“There’s no way now for you to get a Democratic or Republican nomination without being able to raise $200 or $300 million, or more. I would not be inclined to do that, and I would not be capable of doing it.” – President Jimmy Carter
Former President Jimmy Carter expressed his dismay and frustration over the current political election system in an Oprah Winfrey “SuperSoul Sunday” interview trailer. The complete interview will air Sunday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. ET on the OWN network.
Oprah Winfrey asked the 91-year old peacemaker, humanitarian, and advocate for fair elections, if he thought he could win a presidential election today. He said:
“Absolutely not.””We’ve become, now, an oligarchy instead of a democracy. I think that’s been the worst damage to the basic moral and ethical standards to the American political system that I’ve ever seen in my life.”
President Carter also spoke on this subject with Thom Hartmann in July 2015. Here is an transcript excerpt, followed by a YouTube audio clip:
“It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”
It’s no surprise, President Carter is, once again, spot on. Since the United States Supreme Court rulings on Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC, special interests can, now, essentially buy candidates, buy elections, and ultimately buy new laws that favor big banks, corporations, and the ultra rich (those able to pay). This was not the case back in the 1970s when President Carter ran for office. Back then, political campaigns were publicly funded by the government, rather than by private individuals and organizations.
Via The Carter Center, President Carter has monitored 100 elections in 38 countries since 1989. What a discouragement and embarrassment the current American election system must be to him. Still, his tireless advocacy for fairness and justice continues even with his recent health problems. He truly is a remarkable human being.
Many thanks to President Carter for his unabashed allegiance to truth.
A new Facebook page has been created to pay tribute to President Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, called Honoring Jimmy Carter. The page, and it has grown to over 65,000 LIKES in one month.
At the height of 2011’s debt ceiling crisis, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a candid explanation of why his party was willing to threaten permanent harm to the U.S. economy unless Congress agreed to change our founding document. “The Constitution must be amended to keep the government in check,” McConnell alleged. “We’ve tried persuasion. We’ve tried negotiations. We’ve tried elections. Nothing has worked.”
The amendment McConnell and his fellow Republicans sought was misleadingly named the “Balanced Budget Amendment” — a name that was misleading not because it was inaccurate, but because it was incomplete. The amendment wouldn’t have simply forced a balanced budget at the federal level, it would have forced spending cuts that were so severe that they would have cost 15 million people their jobs and caused “the economy to shrink by about 17 percent instead of growing by an expected 2 percent,” according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. It was, in essence, an effort to permanently impose Tea Party economics on the nation, and to use a manufactured crisis to do so.
Few politicians are willing to admit what McConnell admitted when he confessed that elections have not “worked” to bring about the policy Republicans tried to impose on the nation in 2011. Elected officials, after all, only hold their jobs at the sufferance of the voters, and a politician who openly admits that they only believe in democracy insofar as it achieves their desired ends gives the middle finger to those voters and to the very process that allows those voters to have a say in how they are governed.
Charles Murray, an author who GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently named first when he was asked which books have had a big impact upon him, is not an elected official, so he is free to rail against democracy to his heart’s content. And that is exactly what he does in his new book, By The People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission.
Pay no attention to the title. Government “by the people” is the last thing Murray cares to see. Murray admits that the kind of government he seeks, a libertarian fantasy where much of our nation’s regulatory and welfare state has been dismantled, is “beyond the reach of the electoral process and the legislative process.” He also thinks it beyond the branch of government that is appointed by elected officials. The Supreme Court, Murray claims, “destroyed” constitutional “limits on the federal government’s spending authority” when it upheld Social Security in 1937. Since then, the federal government has violated a “tacit compact” establishing that it would not “unilaterally impose a position on the moral disputes that divided America” (Murray traces the voiding of this compact to 1964, the year that Congress banned whites-only lunch counters).
So when Murray speaks, powerful and influential men (and his acolytes are, almost invariably, men) listen, including men who shape our nation’s fiscal policy and men who could be president someday.
By The People, however, rejects outright the idea that Murray’s vision for a less generous and well-regulated society can be achieved through appeals to elected officials — or even through appeals to unelected judges. The government Murray seeks is “not going to happen by winning presidential elections and getting the right people appointed to the Supreme Court.” Rather, By The People, is a call for people sympathetic to Murray’s goals — and most importantly, for fantastically rich people sympathetic to those goals — to subvert the legitimate constitutional process entirely.
