Posts Tagged ‘2016 presidential election’

“Today the path to total dictatorship in the U.S. can be laid by strictly legal means, unseen and unheard by Congress, the President, or the people. Outwardly we have a Constitutional government. We have operating within our government and political system … a well-organized political-action group in this country, determined to destroy our Constitution and establish a one-party state…. The important point to remember about this group is not its ideology but its organization… It operates secretly, silently, continuously to transform our Government…. This group … is answerable neither to the President, the Congress, nor the courts. It is practically irremovable.”— Senator William Jenner, 1954 speech

Unaffected by elections. Unaltered by populist movements. Beyond the reach of the law.

Say hello to America’s shadow government.

A corporatized, militarized, entrenched bureaucracy that is fully operational and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country, this shadow government represents the hidden face of a government that has no respect for the freedom of its citizenry.

No matter which candidate wins the presidential election, this shadow government is here to stay. Indeed, as recent documents by the FBI reveal, this shadow government—also referred to as “The 7th Floor Group”—may well have played a part in who will win the White House this year.

To be precise, however, the future president will actually inherit not one but two shadow governments.

The first shadow government, referred to as COG or Continuity of Government, is made up of unelected individuals who have been appointed to run the government in the event of a “catastrophe.” COG is a phantom menace waiting for the right circumstances—a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, an economic meltdown—to bring it out of the shadows, where it operates even now. When and if COG takes over, the police state will transition to martial law.

Yet it is the second shadow government—also referred to as the Deep State—that poses the greater threat to freedom right now. Comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who are actually calling the shots behind the scenes, this government within a government is the real reason “we the people” have no real control over our government.

The Deep State, which “operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power,” makes a mockery of elections and the entire concept of a representative government.

So who or what is the Deep State?

It’s the militarized police, which have joined forces with state and federal law enforcement agencies in order to establish themselves as a standing army. It’s the fusion centers and spy agencies that have created a surveillance state and turned all of us into suspects. It’s the courthouses and prisons that have allowed corporate profits to take precedence over due process and justice. It’s the military empire with its private contractors and defense industry that is bankrupting the nation. It’s the private sector with its 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances, “a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government.” It’s what former congressional staffer Mike Lofgren refers to as “a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies”: the Department of Defense, the State Department, Homeland Security, the CIA, the Justice Department, the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a handful of vital federal trial courts, and members of the defense and intelligence committees.

It’s every facet of a government that is no longer friendly to freedom and is working overtime to trample the Constitution underfoot and render the citizenry powerless in the face of the government’s power grabs, corruption and abusive tactics.

These are the key players that drive the shadow government.

This is the hidden face of the American police state that will continue long past Election Day.

Just consider some of the key programs and policies advanced by the shadow government that will continue no matter who occupies the Oval Office.

Domestic surveillance. No matter who wins the presidential popularity contest, the National Security Agency (NSA), with its $10.8 billion black ops annual budget, will continue to spy on every person in the United States who uses a computer or phone. Thus, on any given day, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. Local police have been outfitted with a litany of surveillance gear, from license plate readers and cell phone tracking devices to biometric data recorders. Technology now makes it possible for the police to scan passersby in order to detect the contents of their pockets, purses, briefcases, etc. Full-body scanners, which perform virtual strip-searches of Americans traveling by plane, have gone mobile, with roving police vans that peer into vehicles and buildings alike—including homes. Coupled with the nation’s growing network of real-time surveillance cameras and facial recognition software, soon there really will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Global spying. The NSA’s massive surveillance network, what the Washington Post refers to as a $500 billion “espionage empire,” will continue to span the globe and target every single person on the planet who uses a phone or a computer. The NSA’s Echelon program intercepts and analyzes virtually every phone call, fax and email message sent anywhere in the world. In addition to carrying out domestic surveillance on peaceful political groups such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace and several religious groups, Echelon has also been a keystone in the government’s attempts at political and corporate espionage.

Roving TSA searches. The American taxpayer will continue to get ripped off by government agencies in the dubious name of national security. One of the greatest culprits when it comes to swindling taxpayers has been the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with its questionable deployment of and complete mismanagement of millions of dollars’ worth of airport full-body X-ray scanners, punitive patdowns by TSA agents and thefts of travelers’ valuables. Considered essential to national security, TSA programs will continue in airports and at transportation hubs around the country.

USA Patriot Act, NDAA. America’s so-called war on terror, which it has relentlessly pursued since 9/11, will continue to chip away at our freedoms, unravel our Constitution and transform our nation into a battlefield, thanks in large part to such subversive legislation as the USA Patriot Act and National Defense Authorization Act. These laws completely circumvent the rule of law and the rights of American citizens. In so doing, they re-orient our legal landscape in such a way as to ensure that martial law, rather than the U.S. Constitution, is the map by which we navigate life in the United States. These laws will continue to be enforced no matter who gets elected.

Militarized police state. Thanks to federal grant programs allowing the Pentagon to transfer surplus military supplies and weapons to local law enforcement agencies without charge, police forces will continue to be transformed from peace officers into heavily armed extensions of the military, complete with jackboots, helmets, shields, batons, pepper-spray, stun guns, assault rifles, body armor, miniature tanks and weaponized drones. Having been given the green light to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts, America’s law enforcement officials, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace, will continue to keep the masses corralled, controlled, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens.

SWAT team raids. With more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans by local police for relatively routine police matters and federal agencies laying claim to their own law enforcement divisions, the incidence of botched raids and related casualties will continue to rise. Nationwide, SWAT teams will continue to be employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of criminal activity or mere community nuisances including angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Domestic drones. The domestic use of drones will continue unabated. As mandated by Congress, there will be 30,000 drones crisscrossing the skies of America by 2020, all part of an industry that could be worth as much as $30 billion per year. These machines, which will be equipped with weapons, will be able to record all activities, using video feeds, heat sensors and radar. An Inspector General report revealed that the Dept. of Justice has already spent nearly $4 million on drones domestically, largely for use by the FBI, with grants for another $1.26 million so police departments and nonprofits can acquire their own drones.

School-to-prison pipeline. The paradigm of abject compliance to the state will continue to be taught by example in the schools, through school lockdowns where police and drug-sniffing dogs enter the classroom, and zero tolerance policies that punish all offenses equally and result in young people being expelled for childish behavior. School districts will continue to team up with law enforcement to create a “schoolhouse to jailhouse track” by imposing a “double dose” of punishment: suspension or expulsion from school, accompanied by an arrest by the police and a trip to juvenile court.

Overcriminalization. The government bureaucracy will continue to churn out laws, statutes, codes and regulations that reinforce its powers and value systems and those of the police state and its corporate allies, rendering the rest of us petty criminals. The average American now unknowingly commits three felonies a day, thanks to this overabundance of vague laws that render otherwise innocent activity illegal. Consequently, small farmers who dare to make unpasteurized goat cheese and share it with members of their community will continue to have their farms raided.

Privatized Prisons. States will continue to outsource prisons to private corporations, resulting in a cash cow whereby mega-corporations imprison Americans in private prisons in order to make a profit. In exchange for corporations buying and managing public prisons across the country at a supposed savings to the states, the states have to agree to maintain a 90% occupancy rate in the privately run prisons for at least 20 years.

