Media outlets and blogs are taking to the fainting couches because Very Evil House Republicans who Hate America are threatening to defund the much-mocked Department of Homeland Security.
Sadly, they’re not failing to fund it because, say, it’s a gargantuan bureaucratic waste of time that funnels billions of taxpayer dollars to security grifting companies, or because it hands out military equipment to police departments with all the brio and experience of a private just out of basic training, or because DHS funding suppresses legitimate dissent by communities of color across the United States.
No, what’s really got House Republicans in a lather about DHS is realizing that something “must-pass” like a DHS funding bill would be a great vehicle for a poison-pill amendment overturning the President’s executive actions on immigration. So they sent that bill up to the Senate, and Senate Republicans, needing five Democratic votes to push through a DHS funding bill, somehow can’t find any Democrats willing to commit electoral hara-kiri with their own base in order to please the Republicans’ base. Go figure!
As a result, in two weeks’ time the DHS will run out of money, and apologists for the security state are beginning to panic – but they’re having trouble getting their stories straight. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warns us all, “We can’t go too far here because look what happened in Paris.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) fulminates, “We can’t shut down the DHS. Not with the threats the homeland is subjected to as a result of the rise of ISIS.” [Note: There is no threat to “the homeland” from ISIS.] For God’s sake, the TSA might run out of money! What an awful shame that would be!
The DHS is a failure. It was a bad idea to begin with, coming out of the incorrect notion that the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented by “joined-up intelligence.” It never made sense to yoke the Coast Guard, FEMA, and the customs/border/transportation security/immigration agencies awkwardly together. DHS has always been poorly managed. It just layers an extra frosting of highly remunerated officials on top of agencies that would do just as fine where they were before. So let’s take a closer look at what a sensible structure would look like.
Continue reading The House Wants to Defund DHS. Let’s Restructure It Instead.
There are people who will tell you that the fact that the Republicans now control 53 Senate seats as well as a large majority in the House, will lead to actual and meaningful legislative action, whether on immigration, tax reform, or infrastructure spending. Oh, those people are going to be so frustrated by the next two years.
Both Congress and the President have strong incentives to play to their bases so that the bases turn out in 2016, so they will still highlight hot-button issues that will activate them. The mysterious thing is that there is plenty of bipartisan consensus in Washington; it’s just that it applies only to certain issues, and doesn’t get reported on much because neither party wants to highlight it. Specifically, there is genuine, friendly, unstated bipartisan consensus on the set of policies that buttresses the party elites’ authority and prosperity.
What supports the elites? War; monopoly; a crisis-hungry unity between corporations and the state, in the name of “national security.” A revolving door between the two. Corrupt, no-bid contracts. Open bankrolling of political campaigns. And underpinning it all, mass, suspicionless surveillance to monitor any discontent with this state of affairs. It’s not a coincidence that new authority for a war of extirpation against ISIS is likely to be high on the new Congress’s agenda; without an external enemy, without war, looting the state gets much harder.
These matters will not fill the TV news, however – not when the much juicier stories of repeated efforts to repeal Obamacare and impeachment of the President are available as narratives. These narratives, at least, don’t require news outlets to examine their own complicity in in supporting the elites.
Continue reading Midterms & Mass Surveillance, Part III: Congress & Obama At Daggers Drawn…Except Where It Counts
The midterms saw defeat of several surveillance reformers in the Senate, notably Mark Begich and Mark Udall, and the arrival of ardent authoritarian Tom Cotton. But even had reformers won, electing surveillance reformers does not of itself make surveillance reform more likely. There are certain policy outcomes that are not permitted, and real surveillance reform is not permitted.
Here at Digital Fourth, we offer a more radical and more realistic perspective. What is not permitted has in the past included ending Jim Crow, ending legal discrimination against gay and lesbian people, and electing professed atheists to public office. The parameters of the not permitted can shift more abruptly than it’s possible to imagine ahead of time. Ending the mass surveillance state may be not permitted, but it can absolutely be done.
In a global sense, as even the Boston Globe has noticed, the actual opinions of the people have had no measurable effect on US national security and foreign policy. The party in charge may change, but the deep state remains in power, and the fundamental assumptions of American imperial management remain essentially the same.
Despite this, the change in control of the Senate has meaningful strategic implications for how surveillance activists should be pursuing the battle against mass surveillance over the next two years, both federally and at the state level. So, follow us below the fold for the first in our five-part analysis of next steps for the movement.
PART II: CIA and Elite Torturers Win, The Rule of Law Loses
PART III: Congress & Obama At Daggers Drawn – Except Where It Really Counts
PART IV: Surveillance Doesn’t Pay: The New Massachusetts Political Landscape
PART V: And I Have Seen Blue Skies
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Continue reading Midterms & Mass Surveillance, Part I: End “Section 215” Mass Metadata Surveillance