“The emergence of many billion-dollar-plus private fortunes over the last three decades,” Murray writes, “has enabled the private sector to take on ambitious national or even international tasks that formerly could be done only by nation-states.” Murray’s most ambitious proposal is a legal defense fund, which “could get started if just one wealthy American cared enough to contribute, say, a few hundred million dollars,” that would essentially give that wealthy American veto power over much of U.S. law.
Murray, in other words, would rather transfer much of our sovereign nation’s power to govern itself to a single privileged individual than continue to live under the government America’s voters have chosen. It’s possible that no American has done more to advance the cause of monarchy since Benedict Arnold.
One of the heroes of By The People is James Madison, or, at least, a somewhat ahistoric depiction of Madison favored by Murray. Madison, as Murray correctly notes, favored an interpretation of the Constitution that would have made much of the modern regulatory and welfare state impossible (other members of the founding generation, including George Washington, interpreted the Constitution much more expansively than Madison). Thus, Murray states in his introduction, “[i]f we could restore limited government as Madison understood it, all of our agendas would be largely fulfilled.” Murray even names his proposal for a billionaire-funded organization intended to thwart governance the “Madison Fund.”
In Murray’s narrative, Madison becomes a Lovecraftian deity — dead, but not entirely dead, and still capable of working ill in American society. In his house at Montpelier, dead James Madison waits dreaming.
The real James Madison would be shocked by this suggestion that his dead-but-dreaming tentacle could reach into the future and re-instigate long-settled battles over the Constitution. Needless to say, the view Murray attributes to Madison — the view that, among other things, would lead to Social Security being declared unconstitutional — did not prevail in American history. And Madison, unlike Murray, was reluctant to displace well-settled constitutional law. As a congressman, Madison opposed the creation of the First Bank of the United States on constitutional grounds. Yet, as president, Madison signed the law creating a Second Bank. He explained that the nation had accepted the First Bank, and he viewed this acceptance as “a construction put on the Constitution by the nation, which, having made it, had the supreme right to declare its meaning.”
Madison, it should also be noted, admitted late in life that his reading of the Constitution was not consistent with the document’s text. Nevertheless, he argued that “[t]o take [the Constitution’s words] in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”
To his credit, Murray acknowledges that undoing the entire post-New Deal state is not a realistic goal. The Supreme Court, he laments, “never overturns a decision like Helvering,” the 1937 case upholding Social Security, “because such a ruling would not be obeyed and the Court’s legitimacy would be shattered.” Yet the limits Murray would impose on the federal government are simply breathtaking. All employment law, according to Murray, must be subject to the strictest level of constitutional scrutiny. So must all land use regulation, and all laws that fall into vague categories Murray describes as regulations that “prescribe best practice in a craft or profession” or that “prevent people from taking voluntary risks.”
If these limits were actually imposed on the federal government, the minimum wage, overtime laws, most environmental protections and financial reforms, many worker safety laws and even, potentially, anti-discrimination laws would all fall by the wayside.
The Koch Veto
To impose these limits on society, Murray claims that his Madison Fund can essentially harass the government into compliance. The federal government, Murray claims, cannot enforce the entirety of federal law “without voluntary public compliance.” Federal resources are limited, and only a small fraction of these limited resources have been directed towards enforcement. Thus, Murray argues, by simply refusing to comply with the law and contesting every enforcement action in court, regulated entities can effectively drain the government’s resources and prevent it from engaging in meaningful enforcement.
The Madison Fund would spearhead this campaign of harassment, defending “people who are technically guilty of violating regulations that should not exist, drawing out that litigation as long as possible, making enforcement of the regulations more expensive to the regulatory agency than they’re worth, and reimbursing fines that are levied.”
There are, of course, a number of practical obstacles to this plan. One, as Murray acknowledges, is the need to find enough people with “billion-dollar-plus private fortune[s]” who are willing to contribute to such a campaign. Another is the need to find lawyers willing to risk their law licenses in order to become pawns in Murray’s game. Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires attorneys to certify that they are not filing court documents “for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation.” The American Bar Association’s (ABA) Model Rules of Processional Conduct provide that a “lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous.” Admittedly, lawyers have more leeway in criminal cases, but the legal profession generally frowns upon attorneys who engage in the kind of legally meritless harassment Murray proposes.