Endless wars. America’s expanding military empire will continue to bleed the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour). The Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. Yet what most Americans fail to recognize is that these ongoing wars have little to do with keeping the country safe and everything to do with enriching the military industrial complex at taxpayer expense.

Are you getting the message yet?

The next president, much like the current president and his predecessors, will be little more than a figurehead, a puppet to entertain and distract the populace from what’s really going on.

As Lofgren reveals, this state within a state, “concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue,” is 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.”

The Deep State not only holds the nation’s capital in thrall, but it also controls Wall Street (“which supplies the cash that keeps the political machine quiescent and operating as a diversionary marionette theater”) and Silicon Valley.

This is fascism in its most covert form, hiding behind public agencies and private companies to carry out its dirty deeds.

It is a marriage between government bureaucrats and corporate fat cats.

Battlefield_Cover_300As Lofgren concludes:

[T]he Deep State is so heavily entrenched, so well protected by surveillance, firepower, money and its ability to co-opt resistance that it is almost impervious to change… If there is anything the Deep State requires it is silent, uninterrupted cash flow and the confidence that things will go on as they have in the past. It is even willing to tolerate a degree of gridlock: Partisan mud wrestling over cultural issues may be a useful distraction from its agenda.

In other words, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, as long as government officials—elected and unelected alike—are allowed to operate beyond the reach of the Constitution, the courts and the citizenry, the threat to our freedoms remains undiminished.

So the next time you find yourselves despondent over the 2016 presidential candidates, remember that it’s just a puppet show intended to distract you from the silent coup being carried out by America’s shadow government.

WC: 2114


About John W. Whitehead: Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at http://www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission: John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

“I have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don’t know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.”—Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

When it comes to sexual predators, there should be no political bright line test to determine who gets a free pass and who goes to jail based on which candidate is better suited for office.

Yet almost 20 years after Bill Clinton became the first and only sitting president to be sued for sexual harassment and impeached for lying under oath about his sexual escapades while in office, the Left and the Right are still playing politics with women’s rights.

I should know.

As one of Paula Jones’ lawyers in her sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton (Hillary Clinton infamously and erroneously accused me of being part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”), I saw first-hand how quickly Hillary Clinton and the nation’s leading women’s rights groups demonized any woman who dared to accuse Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct while turning a blind eye to a long list of incidents involving groping, propositioning, and pressuring women for sexual favors.

Trust me, it was a very long list.

As journalist Marjorie Williams documented in “Clinton and Women” for Vanity Fair:

“The man in question [Bill Clinton] has been sued for sexual harassment over an episode that allegedly included dropping his trousers to waggle his erect penis at a woman who held a $6.35-an-hour clerical job in the state government over which he presided. Another woman has charged that when she asked him for a job he invited her into his private office, fondled her breasts, and placed her hand on his crotch. A third woman confided to friends that when she was a 21-year-old intern she began an affair with the man… Actually, it was less an affair than a service contract, in which she allegedly dashed into his office, when summoned, to perform oral sex on him… Let us not even mention the former lover who was steered to a state job; or the law-enforcement officers who say the man used them to solicit sexual partners for him; or his routine use of staff members, lawyers, and private investigators to tar the reputation of any woman who tries to call him to account for his actions.”

I also witnessed first-hand the hypocrisy of the Religious Right, which was eager to stand in judgment over Clinton for his marital infidelity, while at the same time turning a blind eye to the indiscretions of other conservative politicians in their midst.

Fast forward 20 years, and the women’s rights groups that were silent when Bill Clinton was being outed as a sexual predator have suddenly found their voice and their outrage in the face of accusations that Donald Trump groped and kissed women without their consent. Likewise, the religious groups that were aghast over Clinton’s sexual immorality have somehow created a sliding scale of sin that allows them to absolve Trump of his own indiscretions.

It’s like being in the Twilight Zone.

Only instead of Rod Serling’s imaginary “land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas,” we’re trapped in an all-too-real land of politics and lies, where freedom and integrity play second fiddle to ambition and greed.

Nothing is real.

This year’s presidential contest and its candidates have, through their double-talking and lies, pulled back the curtain to reveal that what we see is all part of an elaborate hoax, a cruel game where “we the people” are just pawns to be used, abused, discarded and demonized when convenient.

Consider if you will: Bill Clinton was accused of using various and sundry women for sex. For years, he lied about his affairs and accused his accusers of smear campaigns. Only when caught red-handed, did he finally admit—sort of—to having sexual relations with certain women. At no time did he ever apologize for abusing his authority and disrespecting women.

Trump not only is accused of making sexual advances on various women, but he also used Clinton’s sexual victims to score points off Hillary.

And Hillary, in turn, has used and abused both Clinton and Trump’s sexual victims in order to advance her own political ambitions.

As Melinda Henneberger and Dahlia Lithwick wrote for Slate back in 2008:

Hillary Clinton the candidate has largely benefited from her husband’s extracurricular activities… Sure, her husband’s behavior has humiliated her. But she has also helped him humiliate the women he’s been involved with… One of the most troubling things about Hillary Clinton is that she is never above cashing in on [the politics of victimization].

Are you starting to get it yet?

All this talk about sexual predators is just so much political maneuvering to score points off one another. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump care one whit about the victims of sexual harassment.

Frankly, they don’t seem to care much about the rest of the populace, either.

For all intents and purposes, we’re all victims of a perverse, perverted, psychotic mindset that views the citizenry as lesser beings: lacking in value, unworthy of respect, and completely undeserving of the legal rights and protections that should be afforded to all Americans.

In the eyes of Bill, Hillary, Donald and the powers-that-be, we’re all little more than “bimbos,” “trailer trash,” “nuts and sluts,” “loony toons,” “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”

In other words, we’re all Paula Jones. And Gennifer Flowers. And Juanita Broaddrick.  And Kathleen Willey. And Eileen Wellstone. And Cristy Zercher. And Connie Hamzy. And Monica Lewinsky. For that matter, we’re all Jill Harth. AndCassandra Searles. And Jessica Leeds. And Kristin Anderson, too

This is what happens when politics is allowed to trump principle: “we the people” lose.

The women’s movement lost when it chose politics over principle, then and now.

Women have been suffering because of that choice ever since. As feminist Jessica Valenti acknowledged in theWashington Post, “For women in America, equality is still an illusion. We’re basking in a ‘girl power’ moment that doesn’t exist—it’s a mirage of equality that we’ve been duped into believing is the real thing. Because despite the indisputable gains over the years, women are still being raped, trafficked, violated and discriminated against—not just in the rest of the world, but here in the United States… It’s time to stop fooling ourselves. For all our ‘empowered’ rhetoric, women in this country aren’t doing nearly as well as we’d like to think.”

The Religious Right lost when it chose politics over principle, then and now.

By compromising their values, they have made themselves completely irrelevant in matters of public policy. “As an organized and potent force in national politics, the Christian right has faded into nothingness,” policy analyst Paul Waldman concluded for the Washington Post. “It now exists for nothing more than to be patted on the head and sent on its way with an encouragement to vote in November.”

The media—through its careful crafting of news stories to advance one politician over another—chose politics over principle, then and now. Barring a few exceptions, they have become little more than mouthpieces for the corporate elite.

