Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State

FBI Badge & gun.
FBI Badge & gun. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the “Russiagate” probe began, US president Donald Trump and his supporters have used lots of bandwidth raging against what they refer to as the “Deep State.” Does the Deep State exist? If so, what is it, and are its forces arrayed specifically against Donald Trump and  his administration?

Yes, the Deep State exists — probably more so at one end of its numerous definitions and less so at the other, but to some degree at both ends.

At the seemingly more benign end, the Deep State is simply what one might think of as the “permanent government” — the army of bureaucrats and functionaries whose careers span multiple administrations. Like all career employees of large organizations as groups, they tend to fear and resist change, and their sheer mass has an inertial effect. They energetically do things the old way and drag their feet on new things.

At the end dismissed by mainstream commentators as “conspiracy theory,” the Deep State is an invisible second government which acts in a coordinated manner to protect its prerogatives and advance its interests and favored policies versus changes supposedly demanded by “the people” via their elected representatives in Congress and the presidency. The premier example of this view is the claim that John F. Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA and the military industrial complex because (in one version) he was about to get the US out of Vietnam.

If that end of the spectrum sounds crazy to you, consider:

Former FBI attorney Lisa Page and former FBI deputy counterintelligence chief Peter Strzok, while working on a pre-election investigation into alleged collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government, exchanged text messages with incendiary content such as “there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk.”

In mid-May, it emerged that an FBI informant approached two or three (reports vary) advisers to Trump’s campaign during the same period to pry into those advisers’ alleged ties to the Russian government.

Is President Trump stretching the reports we’ve seen when he tweets “Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president. It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a ‘hot’ Fake News story?”

Well, maybe. But not by much. On any fair reading, those two stories combined do look a lot like the second definition of Deep State skulduggery. The FBI was meddling in — acting to influence or in extremis overturn — a US presidential election (sound familiar?). The messages between Page and Strzok color that meddling as intentional Bureau political action, not as incidental investigative fallout which just happened to touch on the election.

While I disagree with President Trump on most issues, it’s hard to disagree with him when he rails against a transparently political witch hunt that has dragged on for more than a year visibly and for months before that beneath the surface. The Deep State is real. And dangerous.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


@Twitter: Net Neutrality For Thee, But Not For We

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“Net Neutrality” is back in the news. On May 16, the US Senate voted 52-47 to undo the Federal Communication Commission’s undoing of the previous FCC’s doing of … yes, it’s complicated. There are really only three important things to know:

First, Net Neutrality as implemented by the FCC in 2015 was a bad solution to a non-existent problem — a corporate welfare program for Big Data at one end and an Internet censorship enabling act at the other, pitched to the public as the fix for an Internet that wasn’t broken.

Secondly, when Net Neutrality ended in 2017, something else didn’t end — the world. The Internet continued (and continues) to hum right along, with or without Net Neutrality.

Thirdly, the Senate vote is a tale told by politicians, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Repeal of the repeal of Net Neutrality won’t pass the US House of Representatives, and if it did President Trump wouldn’t sign it. It’s just grandstanding.

In other news, it seems that one of Net Neutrality’s big supporters — Twitter — doesn’t really support Net Neutrality. Or, rather, it supports Net Neutrality for everyone else, just not for itself.

Back in 2015, in a blog post titled “Why Twitter faves #NetNeutrality,” Twitter manager William Carty wrote: “[T]he Internet provides an almost frictionless experience for an individual to communicate with the world … We need clear, enforceable, legally sustainable rules to ensure that the Internet remains open and continues to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers. This is the heart of Twitter.”

Pretty standard Net Neutrality dogma: “Free and Open Internet.” No “fast lanes” for some people’s data while everyone else gets pushed into the “slow lane.”

But on May 16, Twitter announced, you guessed it, a fast lane for itself and a slow lane for third party apps. The Verge reports on coming changes to the company’s API which “prevent new tweets from streaming into an app in real time” and “delay some push notifications.”

Companies that use lots of bandwidth love the idea of Net Neutrality because it’s a subsidy.

Under Net Neutrality, Internet Service Providers aren’t allowed to charge bandwidth hogs extra for providing more, bigger, faster pipes for their data to travel down. Big Data doesn’t want to have to charge their advertisers (Twitter) or subscribers (Netflix) more to cover the costs of those pipes. Net Neutrality shifts those costs, by law, to Big Telecom. In other words, to your cable bill.

When it comes to their own apps, though, this “no fast lane, no slow lane” stuff goes out the window in a hot second. They want to cash the corporate welfare checks, not write the corporate welfare checks.

But it’s in the best interest of regular users to do away with the corporate welfare checks altogether. Let’s just pay an extra buck or two for our Netflix accounts instead of trying to shift parts of our bandwidth bills to the little old lady next door who checks her email twice a week.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Note to Seattle: If You Want Less of Something, Tax it

Seattle (photo by Rattlhed via Wikipedia -- public domain)
Seattle (photo by Rattlhed via Wikipedia — public domain)

What’s the best way to help the homeless? While there are lots of reasons for homelessness in America, ranging from mental illness to the use of e.g. “sex offender registries” to put certain areas off-limits to certain people, poverty likely places high on the list — and a major cause of poverty is the inability to find a good job.

Apparently the city council of Seattle, Washington, disagrees. On May 14, the council voted unanimously to start reducing the Emerald City’s employment opportunities for the purpose of funding the city government’s homeless services and affordable housing schemes.

They didn’t put it that way, of course. In fact, at least one city council member accused companies like Amazon and Starbucks of “blackmail” for pointing out the obvious and inevitable consequence of demanding that employers pay a $275 annual “head tax” on each full-time employee in the city.

According to the Associated Press coverage of the tax, it would “raise roughly $48 million a year to build new affordable housing units and provide emergency homeless services.” That figure is likely based on on an untenable assumption: That Seattle will continue to have as many or more full-time employees working within the city limits after the tax is implemented than it had before the tax was passed.

In fact, what Seattle’s politicians are telling prospective employers and current employers is “don’t locate here, and if you are already located here, move away, or at least don’t expand.”

The tax may raise some money, but its main effect will be to increase unemployment in Seattle.

Its secondary effect will be to raise the cost of building “affordable housing” in the city since the labor cost for every carpenter, bricklayer, electrician, etc. will go up. And the cost of everything else, too. Grocers and cab companies and landscapers and restaurants aren’t going to just grin and fork over the tax. They’re going to raise prices to cover it.

Both of those effects lead to a tertiary effect: Fewer jobs and more expensive housing, transportation, food, etc. will mean more, not fewer, homeless people.

Naturally, the likely “solution” to the problem getting worse rather than better will be to increase the tax. And that likelihood creates “regime uncertainty.” Perhaps some companies would consider the other benefits of locating in Seattle worth $275 per year per employee. But if the tax can go from $275 to $500 to $1,000 at the drop of a hat, Seattle just won’t look like a good place to start a new enterprise or expand an existing one.

I dislike “targeted” tax measures because they smack of social engineering. But if Seattle’s politicians really want to help the homeless by messing with the tax code, the better way would be to offer tax BREAKS to companies that employ people, and especially companies that employ people to build homes.

Seattle cannot and will not tax its way out of its homelessness and housing problems. But it should at least stop looking for ways to tax itself more deeply into those problems.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.