Nevertheless, Murray’s proposal cannot be dismissed out of hand simply because it is built upon a foundation of frivolous litigation. The first Supreme Court case attacking Obamacare was widely derided as meritless — an ABA poll of legal experts found that 85 percent believed that the law would be upheld. And yet the justices came within a hair of repealing the entire law. The lawyers behind a more recent attack on the Affordable Care Act, King v. Burwell, make demonstrablyfalse claims about the history of the law, and they rely upon a completely unworkable method of interpreting statutes. But that hasn’t stopped at least some members of the Supreme Court from taking this lawsuit seriously. Conservatives simply have more leeway to assert meritless legal arguments than they once did.
A reminder that Washington has been toying with and lying to Americans for a long, long time.
The more we learn about the government these days, the less we can trust it. Forget about the simple incompetence that used to fire up libertarian critics of an expansive government—that’s a complaint that seems almost quaint given recent and ongoing revelations about official fraud and deception. It’s looking more and more like the government tends toward evil and mean-spiritedness, and it’s going to take real change to reverse eroding faith among citizens.
Though it was sent 50 long years ago, the FBI’s so-called suicide letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. is very much of a piece with today’s America, where fear of and anger toward the government casts a shadow over everything from web-surfing to starting a business. Historian Beverly Gage and The New York Times have just published an unredacted version of the anonymous November, 1964 letter almost certainly sent by the FBI to Martin Luther King, Jr. a few weeks before the civil rights leader was set to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.
The typo-laden note pretends to be from a black American repulsed by King’s “psychotic” sexuality and warns that he will be unmasked as a “filthy, abnormal animal” unless he kills himself. “King you are done,” reads the letter, drawing on surveillance and wiretaps approved by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and President Lyndon Johnson. “There is but one way out for you,” the note continues. “You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”
In the 21st century, we worry less about the government ratting out our sex lives and more about it tapping our phones, reading our emails, secretly dispatching drones abroad, sending “desperate and dumb” mash notes to Iranian fascists, and generally lying about its true goals and actions. “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles” announced theTimes in 2012, clearly uncomfortable with the implications of its own expose (“Secret ‘Kill List’ Reveals Obama’s Principles” would have been more accurate).
So it’s fitting that the letter to King, one of the government’s most despicable acts of domestic surveillance, has only fully come to light in the age of Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, and what Barack Obama promised was going to be the “most transparent administration” in U.S. history.
Alas, when it comes to openness, Barack Obama neglected to mention that the most disturbing revelations would happen in spite of—not because of—his actions. We didn’t learn that the president’s former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, former CIA director Keith Alexander, and current CIA director John Brennan all lied to Congress because the administration suddenly decided to come clean.
And it’s not just unseemly cloak-and-dagger stuff in an age of terrorism that’s causing trust issues. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped create the Affordable Care Act, has rightfully come under fire for admitting that the “lack of transparency” in Obamacare was a political strategy designed to take advantage of “the stupidity of the American voter.” Nancy Pelosi, who was speaker of the House when Obamacare passed, has carried the deception further still, falsely saying that “I don’t know who [Gruber] is” and that “he didn’t help write our bill” —claims that were immediately revealed as false after about 10 seconds of Googling.
A new survey by The Atlantic of 50 “Silicon Valley Insiders”—“executives, innovators, and thinkers”–asks respondents to name “the biggest barrier to innovation in the United States.” The top three answers are “government regulation/bureaucracy” (20 percent), “immigration policies” (16 percent), and “education” (14 percent). Given the role it plays in setting immigration policy and controlling education at all levels through a mix of money and mandates, that means government takes the gold, silver, and bronze medals at making life harder.
It’s not just tech gazillionaires who feel this way. Gallup annually asks jes’ plain folks, “Which of the following do you think is the biggest threat to the country in the future—big business, big labor, or big government?” Last December, a record-high 72 percent chose big government. That’s more than double the figure Gallup recorded when the FBI was listening to Martin Luther King’s heavy-breathing sessions. These days, says Pew Research, just 2 percent (!) of us trust the government “to just about always” do the right thing.
Fifty years ago—again, right around the time that the FBI was about to become the subject of a hagiographic hit TV show and trying to goad Martin Luther King, Jr. into killing himself—Richard Hofstadter was denouncing the “paranoid style in American politics,”. He lamented that, “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”
But today’s lack of trust and confidence in the government doesn’t seem all that angry. It’s more like we’re resigned to the fact that our rulers think little of us—that is, when they think of us at all. In gaining new knowledge about how people in power almost always behave, we are wiser and sadder and, one hopes, much less likely to put up with bullshit from the left, right, or center.