The citizenry is faced with a choice right now: to be distracted by mudslinging and circus politics or to forge a new path for the nation that rejects politics in favor of locally-based, transformative grassroots activism.

“Perhaps you think that by voting at least you’re doing your small part, making your small contribution. But contributing toward what?” asks commentator Dan Sanchez.

Sanchez continues:

Candidates are package deals. Any candidate will violate the rights of some, even if they respect or defend the rights of others. Objectors say it’s about going in the general right direction, making choices out of which the good outweighs the bad, that do a net amount of good, that is good “on balance.” But that is collectivist speak. There is no “good on balance” for the people whose lives are run over by the candidate you empowered: for the child who is bombed by Hillary’s foreign policy, for the man who is shot by Trump’s police state, or the people Gary Johnson and Bill Weld kept in cages when they were governors.

Sanchez is right: the act of voting is indeed futile.

Voting in this political climate merely advances the agenda of the police state and affirms the government’s pillaging, raping, killing, bombing, stealing, shooting and many acts of tyranny and injustice.

Mark my words: no matter who wins this election, the predators of the police state will continue to wreak havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives.

After all, police officers are still shooting unarmed citizens. Government agents—including local police—are still being armed to the teeth and encouraged to act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies are still fleecing taxpayers. Government technicians are still spying on our emails and phone calls. And government contractors are still making a killing by jailing Americans for profit and waging endless wars abroad.

Are any of these issues being discussed right now? Not a single one.

It boggles the mind.

How is it possible that out of 318 million Americans in this country, we have been saddled with two candidates whose personal baggage and troubled histories make them utterly unfit for office anywhere but in the American police state?

We need to stop being victimized by these political predators.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, I’m not just talking about the ones running for office, but the ones who are running the show behind the scenes—the shadow government—comprised of unelected government bureaucrats whose powers are unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and beyond the reach of the law.

Stop voting for their puppet candidates. Stop tolerating their long list of abuses. Stop making excuses for a system that long ago ceased to be legitimate. Most of all, stop playing by their rules and make them start playing by ours.

My fear is that we are nearing the point of no return.

“We the people”—men and women alike— have been victims of the police state for so long that not many Americans even remember what it is to be truly free anymore. Worse, few want to shoulder the responsibility that goes along with maintaining freedom.

Yet as John Adams warned, “A government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

There is no way to erase the scars left by the government’s greed for money and power, its disregard for human life, its corruption and graft, its pollution of the environment, its reliance on excessive force in order to ensure compliance, its covert activities, its illegal surveillance, and its blatant disdain for the rule of law.

Still, we can forge a new path.

There is so much work to be done in order to right what is wrong with our nation, and there is so little time to fix what has been broken.

Let’s not waste any more time on predator politics. Let’s get to work.

“There is nothing more dangerous than a government of the many controlled by the few.”—Lawrence Lessig, Harvard law professor

The U.S. government remains the greatest threat to our freedoms.

The systemic violence being perpetrated by agents of the government has done more collective harm to the American people and our liberties than any single act of terror.

More than terrorism, more than domestic extremism, more than gun violence and organized crime, the U.S. government has become a greater menace to the life, liberty and property of its citizens than any of the so-called dangers from which the government claims to protect us.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I explain in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, when the government views itself as superior to the citizenry, when it no longer operates for the benefit of the people, when the people are no longer able to peacefully reform their government, when government officials cease to act like public servants, when elected officials no longer represent the will of the people, when the government routinely violates the rights of the people and perpetrates more violence against the citizenry than the criminal class, when government spending is unaccountable and unaccounted for, when the judiciary act as courts of order rather than justice, and when the government is no longer bound by the laws of the Constitution, then you no longer have a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

What we have is a government of wolves.

Worse than that, we are now being ruled by a government of scoundrels, spies, thugs, thieves, gangsters, ruffians, rapists, extortionists, bounty hunters, battle-ready warriors and cold-blooded killers who communicate using a language of force and oppression.

Does the government pose a danger to you and your loved ones?

The facts speak for themselves.

We’re being held at gunpoint by a government of soldiers—a standing army. While Americans are being made to jump through an increasing number of hoops in order to exercise their Second Amendment right to own a gun, the government is arming its own civilian employees to the hilt with guns, ammunition and military-style equipment, authorizing them to make arrests, and training them in military tactics. Among the agencies being supplied with night-vision equipment, body armor, hollow-point bullets, shotguns, drones, assault rifles and LP gas cannons are the Smithsonian, U.S. Mint, Health and Human Services, IRS, FDA, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Education Department, Energy Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and an assortment of public universities. There are now reportedly more bureaucratic (non-military) government civilians armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than U.S. Marines. That doesn’t even begin to touch on the government’s arsenal, the transformation of local police into extensions of the military, and the speed with which the nation could be locked down under martial law depending on the circumstances. Clearly, the government is preparing for war—and a civil war, at that—but who is the enemy?

We’re being robbed blind by a government of thieves. Americans no longer have any real protection against government agents empowered to seize private property at will. For instance, police agencies under the guise of asset forfeiture laws are taking property based on little more than a suspicion of criminal activity. In one case, police seized $53,000 from the manager of a Christian rock band that was touring and raising money for an orphanage in Thailand. Despite finding no evidence of wrongdoing, police kept the money. Homeowners are losing their homes over nonpayment of taxes (for as little as $400 owed) and municipal bills such as water or sewer fees that amount to a fraction of what they have invested in their homes. And then there’s the Drug Enforcement Agency, which has been searching train and airline passengers and pocketing their cash, without ever charging them with a crime.

We’re being taken advantage of by a government of scoundrels, idiots and cowards. American satirist H.L. Mencken calculated that “Congress consists of one-third, more or less, scoundrels; two-thirds, more or less, idiots; and three-thirds, more or less, poltroons.” By and large, Americans seem to agree. When you’ve got government representatives who spend a large chunk of their work hours fundraising, being feted by lobbyists, shuffling through a lucrative revolving door between public service and lobbying, and making themselves available to anyone with enough money to secure access to a congressional office, you’re in the clutches of a corrupt oligarchy. Mind you, these same elected officials rarely read the legislation they’re enacting, nor do they seem capable of enacting much legislation that actually helps rather than hinders the plight of the American citizen.

We’re being locked up by a government of greedy jailers. We have become a carceral state, spending three times more on our prisons than on our schools and imprisoning close to a quarter of the world’s prisoners, despite the fact that crime is at an all-time low and the U.S. makes up only 5% of the world’s population. The rise of overcriminalization and profit-driven private prisons provides even greater incentives for locking up American citizens for such non-violent “crimes” as having an overgrown lawn.  As the Boston Review points out, “America’s contemporary system of policing, courts, imprisonment, and parole … makes money through asset forfeiture, lucrative public contracts from private service providers, and by directly extracting revenue and unpaid labor from populations of color and the poor. In states and municipalities throughout the country, the criminal justice system defrays costs by forcing prisoners and their families to pay for punishment. It also allows private service providers to charge outrageous fees for everyday needs such as telephone calls. As a result people facing even minor criminal charges can easily find themselves trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of debt, criminalization, and incarceration.”

