild snowstorm results in massive power outages, gridlock, and panic. Bridges are literally collapsing. We incarcerate more persons per capita than any other nation, often due to the failed war on drugs, which is nothing but an extension of the devastating effects of poverty. Record numbers of people are on food stamps as corporations enjoy record profits. SOMETHING IS WRONG HERE! Lofgren’s Deep State theory pierces to the heart of the problem:

The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction. Washington is the headquarters of the Deep State, and its time in the sun as a rival to Rome, Constantinople or London may be term-limited by its overweening sense of self-importance and its habit, as Winwood Reade said of Rome, to “live upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face.” “Living upon its principal,” in this case, means that the Deep State has been extracting value from the American people in vampire-like fashion.

The American people can not continue to feed this unsustainable vampire. Eventually, the system will be depleted of sustenance, but it could very well be too late the stop the cycle, for most of us are as yet still blind to its existence. History shows that once a society that has consumed itself in such a manner, it is often much too late to stop the terrible spiral even after it has become self-aware. And history shows that leaders, in the face of defeat, tend to double down on already failing policies, arrogantly refusing to admit a change must be made.

Lofgren offers a few disturbing glimpses of our future if the Deep State continues to dictate the course of our country. The first step to dismantling this destructive entity is to become aware of it, perhaps through an enlightened leader:

What America lacks is a figure with the serene self-confidence to tell us that the twin idols of national security and corporate power are outworn dogmas that have nothing more to offer us. Thus disenthralled, the people themselves will unravel the Deep State with surprising speed.

I had hoped that Obama would be this true agent of “change,” but he has proven to be yet another extension of the Deep State. I encourage you to read the essay and watch the accompanying interview with Bill Moyers. I welcome your thoughts and opinions.

Quiet Sunday Morning Reflections on Parenthood and Uncertainty

Before my first child was born, I had a miscarriage. It was very early in the pregnancy, but it was devastating nonetheless. When we first found out I was pregnant, my husband and I were so happy and excited. We stayed up late musing over names and wondering if if it would be a boy or a girl. The miscarriage brought crushing disappointment and sadness over the loss of what could have been.

Just a few short months later, and a bit unexpectedly, for we had decided to wait a bit before trying for another, I found I was pregnant again. My pregnancy was uneventful and normal. My 110-pound frame ballooned nearly 70 pounds due to my new love for chocolate cake covered with chocolate syrup. I was as big around as I was tall, but my husband proclaimed I was still just as beautiful (bless him).

It was a difficult labor, lasting the better part of a day before doctors decided to cut her from my body because she was stuck in my pelvis. I had never had a broken bone or even stitches before, so I was terrified. But as her heart rate dropped, my fears for myself were overcome by my fear of losing her, this child that was so wished for and wanted. In February of 2000, my healthy baby girl was born. I got to glimpse her adorable cone head and wrinkly face before I passed out in exhaustion. When I awoke, I found a crowd of friends and family at the door. They had been there all day, anxiously awaiting the girl’s arrival. They surrounded her bassinet and cooed in awe at her perfection.

The pediatrician came around early the next morning to check her out from head to toe. He noticed a distinct clicking sound as he manipulated her little legs and hips. He discovered that her hip socket was malformed. Her condition was called hip dysplasia. She was immediately fitted with a tiny brace that held her legs in a position that would allow her hip to grow properly. She had to wear it all of the time, unless changing clothing and diapers, or bathing. It added a new level to baby care for an anxious pair of new parents. But again, our fear for her health and safety made us stand up to the responsibility and stifle those fears. After a year and a half, our daughter’s hip was proclaimed normal, although she must still be checked periodically until she is finished growing.

Only 16 months after the birth of my daughter, along came my son, fat and healthy. The next several years were a blur of joy and despair. Frazzled and tired beyond comprehension, I suffered through the loneliness and isolation of being the only mommy in our group. I worked nights as my husband worked days. Those nights after work with my friends, I drank too much, pretending I was still cool. Alone with my children, I sobbed with guilt, because I didn’t feel up to the task of being a good mother. I was nearly undone, but my husband recognized my spiral, and helped me get back on my feet with renewed purpose.

Fast forward a few years. We have continued to work our crazy opposite schedules so that we don’t have to entrust our babies to daycare. We trust very few people to care for them, and never for more than a few hours. My youngest is about to go to kindergarten. I am ready. I want to start my own career. But fate has different plans for me. As soon as I enroll in school, my mother in law suffers a fall and an injury that requires me and my husband to care for her in our home for a couple of months. I have no alone time, and now have to fully care for an adult more demanding than any child. Shortly after she is well enough to go home, I find out that I am pregnant again.

Although I manage to finish school during my pregnancy and childbirth, we decide to once again place my career on hold until my precious third child and second daughter goes to school. It is a sacrifice that I am happy to make, though that means that I will be forty years old before I start any type of career. I continue to work nights. As you know if you have read my blog for a while, I then had to care for my mother in law once again for the better part of a year. This was an entirely new type of madness in our tiny home. We were tethered to the house, bound by our responsibilities, and completely unable to keep all of the balls in the air. Though she is now gone to a nursing home, we are still recovering from the effects of her stay here.

Fate continues to throw us curve balls. I found a job as soon as my baby went to kindergarten. I started part time, but was quickly offered a full time gig with great “bennies.” We were very happy, but that meant putting my baby in afterschool care. She is not adjusting so well to the long times away from us. She is having some behavioral problems and separation anxiety. My son is going to counseling because he has a terrible time focusing at school and at home, because of compulsive thoughts and behaviors. To top it all off, my beautiful eldest child might have a genetic disorder called Marfan’s Syndrome.

My daughter contracted pneumonia last fall. Upon examination of her chest X-ray, the doctor noticed that her spine was curved. When the orthopedist she was referred to assessed the severity of her scoliosis, he determined that she has Pectus Excavatum, an abnormality of the chest bones. Those two symptoms combined suggest the possibility of Marfan, a disorder that affects smooth muscles such as the heart, and connective tissues. I have discovered that if she has it, there is a 50% chance that my other two have it as well. TOO MUCH TO BEAR! I have banned myself from reading any more on the internet about the syndrome as we await an ultrasound of her heart to find out more.

Fourteen years ago, I learned the meaning of true love. At the same time I had to learn to live with oppressive worry that is with me constantly. I suffer doubts over my capacity to endure and remain strong. I find it difficult at times to hide my fears from my children. My own mother left my family when fear of the unknown became too great for her to bear. How was I to know way back then how terrifying parenthood would be-how fraught with danger and uncertainty, how much sacrifice would be involved. I face it all willingly, but still afraid.

My baby, now six years old, has just now wandered in with bleary eyes and funky breath, wanting to cuddle. Still toasty from the warmth of her bed, I hold her close and think, “this is what it is all about.” I can and will face whatever comes, for them.