There’s a real opportunity to the politicians, the parties, and the causes that dare to embrace real transparency —about how legislation is being crafted, about our surveillance programs at home and abroad—as a core value and something other than a throwaway slogan. But as an unbroken thread of mendacity and mischief binds the present to the past, a future in which government can be trusted seems farther off than ever.
Conservatives who rushed to Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy’s side when he confronted federal authorities over land use moved on Thursday to condemn his inflammatory remarks on race, even if some of them weren’t turning tail on his anti-government cause.
Below is a list of politicians and media personalities who backed Bundy during his standoff with the Bureau of Land Management along with their responses, if they have given one, to his comments on “the Negro” and government assistance, which were published by the New York Times.
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)
What he said previously: Appearing alongside Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on KSNV-TV, Heller praised Bundy and his supporters: “What Sen. Reid may call domestic terrorists, I call patriots.”
What he’s saying now: A spokesman for Heller told the New York Times that the senator “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.”
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
What he said previously: Earlier this month, Paul criticized the federal government on a Kentucky radio station and said he’d prefer for the dispute to be worked out in court: “The federal government shouldn’t violate the law, nor should we have 48 federal agencies carrying weapons and having SWAT teams.”
What he’s saying now: After a spokesman told the New York Times that the senator wasn’t available for comment, Paul condemned the remarks Thursday in a statement to Business Insider: “His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.”
Fox News Host Sean Hannity
What he said previously: The Fox News host has staunchly defended Bundy and his supporters, going so far as to suggest that Sen. Harry Reid and the federal government were planning a secret raid on Bundy’s ranch. He’s also slapped down high-profile criticisms of his support for Bundy, most notably from Comedy Central comedian Jon Stewart.
What he’s saying now: Hannity hasn’t come forward with a position on Bundy’s latest comments. He still has a radio show and a Fox News program to broadcast today, though, so his take may be forthcoming.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)
What he said previously: Perry appeared Wednesday on Fox News and suggested the federal government was instigating the conflict: “I have a problem with the federal government putting citizens in the position of having to feel like they have to use force to deal with their own government.”
What he’s saying now: Perry appeared Thursday on CBS This Morning and dodged the question: “I don’t know what he said, but the fact is Clyde (sic) Bundy is a side issue here compared to what we’re looking at in the state of Texas. He is an individual. Deal with his issues as you may.”
After Perry had a chance to read Bundy’s remarks later in the day, his spokesman told Business Insider via email that the governor “thinks they are reprehensible and disagrees with them in the strongest possible way.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R)
What he said previously: The gubernatorial candidate did not weigh in on the Bundy standoff specifically. However, he called attention to the BLM’s management of federal lands in Texas in a letter sent Tuesday to the director of the agency, saying he was “deeply troubled” by reports that the agency planned to “regulate the use of federal lands along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River.”
What he’s saying now: A spokeswoman for Abbott told the New York Times that Abbott’s letter to the BLM “was regarding a dispute in Texas and is in no way related to the dispute in Nevada.”
Nevada state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R)
What she said previously: The lawmaker told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in a testy interview that she thought the federal government’s handling of the conflict with Bundy was “suspicious:” “Don’t come here with guns and expect the American people not to fire back.”
What she’s saying now: Fiore disagreed with Bundy’s comments on race in a statement that also reaffirmed her opposition to the BLM’s actions: “I strongly disagree with Cliven Bundy’s comments about slavery. Mr. Bundy has said things I don’t agree with; however, we cannot let this divert our attention from the true issue of the atrocities BLM committed by harming our public land and the animals living on it.”
Arizona state Rep. Kelly Townsend (R)
What she said previously: Townsend, who participated in a rally near the ranch earlier this month, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that video of a clash between anti-government protesters and BLM rangers disturbed her: “Watching that video last night created a visceral reaction in me. It sounds dramatic, but it reminded me of Tiananmen Square. I don’t recognize my country at this point.”
What she’s saying now: Townsend hasn’t responded to Bundy’s latest remarks. TPM has reached out to Townsend for a statement and will update when we receive a response.
Former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack
What he said previously: Mack, who helped organize the militia on Bundy’s ranch, equated the rancher and his supporters to civil rights icon Rosa Parks in recordings flagged by Right Wing Watch: “This particular peasant said, ‘No, I’m sorry, I’m not rolling over for this one. You guys are out of line, you don’t own the land, you don’t own our ranch, you don’t own us. … This was Rosa Parks refusing to get to the back of the bus.”