We’re being spied on by a government of Peeping Toms. The government is watching everything you do, reading everything you write, listening to everything you say, and monitoring everything you spend. Omnipresent surveillance is paving the way for government programs that profile citizens, document their behavior and attempt to predict what they might do in the future, whether it’s what they might buy, what politician they might support, or what kinds of crimes they might commit. The impact of this far-reaching surveillance, according to Psychology Today, is “reduced trust, increased conformity, and even diminished civic participation.” As technology analyst Jillian C. York concludes, “Mass surveillance without due process—whether undertaken by the government of Bahrain, Russia, the US, or anywhere in between—threatens to stifle and smother that dissent, leaving in its wake a populace cowed by fear.”

We’re being ravaged by a government of ruffians, rapists and killers. It’s not just the police shootings of unarmed citizens that are worrisome. It’s the SWAT team raids gone wrong that are leaving innocent citizens wounded, children terrorized and family pets killed. It’s the roadside strip searches—in some cases, cavity searches of men and women alike carried out in full view of the public—in pursuit of drugs that are never found. It’s the potentially lethal—and unwarranted—use of so-called “nonlethal” weapons such as tasers on children for “mouthing off to a police officer. For trying to run from the principal’s office. For, at the age of 12, getting into a fight with another girl.”

We’re being forced to surrender our freedoms—and those of our children—to a government of extortionists, money launderers and professional pirates. The American people have been repeatedly sold a bill of goods about how the government needs more money, more expansive powers, and more secrecy (secret courts, secret budgets, secret military campaigns, secret surveillance) in order to keep us safe. Under the guise of fighting its wars on terror, drugs and now domestic extremism, the government has spent billions in taxpayer dollars on endless wars that have notended terrorism but merely sown the seeds of blowback, surveillance programs that have caught few terrorists while subjecting all Americans to a surveillance society, and militarized police that have done little to decrease crime while turning communities into warzones. Not surprisingly, the primary ones to benefit from these government exercises in legal money laundering have been the corporations, lobbyists and politicians who inflict them on a trusting public.

Whatever else it may be—a danger, a menace, a threat—the U.S. government is certainly no friend to freedom.

To our detriment, the criminal class that Mark Twain mockingly referred to as Congress has since expanded to include every government agency that feeds off the carcass of our once-constitutional republic. In fact, there’s a very good reason you don’t hear much in the way of specifics about the government’s tyranny from politicians: it’s because they can’t afford to upset the apple cart (i.e., jeopardize their posh lifestyles).

So no matter which party wins the White House, controls Congress or appoints future Supreme Court justices, rest assured that the menace of the shadow government—the permanent, unelected bureaucracy that operates beyond the reach of the Constitution, the courts and the citizenry—will continue uninterrupted.

Our backs are against the proverbial wall.

The government and its cohorts have conspired to ensure that the only real recourse the American people have to express their displeasure with the government is through voting, which is no real recourse at all. The penalties for civil disobedience, whistleblowing and rebellion are severe. If you refuse to pay taxes for government programs you believe to be immoral or illegal, you will go to jail. If you attempt to overthrow the government—or any agency thereof—because you believe it has overstepped its reach, you will go to jail. If you attempt to blow the whistle on government misconduct, there’s a pretty good chance you will go to jail.

For too long, the American people have been made to act like puppets dancing to a tyrant’s tune.

We have obeyed the government’s dictates, no matter now extreme. We have paid its taxes, penalties and fines, no matter how outrageous. We have tolerated its indignities, insults and abuses, no matter how egregious. We have turned a blind eye to its indiscretions and incompetence, no matter how imprudent. We have held our silence in the face of its lawlessness, licentiousness and corruption, no matter how illicit.

We have suffered.

How long we will continue to suffer depends on how much we’re willing to give up for the sake of freedom.

America’s founders provided us with a very specific explanation about the purpose of government and a roadmap for what to do when the government abuses its authority, ignores our objections, and establishes itself as a tyrant.

We must choose between peaceful slavery (in other words, maintaining the status quo in servitude to the police state) and dangerous freedom. That will mean carving out a path in which we begin to take ownership of our government, starting at the local level, challenging the status quo, and raising hell whenever a government official steps out of line.

“The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”—Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union

No, America, you don’t have to vote.

In fact, vote or don’t vote, the police state will continue to trample us underfoot.

Devil or deliverer, the candidate who wins the White House has already made a Faustian bargain to keep the police state in power. It’s no longer a question of which party will usher in totalitarianism but when the final hammer will fall.

Sure we’re being given choices, but the differences between the candidates are purely cosmetic ones, lacking any real nutritional value for the nation. We’re being served a poisoned feast whose aftereffects will leave us in turmoil for years to come.

We’ve been here before.

Remember Barack Obama, the young candidate who campaigned on a message of hope, change and transparency, and promised an end to war and surveillance?

Look how well that turned out.

Under Obama, government whistleblowers are routinely prosecuted, U.S. arms sales have skyrocketed, police militarization has accelerated, and surveillance has become widespread. The U.S. government is literally arming the world, while bombing the heck out of the planet. And while they’re at it, the government is bringing the wars abroad home, transforming American communities into shell-shocked battlefields where the Constitution provides little in the way of protection.

Yes, we’re worse off now than we were eight years ago.

We’re being subjected to more government surveillance, more police abuse, more SWAT team raids, more roadside strip searches, more censorship, more prison time, more egregious laws, more endless wars, more invasive technology, more militarization, more injustice, more corruption, more cronyism, more graft, more lies, and more of everything that has turned the American dream into the American nightmare.

What we’re not getting more of: elected officials who actually represent us.

The American people are being guilted, bullied, pressured, cajoled, intimidated, terrorized and browbeaten into voting. We’re constantly told to vote because it’s your so-called civic duty, because you have no right to complain about the government unless you vote, because every vote counts, because we must present a unified front, because the future of the nation depends on it, because God compels us to do so, because by not voting you are in fact voting, because the “other” candidate must be defeated at all costs, or because the future of the Supreme Court rests in the balance.

Nothing in the Constitution requires that you vote.

You are under no moral obligation to vote for the lesser of two evils. Indeed, voting for a lesser evil is still voting for evil.

Whether or not you cast your vote in this year’s presidential election, you have every right to kvetch, complain and criticize the government when it falls short of your expectations. After all, you are overtaxed so the government can continue to operate corruptly.

If you want to boo, boycott, picket, protest and altogether reject a corrupt political system that has failed you abysmally, more power to you. I’ll take an irate, engaged, informed, outraged American any day over an apathetic, constitutionally illiterate citizenry that is content to be diverted, distracted and directed.

Whether you vote or don’t vote doesn’t really matter.

What matters is what else you’re doing to push back against government incompetence, abuse, corruption, graft, fraud and cronyism.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the only road to reform is through the ballot box.

After all, there is more to citizenship than the act of casting a ballot for someone who, once elected, will march in lockstep with the dictates of the powers-that-be. Yet as long as Americans are content to let politicians, war hawks and Corporate America run the country, the police state will prevail, no matter which candidate wins on Election Day.

In other words, it doesn’t matter who sits in the White House, who controls the two houses of Congress, or who gets appointed to the Supreme Court: only those who are prepared to cozy up to the powers-that-be will have any real impact.

