Imagine there’s a state-within-the-state: a shadow government that hides in plain sight. You don’t have to imagine it. It’s real. This isn’t about some vast conspiracy. There’s no Illuminati to be found here. Instead, I’m talking about the vast network of firms and people that act, for lack of a better term, as parasites attached to the American government and, perhaps more importantly, to taxpayers’ wallets. Most of us have heard of the military-industrial complex.
Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein is hoping that, by appealing to as wide a variety of cranks and edgelords as possible, she might somehow make herself and the Green Party relevant. (Note: some content in this post may be NSFW.) This led to the somewhat surreal situation we have now: Jill Stein tweeting about Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla killed several months ago at the Cincinnati Zoo, and that same deceased primate polling ahead of Stein in some states.
France made headlines this past week when a small town decided to ban body-covering swimwear known as “burkinis” from its beaches under the guise of security concerns. The measure was already struck down by France’s highest administrative court, but it highlights an ongoing debate in the country, and indeed in the rest of the Western world. To what extent is a government permitted to regulate what its citizens wear? Does that authority also extend to clothing that is overtly religious in nature?
The Associated Press ran with a story about the Clinton Foundation this past week. That story has now been spread far and wide, with spins and hot takes all around. There’s just one problem: there’s nothing there. Entitled “Many donors to Clinton Foundation met with her at State,” the implication of impropriety is obvious in the headline. Doesn’t it sound shady? The Secretary of State met with people who donated to the Clinton Foundation!
Is the progressive movement to reform our criminal justice system and make it more humane at odds with the equally progressive desire to more aggressively punish rapists? The story that served as the impetus for bringing this topic to wider attention involves filmmaker Nate Parker, a black man who was once accused of sexual assault and later acquitted. There has been some debate over how to approach the work of someone who may be a rapist, even if a court of law didn’t hold them accountable.
Now, more than ever, we live in a world rich with information. Some of it is public, some of it private. And some information is secret. Is some information’s secrecy so important, it’s worth killing people to keep it hidden? This topic started developing more for me after the recent DNC email hack, and then after seeing this video, which includes a lot of little clips describing what should be done to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for his role in leaking classified US documents:
Around the time the Black Lives Matter movement began in earnest, so too did a national discussion on ways to monitor police officers and moderate their behavior. One of those measures was to develop widespread use of body cameras by police. Thus far, this policy has been largely a failure. Common Dreams analyzed body camera programs in 50 US cities to determine how those policies were put in place, whether they held police officers properly accountable, and to what extent they protected the civil rights of citizens.
Whatever else may be special or unique about government power, its monopoly on the use of force is paramount. Only the government has unfettered authority to use force. To the extent citizens have that power, it is entirely at the discretion of government-defined law. What does it mean, then, when the government seeks to ensure compliance with the law through the use of threats? Let’s step back for a moment to talk about laws.
A common topic of discussion I’ve encountered is whether politicians really believe the things they say and advocate for. Are they cynical, or are they for real? Taking this question at face value, I would argue that, in the end, it doesn’t matter. It is impossible to know what’s really in a person’s mind–what they truly believe versus what they pretend to believe for some selfish purpose. A policy supported on either basis is still just as real in terms of its effects.
One of the most curious aspects of politics is our refusal to see reality, to demand policies regardless of how well they work or even whether they work at all. Why do we damage ourselves with counterproductive approaches? I like to start with the big questions. Why do we have a government at all? When you get right down to it, governments exist to solve problems that cannot be effectively addressed at a lower level.