What he’s saying now: Mack hasn’t yet responded to Bundy’s remarks on slavery.
National Review Correspondent Kevin Williamson
What he said previously: Earlier this month, Williamson wrote that “a little sedition” à la Bundy is a good thing: “Of course the law is against Cliven Bundy. How could it be otherwise? The law was against Mohandas Gandhi, too, when he was tried for sedition.”
What he’s saying now: Williamson explained in an email to TPM that like “the men who died at the Alamo,” probably, Bundy has “repugnant” views that are distinct from the issue at hand: “Mr. Bundy’s racial rhetoric is lamentable and backward. It is also separate from the fundamental question here, which is the federal government’s acting as an absentee landlord for nine-tenths of the state of Nevada.”
What she’s saying now: The pundit wrote in a blog post that Bundy’s comments could have been blown up because he wasn’t media trained. She also argued that “the left” was attempting to tie his anti-government activism to racism.
Cliven Bundy: Minority Groups Are ‘Against Us’
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, before making his comments about “the Negro,” spoke about other racial minorities and their lack of support for his cause, according to additional video obtained by the Washington Post.
“Where is our colored brother? Where is our Mexican brother? Where is our Chinese — where are they?” Bundy said. “They’re just as much American as we are, and they’re not with us. If they’re not with us, they’re going to be against us.”
Bundy noted that he “hardly ever” saw a black person until he was a teenager, and was surrounded by only white people during the press conference he was holding, according to the Post.
He then launched into a story about when he was working in Los Angeles during the Watts Riots in 1965.
“About two blocks south of Harbor Freeway, they were setting the world on fire,” he said. “And who was setting it on fire? It wasn’t We the People. It was the Negro groups — people theirself were setting their own city on fire and raping their own city and stealing from their own city.”
Bundy argued that the riots were a result of people lacking freedom, according to the Post.
“We’ve progressed quite a bit from that day until now, and we sure don’t want to go back,” he said. “We sure don’t want these colored people to have to go back to that point. We sure don’t want these Mexican people to go back to that point. And we can make a difference right now by taking care of some of these bureaucracies and do it in a peaceful way.”
You’d think a tribute to one of the greatest leaders in modern history would be controversy-free, but no. The statement from Ted Cruz on his Facebook page:
Nelson Mandela will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe. He stood firm for decades on the principle that until all South Africans enjoyed equal liberties he would not leave prison himself, declaring in his autobiography, ‘Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.’ Because of his epic fight against injustice, an entire nation is now free.We mourn his loss and offer our condolences to his family and the people of South Africa.
Cue the crazies. Here is a glimpse at the top-rated comments on the post:
Every time I hear someone claim that their deep hatred for Barack Obama has nothing to do with his skin color, I have to smile – something I’m prone to do when confronted with a blatant lie. Naturally, there would be all kinds of nastiness and dirty politics by Republicans and conservatives no matter what color of skin a Democratic president had – that’s the way the game is played. But the fact that this president is black adds a level of viciousness to it all previously unseen in American politics.
It’s bad news for the embattled Speaker of the House and the Republican congressional leadership. Just months ago, the public was much more confused about whom to blame if the government were shut down. But according to a new CNN/ORC International survey, the public would now blame congressional Republicans much more than they would blame President Obama.
“Only a third would consider President Barack Obama responsible for a shutdown, with 51% pointing a finger at the GOP – up from 40% who felt that way earlier this year,” CNNPolling Director Keating Holland explained.
In March of this year, 38% would have blamed President Obama while 40% would have blamed Republicans and 19% would have blamed both. The September poll has Republicans bearing the brunt of the blame, with 51% blaming them and only 33% blaming Obama and 12% blaming both. Thus Republicans stand to bear the brunt of the blame if the government is shut down.
Things are even worse for Republicans when it comes to the debt ceiling. If the debt ceiling is not raised, only 25% would blame Obama while 54% would blame Republicans. In July of 2011, 30% would have blamed Obama and 51% would have blamed Republicans.
House Republican leaders delayed a vote on a bill to avert a government shutdown Wednesday because they lack the votes. The Tea Party is insisting that Republicans do anything, including shutting down government, to defund ObamaCare, but leadership knows that this is not only an unpopular idea, but it could be politically deadly.
The CNN poll only reinforces what non Tea Party Republicans already know – they can’t afford to be blamed for a government shutdown.