As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges points out:

The predatory financial institutions on Wall Street will trash the economy and loot the U.S. Treasury on the way to another economic collapse whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Poor, unarmed people of color will be gunned down in the streets of our cities whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The system of neoslavery in our prisons, where we keep poor men and poor women of color in cages because we have taken from them the possibility of employment, education and dignity, will be maintained whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Millions of undocumented people will be deported whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Austerity programs will cut or abolish public services, further decay the infrastructure and curtail social programs whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Money will replace the vote whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. And half the country, which now lives in poverty, will remain in misery whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes president. This is not speculation. We know this because there has been total continuity on every issue, from trade agreements to war to mass deportations, between the Bush administration and the administration of Barack Obama.

In other words, voting is not the answer.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I document in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the nation is firmly under the control of a monied oligarchy guarded by a standing army (a.k.a., militarized police. It is an invisible dictatorship, of sorts, one that is unaffected by the vagaries of party politics and which cannot be overthrown by way of the ballot box.

Total continuity” is how Hedges refers to the manner in which the government’s agenda remains unchanged no matter who occupies the Executive Branch. “Continuity of government” (COG) is the phrase policy wonks use to refer to the unelected individuals who have been appointed to run the government in the event of a “catastrophe.” You can also refer to it as a shadow government, or the Deep State, which is comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who actually call the shots behind the scenes.

Whatever term you use, the upshot remains the same: on the national level, we’re up against an immoveable, intractable, entrenched force that is greater than any one politician or party, whose tentacles reach deep into every sector imaginable, from Wall Street, the military and the courts to the technology giants, entertainment, healthcare and the media.

This is no Goliath to be felled by a simple stone.

This is a Leviathan disguised as a political savior.

So how do we prevail against the tyrant who says all the right things and does none of them? How do we overcome the despot whose promises fade with the spotlights? How do we conquer the dictator whose benevolence is all for show?

We get organized. We get educated. We get active.

If you feel led to vote, fine, but if all you do is vote, “we the people” are going to lose.

If you abstain from voting and still do nothing, “we the people” are going to lose.

If you give your proxy to some third-party individual or group to fix what’s wrong with the country and that’s all you do, then “we the people” are going to lose.

If, however, you’re prepared to shake off the doldrums, wipe the sleep out of your eyes, turn off the television, tune out the talking heads, untether yourself from whatever piece of technology you’re affixed to, wean yourself off the teat of the nanny state, and start flexing those unused civic muscles, then there might be hope for us all.

For starters, get back to basics. Get to know your neighbors, your community, and your local officials. This is the first line of defense when it comes to securing your base: fortifying your immediate lines.

Second, understand your rights. Know how your local government is structured. Who serves on your city council and school boards? Who runs your local jail: has it been coopted by private contractors? What recourse does the community have to voice concerns about local problems or disagree with decisions by government officials?

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Third, know the people you’re entrusting with your local government. Are your police chiefs being promoted from within your community? Are your locally elected officials accessible and, equally important, are they open to what you have to say? Who runs your local media? Does your newspaper report on local events? Who are your judges? Are their judgments fair and impartial? How are prisoners being treated in your local jails?

Finally, don’t get so trusting and comfortable that you stop doing the hard work of holding your government accountable. We’ve drifted a long way from the local government structures that provided the basis for freedom described by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America, but we are not so far gone that we can’t reclaim some of its vital components.

As an article in The Federalist points out:

Local government is fundamental not so much because it’s a “laboratory” of democracy but because it’s a school of democracy. Through such accountable and democratic government, Americans learn to be democratic citizens. They learn to be involved in the common good. They learn to take charge of their own affairs, as a community. Tocqueville writes that it’s because of local democracy that Americans can make state and Federal democracy work—by learning, in their bones, to expect and demand accountability from public officials and to be involved in public issues.

To put it another way, think nationally but act locally.

There is still a lot Americans can do to topple the police state tyrants, but any revolution that has any hope of succeeding needs to be prepared to reform the system from the bottom up. And that will mean re-learning step by painful step what it actually means to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

“We’ve got to face it. Politics have entered a new stage, the television stage. Instead of long-winded public debates, the people want capsule slogans—‘Time for a change’—‘The mess in Washington’—‘More bang for a buck’—punch lines and glamour.”— A Face in the Crowd (1957)

Politics is entertainment.

It is a heavily scripted, tightly choreographed, star-studded, ratings-driven, mass-marketed, costly exercise in how to sell a product—in this case, a presidential candidate—to dazzled consumers who will choose image over substance almost every time.

This year’s presidential election, much like every other election in recent years, is what historian Daniel Boorstin referred to as a “pseudo-event”: manufactured, contrived, confected and devoid of any intrinsic value save the value of being advertised. It is the end result of a culture that is moving away from substance toward sensationalism in an era of mass media.

As author Noam Chomsky rightly observed, “It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.” In other words, we’re being sold a carefully crafted product by a monied elite who are masters in the art of making the public believe that they need exactly what is being sold to them, whether it’s the latest high-tech gadget, the hottest toy, or the most charismatic politician.

Tune into a political convention and you will find yourself being sucked into an alternate reality so glossy, star-studded, emotionally charged and entertaining as to make you forget that you live in a police state. The elaborate stage show, the costumes, the actors, the screenplay, the lighting, the music, the drama: all carefully calibrated to appeal to the public’s need for bread and circuses, diversion and entertainment, and pomp and circumstance.

Politics is a reality show, America’s favorite form of entertainment, dominated by money and profit, imagery and spin, hype and personality and guaranteed to ensure that nothing in the way of real truth reaches the populace.

After all, who cares about police shootings, drone killings, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture schemes, private prisons, school-to-prison pipelines, overcriminalization, censorship or any of the other evils that plague our nation when you can listen to the croonings of Paul Simon, laugh along with Sarah Silverman, and get misty-eyed over the First Lady’s vision of progress in America.

But make no mistake: Americans only think they’re choosing the next president.

In truth, however, they’re engaging in the illusion of participation culminating in the reassurance ritual of voting. It’s just another Blue Pill, a manufactured reality conjured up by the matrix in order to keep the populace compliant and convinced that their vote counts and that they still have some influence over the political process.

Stop drinking the Kool-Aid, America.

The nation is drowning in debt, crippled by a slowing economy, overrun by militarized police, swarming with surveillance, besieged by endless wars and a military industrial complex intent on starting new ones, and riddled with corrupt politicians at every level of government. All the while, we’re arguing over which corporate puppet will be given the honor of stealing our money, invading our privacy, abusing our trust, undermining our freedoms, and shackling us with debt and misery for years to come.

Nothing taking place on Election Day will alleviate the suffering of the American people.

The government as we have come to know it—corrupt, bloated and controlled by big-money corporations, lobbyists and special interest groups—will remain unchanged. And “we the people”—overtaxed, overpoliced, overburdened by big government, underrepresented by those who should speak for us and blissfully ignorant of the prison walls closing in on us—will continue to trudge along a path of misery.

With roughly 22 lobbyists per Congressman, corporate greed will continue to call the shots in the nation’s capital, while our elected representatives will grow richer and the people poorer. And elections will continue to be driven by war chests and corporate benefactors rather than such values as honesty, integrity and public service. Just consider: it’s estimated that more than $5 billion will be spent on the elections this year, yet not a dime of that money will actually help the average American in their day-to-day struggles to just get by.

