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Jimmy Carter: The U.S. Is an 'Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery'
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines an "oligarchy" as: "A government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes."
Former President Jimmy Carter had some choice words for our form of government, post-Citizen's United, on my radio program last week. When I asked him his thoughts on the state of American politics since five right-wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court opened the doors to "unlimited money" in our political discourse via Citizens United, Carter was blunt and to the point.
President Jimmy Carter: The United States is an Oligarchy... http://t.co/IyJAjJa15z
— Thom Hartmann (@Thom_Hartmann) July 29, 2015
“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."
I asked him then what might change things and he said it would take a “horrible, disgraceful” corruption scandal (think Nixon) that would "turn the public against it [Citizens United] and maybe even the Congress and the Supreme Court."
Carter added, "The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger, so it benefits both parties.”
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Carter's observations validate Justice John Paul Stevens' dissent in the Citizens United case (Ginsberg, Bryer and Sotomayor concurring), when Stevens wrote about what he foresaw as the future of American politics because of the Citizens United decision that was handed down that day:
"In addition to this immediate drowning out of noncorporate voices, there may be deleterious effects that follow soon thereafter [this decision]. Corporate ‘domination’ of electioneering can generate the impression that corporations dominate our democracy."
"When citizens turn on their televisions and radios before an election and hear only corporate electioneering, they may lose faith in their capacity, as citizens, to influence public policy. A government captured by corporate interests, they may come to believe, will be neither responsive to their needs nor willing to give their views a fair hearing."
"The predictable result is cynicism and disenchantment: an increased perception that large spenders ‘call the tune’ and a reduced ‘willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance.’ To the extent that corporations are allowed to exert undue influence in electoral races, the speech of the eventual winners of those races may also be chilled."
"Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation. On a variety of levels, unregulated corporate electioneering might diminish the ability of citizens to 'hold officials accountable to the people’ and disserve the goal of a public debate that is 'uninhibited, robust and wide-open.' At the least, I stress again, a legislature is entitled to credit these concerns and to take tailored measures in response."
President Carter is right. Corporate interests (oil companies, for example, are why Republicans and a few bought-out Democrats deny climate change) and the billionaires who got rich off their corporations have seized control of most of our government.
One solution is a simple constitutional amendment that makes it clear that corporations are not and don’t have the rights of, human persons and that reverses the 1976 Buckley decision by saying explicitly that spending money on politics is a behavior that can be regulated, not a form of “speech” with broad immunity under the First Amendment.
Politicians are catching on. Senator Bernie Sanders, who aspires to President Carter’s old job, has not only endorsed such an amendment (he’s alone in this among all presidential candidates) but has even introduced a version of it several times into Congress.
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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- California Emerged From Drought and Is Still Catching Fire - The ... ›
A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?