And the military industrial complex will continue to bleed us dry. Since 2001 Americans have spent $10.5 million every hour for numerous foreign military occupations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s also the $2.2 million spent every hour on maintaining the United States’ nuclear stockpile, and the $35,000 spent every hour to produce and maintain our collection of Tomahawk missiles. And then there’s the money the government exports to other countries to support their arsenals, at the cost of $1.61 million every hour for the American taxpayers.

Then again, when faced with the grim, seemingly hopeless reality of the American police state, it’s understandable why Americans might opt for escapism. “Humankind cannot bear too much reality,” T. S. Eliot once said. Perhaps that is one reason we are so drawn to the unreality of the American political experience: it is spectacle and fiction and farce all rolled up into one glossy dose of escapism.

Frankly, escapism or not, Americans should be mad as hell.

Many of our politicians live like kings. Chauffeured around in limousines, flying in private jets and eating gourmet meals, all paid for by the American taxpayer, they are far removed from those they represent. Such a luxurious lifestyle makes it difficult to identify with the “little guy”—the roofers, plumbers and blue-collar workers who live from paycheck to paycheck and keep the country running with their hard-earned dollars and the sweat of their brows.

Conveniently, politicians only seem to remember their constituents in the months leading up to an election, and yet “we the people” continue to take the abuse, the neglect, the corruption and the lies. We make excuses for the shoddy treatment, we cover up for them when they cheat on us, and we keep hoping that if we just stick with them long enough, eventually they’ll treat us right.

People get the government they deserve.

No matter who wins the presidential election come November, it’s a sure bet that the losers will be the American people.

As political science professor Gene Sharp notes in starker terms, “Dictators are not in the business of allowing elections that could remove them from their thrones.” As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the Establishment—the shadow government and its corporate partners that really run the show, pull the strings and dictate the policies, no matter who occupies the Oval Office—are not going to allow anyone to take office who will unravel their power structures. Those who have attempted to do so in the past have been effectively put out of commission.

So what is the solution to this blatant display of imperial elitism disguising itself as a populist exercise in representative government?

Stop playing the game. Stop supporting the system. Stop defending the insanity. Just stop.

Washington thrives on money, so stop giving them your money. Stop throwing your hard-earned dollars away on politicians and Super PACs who view you as nothing more than a means to an end. There are countless worthy grassroots organizations and nonprofits working in your community to address real needs like injustice, poverty, homelessness, etc. Support them and you’ll see change you really can believe in in your own backyard.

Battlefield_Cover_300Politicians depend on votes, so stop giving them your vote unless they have a proven track record of listening to their constituents, abiding by their wishes and working hard to earn and keep their trust.

Stop buying into the lie that your vote matters. Your vote doesn’t elect a president. Despite the fact that there are 218 million eligible voters in this country (only half of whom actually vote), it is the electoral college, made up of 538 individuals handpicked by the candidates’ respective parties, that actually selects the next president. The only thing you’re accomplishing by taking part in the “reassurance ritual” of voting is sustaining the illusion that we have a democratic republic. What we have is a dictatorship, or as political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page more accurately term it, we are suffering from an “economic élite domination.”

A healthy, representative government is hard work. It takes a citizenry that is informed about the issues, educated about how the government operates, and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to stay involved, whether that means forgoing Monday night football in order to attend a city council meeting or risking arrest by picketing in front of a politician’s office.

It takes a citizenry willing to do more than grouse and complain. We must act—and act responsibly—keeping in mind that the duties of citizenship extend beyond the act of voting.

Most of all, it takes a citizenry that cares enough to get mad and get active. As Howard Beale declares in the 1976 film Network:

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Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

“I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!…You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it.”

This commentary originally appeared on The Rutherford Institute’s website.

“A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.”—James Madison

America is a ticking time bomb.

All that remains to be seen is who—or what—will set fire to the fuse.

We are poised at what seems to be the pinnacle of a manufactured breakdown, with police shooting unarmed citizens, snipers shooting police, global and domestic violence rising, and a political showdown between two presidential candidates equally matched in unpopularity.

The preparations for the Republican and Democratic national conventions taking place in Cleveland and Philadelphia—augmented by a $50 million federal security grant for each city—provide a foretaste of how the government plans to deal with any individual or group that steps out of line: they will be censored, silenced, spied on, caged, intimidated, interrogated, investigated, recorded, tracked, labeled, held at gunpoint, detained, restrained, arrested, tried and found guilty.

For instance, anticipating civil unrest and mass demonstrations in connection with the Republican Party convention, Cleveland officials set up makeshift prisons, extra courtrooms to handle protesters, and shut down a local university in order to house 1,700 riot police and their weapons. The city’s courts are preparing to process up to 1,000 people a day. Additionally, the FBI has also been conducting “interviews” with activists in advance of the conventions to discourage them from engaging in protests.

Make no mistake, the government is ready for a civil uprising.

Indeed, the government has been preparing for this moment for years.

A 2008 Army War College report revealed that “widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.” The 44-page report goes on to warn that potential causes for such civil unrest could include another terrorist attack, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

Subsequent reports by the Department of Homeland Security to identify, monitor and label right-wing and left-wing activists and military veterans as extremists (a.k.a. terrorists) have manifested into full-fledged pre-crime surveillance programs. Almost a decade later, after locking down the nation and spending billions to fight terrorism, the DHS has concluded that the greater threat is not ISIS but domestic right-wing extremism.

Meanwhile, the government has been amassing an arsenal of military weapons for use domestically and equipping and training their “troops” for war. Even government agencies with largely administrative functions such as the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Smithsonian have been acquiring body armor, riot helmets and shields, cannon launchers and police firearms and ammunition. In fact, there are now at least 120,000 armed federal agents carrying such weapons who possess the power to arrest.

Rounding out this profit-driven campaign to turn American citizens into enemy combatants (and America into a battlefield) is a technology sector that is colluding with the government to create a Big Brother that is all-knowing, all-seeing and inescapable. It’s not just the drones, fusion centers, license plate readers, stingray devices and the NSA that you have to worry about. You’re also being tracked by the black boxes in your cars, your cell phone, smart devices in your home, grocery loyalty cards, social media accounts, credit cards, streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and e-book reader accounts.

All of this has taken place right under our noses, funded with our taxpayer dollars and carried out in broad daylight without so much as a general outcry from the citizenry.

It’s astounding how convenient we’ve made it for the government to lock down the nation.

We’ve even allowed ourselves to be acclimated to the occasional lockdown of government buildings, Jade Helm military drills in small towns so that special operations forces can get “realistic military training” in “hostile” territory, and  Live Active Shooter Drill training exercises, carried out at schools, in shopping malls, and on public transit, which can and do fool law enforcement officials, students, teachers and bystanders into thinking it’s a real crisis.

The events of recent years—the invasive surveillance, the extremism reports, the civil unrest, the protests, the shootings, the bombings, the military exercises and active shooter drills, the color-coded alerts and threat assessments, the fusion centers, the transformation of local police into extensions of the military, the distribution of military equipment and weapons to local police forces, the government databases containing the names of dissidents and potential troublemakers—have all conjoined to create an environment in which “we the people” are more distrustful and fearful of each other and more reliant on the government to keep us safe.

Of course, that’s the point.

The powers-that-be want us to feel vulnerable.

They want us to fear each other and trust the government’s hired gunmen to keep us safe from terrorists, extremists, jihadists, psychopaths, etc.

Most of all, the powers-that-be want us to feel powerless to protect ourselves and reliant on and grateful for the dubious protection provided by the American police state.

Their strategy is working.

The tree of liberty is dying.

There will be no second American Revolution.

There is no place in our nation for the kind of armed revolution our forefathers mounted against a tyrannical Great Britain. Such an act would be futile and tragic. We are no longer dealing with a distant, imperial king but with a tyrant of our own making: a militarized, technologized, heavily-financed bureaucratic machine that operates beyond the reach of the law.

The message being sent to the citizenry is clear: there will be no revolution, armed or otherwise.

Anyone who believes that they can wage—and win—an armed revolt against the American police state has not been paying attention. Those who wage violence against the government and their fellow citizens are playing right into the government’s hands. Violence cannot and will not be the answer to what ails America.

Whether instigated by the government or the citizenry, violence will only lead to more violence. It does not matter how much firepower you have. The government has more firepower.

It does not matter how long you think you can hold out by relying on survivalist skills, guerilla tactics and sheer grit. The government has the resources to outwait, out-starve, outman, outgun and generally overpower you.

This government of wolves will not be overtaken by force.

Unfortunately, we waited too long to wake up to the government’s schemes.

We did not anticipate that “we the people” would become the enemy. For years, the government has been warning against the dangers of domestic terrorism, erecting surveillance systems to monitor its own citizens, creating classification systems to label any viewpoints that challenge the status quo as extremist, and training law enforcement agencies to equate anyone possessing anti-government views as a domestic terrorist.

What the government failed to explain was that the domestic terrorists would be of the government’s own making, whether intentional or not.

By waging endless wars abroad, by bringing the instruments of war home, by transforming police into extensions of the military, by turning a free society into a suspect society, by treating American citizens like enemy combatants, by discouraging and criminalizing a free exchange of ideas, by making violence its calling card through SWAT team raids and militarized police, by fomenting division and strife among the citizenry, by acclimating the citizenry to the sights and sounds of war, and by generally making peaceful revolution all but impossible, the government has engineered an environment in which domestic violence has become inevitable.

What we are now experiencing is a civil war, devised and instigated in part by the U.S. government.

The outcome for this particular conflict is already foregone: the police state wins.

The objective: compliance and control.

The strategy: destabilize the economy through endless wars, escalate racial tensions, polarize the populace, heighten tensions through a show of force, intensify the use of violence, and then, when all hell breaks loose, clamp down on the nation for the good of the people and the security of the nation.

So where does that leave us?

Despite the fact that communities across the country are, for all intents and purposes, being held hostage by a government that is armed to the teeth and more than willing to use force in order to “maintain order,” most Americans seem relatively unconcerned. Worse, we have become so fragmented as a nation, so hostile to those with whom we might disagree, so distrustful of those who are different from us, that we are easily divided and conquered.

We have been desensitized to violence, acclimated to a military presence in our communities and persuaded that there is nothing we can do to alter the seemingly hopeless trajectory of the nation. In this way, the floundering economy, the blowback arising from military occupations abroad, police shootings, the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure and all of the other mounting concerns have become non-issues to a populace that is easily entertained, distracted, manipulated and controlled.

The sight of police clad in body armor and gas masks, wielding semiautomatic rifles and escorting an armored vehicle through a crowded street, a scene likened to “a military patrol through a hostile city,” no longer causes alarm among the general populace.

We are fast becoming an anemic, weak, pathetically diluted offspring of our revolutionary forebears incapable of mounting a national uprising against a tyrannical regime.

Battlefield_Cover_300If there is to be any hope of reclaiming our government and restoring our freedoms, it will require a different kind of coup: nonviolent, strategic and grassroots, starting locally and trickling upwards. Such revolutions are slow and painstaking. They are political, in part, but not through any established parties or politicians.

Most of all, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, for any chance of success, such a revolution will require more than a change of politics: it will require a change of heart among the American people, a reawakening of the American spirit, and a citizenry that cares more about their freedoms than their fantasy games.

“The qualifications for president seem to be that one is willing to commit mass murder one minute and hand presidential medals of freedom to other war criminals in the next. One need only apply if one has very loose, flexible, or non-existent morality.”—Author and activist Cindy Sheehan

Long gone are the days when the path to the White House was open to anyone who met the Constitution’s bare minimum requirements of being a natural born citizen, a resident of the United States for 14 years, and 35 years of age or older.

Today’s presidential hopefuls must jump through a series of hoops aimed at selecting the candidates best suited to serve the interests of the American police state. Candidates who are anti-war, anti-militarization, anti-Big Money, pro-Constitution, pro-individual freedom and unabashed advocates for the citizenry need not apply.

The carefully crafted spectacle of the presidential election with its nail-biting primaries, mud-slinging debates, caucuses, super-delegates, popular votes and electoral colleges has become a fool-proof exercise in how to persuade a gullible citizenry into believing that their votes matter.

Yet no matter how many Americans go to the polls on November 8, “we the people” will not be selecting the nation’s next president.

While voters might care about where a candidate stands on healthcare, Social Security, abortion and immigration—hot-button issues that are guaranteed to stir up the masses, secure campaign contributions and turn any election into a circus free-for-all—those aren’t the issues that will decide the outcome of this presidential election.

What decides elections are money and power.

We’ve been hoodwinked into believing that our votes count, that we live in a democracy, that elections make a difference, that it matters whether we vote Republican or Democrat, and that our elected officials are looking out for our best interests. Truth be told, we live in an oligarchy, and politicians represent only the profit motives of the corporate state, whose leaders know all too well that there is no discernible difference between red and blue politics, because there is only one color that matters in politics—green.

As much as the Republicans and Democrats like to act as if there’s a huge difference between them and their policies, they are part of the same big, brawling, noisy, semi-incestuous clan. Watch them interact at social events—hugging and kissing and nudging and joking and hobnobbing with each other—and it quickly becomes clear that they are not sworn enemies but partners in crime, united in a common goal, which is to maintain the status quo.

The powers-that-be will not allow anyone to be elected to the White House who does not answer to them.

Who are the powers-that-be, you might ask?

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the powers-that-be are the individuals and corporations who profit from America’s endless wars abroad and make their fortunes many times over by turning America’s homeland into a war zone. They are the agents and employees of the military-industrial complex, the security-industrial complex, and the surveillance-industrial complex. They are the fat cats on Wall Street who view the American citizenry as economic units to be bought, sold and traded on a moment’s notice. They are the monied elite from the defense and technology sectors, Hollywood, and Corporate America who believe their money makes them better suited to decide the nation’s future. They are the foreign nationals to whom America is trillions of dollars in debt.

One thing is for certain: the powers-that-be are not you and me.

In this way, the presidential race is just an exaggerated farce of political theater intended to dazzle, distract and divide us, all the while the police state marches steadily forward.

It’s a straight-forward equation: the candidate who wins the White House will be the one who can do the best job of ensuring that the powers-that-be keep raking in the money and acquiring ever greater powers. In other words, for any viable presidential candidate to get elected today that person must be willing to kill, lie, cheat, steal, be bought and sold and made to dance to the tune of his or her corporate overlords.

The following are just some of the necessary qualifications for anyone hoping to be appointed president of the American police state. Candidates must:

Help grow the militaryindustrial complex: Fifty-five years after President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the growth of the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address, the partnership between the government, the military and private corporations has resulted in the permanent militarization of America. From militarized police and the explosive growth of SWAT teams to endless wars abroad, the expansion of private sector contractors, and never-ending blowback from our foreign occupations, we have become a nation permanently at war. As the New York Times pointed out, “themilitary is the true ‘third rail’ of American politics.” The military-industrial complex understands the value of buying the presidency, and has profited from the incessant warmongering of Obama and his predecessors. If money is any indicator of who the defense industry expects to win this November, thus far, Hillary Clinton is winning the money race, having collected more campaign contributions from employees with the 50 largest military contractors.

Police the rest of the world using U.S. troops: The U.S. military empire’s determination to police the rest of the world has resulted in more than 1.3 million U.S. troops being stationed at roughly 1000 military bases in over 150 countriesaround the world, including 48,000 in Japan, 37,000 in Germany, 27,000 in South Korea and 9800 in Afghanistan. That doesn’t include the number of private contractors pulling in hefty salaries at taxpayer expense. In Afghanistan, for example, private contractors outnumber U.S. troops three to one. Now comes the news that the U.S. is preparing to sendtroops to Libya on a long-term mission to fight ISIS.

Sow seeds of discord and foment wars among other nations under the guise of democracy: It’s not enough for the commander-in-chief to lead the United States into endless wars abroad. Any successful presidential candidate also needs to be adept at stirring up strife within other nations under the guise of spreading democracy. The real motive, of course, is creating new markets for the nation’s #1 export: weapons. In this way, the U.S. is constantly arming so-called “allies” with deadly weapons, only to later wage war against these same nations for possessing weapons of mass destruction. It happened in Iraq when the U.S. sold Saddam Hussein weapons to build his war machine. It happened in Syria when the U.S. provided rebel fighters with military equipment and munitions, only to have them seized by ISIS and used against us. Now comes the news that President Obama has agreed to sell weapons to Vietnam, lifting a decades-long embargo against the nation whose civil war claimed the lives of more than 90,000 Americans.

Speak of peace while slaughtering innocent civilians: Barack Obama’s campaign and subsequent presidency illustrates this principle perfectly. The first black American to become president, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize long before he had done anything to truly deserve it. He has rewarded the Nobel committee’s faith in him by becoming one of the most hawkish war presidents to lead the nation, overseeing a targeted-killing drone campaign that has resulted in thousands of civilian casualties and deaths. Ironically, while Obama has made no significant effort to de-escalate government-inflicted violence or de-weaponize militarized police, he has gone to great lengths to denounce and derail private gun ownership by American citizens.

Prioritize surveillance in the name of security over privacy: Since 9/11, the Surveillance State has undergone a dramatic boom, thanks largely to the passage of the USA Patriot Act and so-called “secret” interpretations of the mammoth law allowing the NSA and other government agencies to spy on Americans’ electronic communications. What began as a government-driven program under George W. Bush has grown under Obama into a mass surveillance private sector that makes its money by spying on American citizens. As Fortune reports, “In response to security concerns after 9/11, Americans witnessed the growth of a massive domestic security apparatus, fueled by federal largesse.” That profit-incentive has opened up a multi-billion dollar video surveillance industry that is blanketing the country with surveillance cameras—both governmental and private—which can be accessed by law enforcement at a moment’s notice.

Promote the interests of Corporate America and Big Money over the rights of the citizenry: Almost every major government program hailed as benefiting Americans—affordable healthcare, the war on terror, airport security, police-worn body cameras—has proven to be a Trojan Horse aimed at enriching Corporate America while leaving Americans poorer, less secure and less free. For instance, the so-called “affordable” health care mandated by Congress has become yet another costly line item in already strained household budgets for millions of Americans.

Expand the powers of the imperial president while repeatedly undermining the rule of law: George W. Bush assumed near-absolute power soon after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Unfettered by Congress or the Constitution, Bush led the “war on terror” abroad and championed both the USA Patriot Act and Homeland Security Department domestically. This, of course, led to the Bush Administration’s demand that presidential wartime powers permit the President to assume complete control over any and all aspects of an international war on terrorism. Such control included establishing military tribunals and eliminating basic rights long recognized under American law.

When Barack Obama ascended to the presidency in 2008, there was a sense, at least among those who voted for him, that the country might change for the better. Those who watched in awe as President Bush chipped away at our civil liberties over the course of his two terms as president thought that perhaps the young, charismatic Senator from Illinois would reverse course and put an end to some of the Bush administration’s worst transgressions—the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, the torture, the black site prisons, and the never-ending wars that have drained our resources, to name just a few. As we near the end of Obama’s two terms in office, that fantasy has proven to be just that: a fantasy. Indeed, President Obama has not only carried on the Bush legacy, but has taken it to its logical conclusion. Obama has gone beyond Guantanamo Bay, gone beyond spying on Americans’ emails and phone calls, and gone beyond bombing countries without Congressional authorization. As journalist Amy Goodman warned, “the recent excesses of U.S. presidential power are not transient aberrations, but the creation of a frightening new normal, where drone strikes, warrantless surveillance, assassination and indefinite detention are conducted with arrogance and impunity, shielded by secrecy and beyond the reach of law.”

Act as if the work of the presidency is a hardship while enjoying all the perks: The race for the White House is an expensive, grueling horse race: candidates must have at a minimum $200 or $300 million or more just to get to the starting line. The total cost for this year’s election is estimated to exceed $5 billion and could go as high as $10 billion. However, for the winner, life in the White House is an endless series of star-studded dinner parties, lavish vacations and perks the likes of which the average American will never enjoy. The grand prize winner will rake in a $400,000 annual salary (not including $100,000 a year for travel expenses, $19,000 for entertaining, $50,000 for “general” expenses and last but not least, $1,000,000 for “unanticipated” expenses), live rent-free in a deluxe, 6-storey, 55,000 square foot mansion that comes complete with its own movie theater and bowling alley, round-the-clock staff, florists, valets and butlers. Upon leaving the White House, presidents are gifted with hefty pensions, paid staff and office space, travel allowances and lifetime medical care. Ex-presidents can also expand upon their largesse by writing books and giving speeches (Bill Clinton was given a $15 million advance for his memoir and routinely makes upwards of $100,000 per speech).

Clearly, it doesn’t matter where a candidate claims to stand on an issue as long as he or she is prepared to obey the dictates of the architects, movers and shakers, and shareholders of the police state once in office.

So here we are once again, preparing to embark upon yet another delusional, reassurance ritual of voting in order to sustain the illusion that we have a democratic republic when, in fact, what we have is a dictatorship without tears. Once again, we are left feeling helpless in the face of a well-funded, heavily armed propaganda machine that is busily spinning political webs with which the candidates can lure voters. And once again we are being urged to vote for the lesser of two evils.

Railing against a political choice that offers no real choice, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson snarled, “How many more of these stinking, double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me and the at least 20 million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote for something, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils?”

Remember, the lesser of two evils is still evil.