Pretensions to Empire

by Lewis H. Lapham

The New Press, 2006, paperback



The Bradley Foundation 584
Smith Richardson Foundation 494
Scaife Family (Four Foundations) 478.4
Earhart Foundation 84
John M. Olin Foundation 71
Koch Family (T'bree Foundations) 68
Castle Rock (Coors) Foundation 50
JM Foundation 25
Philip M. McKenna Foundation 17.4

(charts based on research by Rob Stein)

Rob Stein chairman of the Democratic National Committee

"... [the Republican "Message Machine" is] "perhaps the most potent, independent institutionalized apparatus ever assembled in a democracy to promote one belief system."

... fifty funding agencies of different dimensions and varying degrees of ideological fervor, nominally philanthropic but zealous in their common hatred of the liberal enemy, disbursing the collective sum of roughly $3 billion over a period of thirty years ...

... the publication of expensively purchased and cleverly promoted tracts (Milton Friedman's Free to Choose, Charles Murray's Losing Ground, Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations), a steady flow of newsletters from more than 100 captive printing presses (among them those at The Heritage Foundation, Accuracy in the Media, the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for the Study of Popular Culture), generous distributions of academic programs and visiting professorships (to Harvard, Yale, and Stanford universities), the passing along of sound-bite slanders (to Bill O'Reilly and Matt Drudge), the formulation of newspaper op-ed pieces (for the San Antonio Light and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as well as for the Sacramento Bee and the Washington Times.

... a 5,000-word manifesto written by Lewis Powell, a Richmond corporation lawyer, and circulated in August 1971 by the United States Chamber of Commerce under the heading Confidential Memorandum; Attack on the American Free Enterprise System. Soon to be appointed to the Supreme Court, lawyer Powell was a man well-known and much respected by the country's business community; within the legal profession he was regarded as a prophet. His heavy word of warning fell upon the legions of reaction with the force of Holy Scripture: "Survival of what we call the free enterprise system," he said, "lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national I organizations."

The venture capital for the task at hand was provided by a small sewing circle of rich philanthropists-Richard Mellon Scaife in Pittsburgh, Lynde and Harry Bradley in Milwaukee, John Olin in New York City, the Smith Richardson family in North Carolina, Joseph Coors in Denver, David and Charles Koch in Wichita, who entertained visions of an America restored to the safety of its mythological past-small towns like those seen in prints by Currier and Ives, cheerful factory workers whistling while they worked, politicians as wise as Abraham Lincoln and as brave as Teddy Roosevelt, benevolent millionaires presenting Christmas turkeys to deserving elevator operators, the sins of the flesh deported to Mexico or France. Suspicious of any fact that they hadn't known before the age of six, the wealthy saviors of the Republic also possessed large reserves of paranoia, and if the world was going rapidly to rot (as any fool could plainly see) the fault was to be found in everything and anything tainted with a stamp of liberal origin-the news media and the universities, income taxes, Warren Beatty, transfer payments to the undeserving poor, restraints of trade, Jane Fonda, low interest rates, civil liberties for unappreciative minorities, movies made in Poland, public schools.*

Although small in comparison with the sums distributed by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, the money was ideologically sound, and it was put to work leveraging additional contributions (from corporations as well as from other like-minded foundations) acquiring radio stations, newspapers, and journals of opinion, bankrolling intellectual sweatshops for the making of political and socioeconomic theory. Joseph Coors established The Heritage Foundation with an initial gift of $250,000 in 1973, the sum augmented over the next few years with $900,000 from Richard Scaife; the American Enterprise Institute was revived and fortified in the late seventies with $6 million from the Howard Pew Freedom Trust; the Cato Institute was set up by the Koch family in 1977 with a gift of $500,000.


The Heritage Foundation 33
American Enterprise Institute 25
Hoover Institution 25
Cato Institute 17.6
Hudson Institute 7.8
Manhattan Institute 7.2
Citizens for a Sound Economy 5.4
Reason Foundation 4.9
National Center for Policy Analysis 4.7
Competitive Enterprise Institute 3.2
Free Congress Foundation 2.7
Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis 2.5

Winston Churchill
"Cultured people are merely the glittering scum which floats upon the deep river of production."

By the end of Reagan's second term the propaganda mills were spending $100 million a year on the manufacture and sale of their product, invigorated by the sense that once again it was morning in America and redoubling their efforts to transform their large store of irritable mental gestures into brightly package policy objectives - tort reform, school vouchers, less government, lower taxes, elimination of the labor unions, bigger military budgets, higher interest rates, reduced environmental regulation, privatization of social security, downsized Medicaid and Medicare, more prisons, better surveillance, stricter law enforcement.

The Christian right had come into the corporate fold in the late 1970s. Abandoning the alliance formed with the conscience of the liberal left during the Great Depression ... the merchants of spiritual salvation had come to see that their interests coincided with those of the insurance companies and the banks.

MASS MEDIA DISTRIBUTION - the $300 million Conservative Message Machine


Pat Robertson's 700 Club
Fox News Channel
MSNBC's Scarborough Country
Oliver North's War Stories


The Rush Limbaugh Show
The Cal Thomas Commentary
Radio America


Eagle Publishing, Inc.

The Washington Times
The Wall Street Journal


The leftist impulse had been dead for ten years, ever since the rightwing Democrats in Congress had sold out the liberal portfolio of President Jimmy Carter and revised the campaign-finance laws to suit the convenience of their corporate patrons. Nor did the news media present an obstacle. By 1985 the Wall Street Journal had become the newspaper of record most widely read by the people who made the decisions about the country's economic policy; the leading editorialists in the New York Times (A. M. Rosenthal, William Safire) as well as in the Washington Post (George Will, Richard Harwood, Meg Greenfield) ably defended the interests of the status quo; the vast bulk of the nation's radio talk shows (reaching roughly 80 percent of the audience) reflected a conservative bias, as did all but one or two of the television talk shows permitted to engage political topics on PBS. In the pages of the smaller journals of opinion (National Review, Commentary, The American Spectator, The National Interest, The New Criterion, The Public Interest, Policy Review, etc.) the intellectual decor, much of it paid for by the Olin and Scaife foundations ...

Otto von Bismarck
People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.

Leon Trotsky
You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.

Michael Ignatieff, Harvard Carr Center at the Kennedy School of Government,
Sunday New York Times magazine, 2003

The United States is multilateral when it wants to be, unilateral when it must be; and it enforces a new division of labor in which America does the fighting, the French, British and Germans do the police patrols in the border zones and the Dutch, Swiss and Scandinavians provide the humanitarian aid.

Michael Ignatieff, Harvard Carr Center at the Kennedy School of Government,
Sunday New York Times magazine, 2003

[The United States] remain[s] a nation in which flag, sacrifice and martial honor are central to national identity.

The question, then, is not whether America is too powerful but whether it is powerful enough. Does it have what it takes to be grandmaster of what Cohn Powell has called the chessboard of the world's most inflammable region?

Paul Krugman in the New York Times

"Suppose that this administration did con us into war. And suppose that it is not held accountable for its deceptions .... In that case, our political system has become utterly, and perhaps irrevocably, corrupted."

movie director John Ford

When it's a choice between writing the story or writing the myth, write the story.

Suck-up coverage is always in, both in the print media and the broadcast media.

New York Times columnist David Brooks, November 4, 2003

What will happen to the national mood when the news programs start broadcasting images of the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably, there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to defect from the cause .... The President will have to remind us that we live in a fallen world, that we have to take morally hazardous action if we are to defeat the killers who confront us. It is our responsibility to not walk away.

Henry David Thoreau

Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.

... in early December [2003] when President Bush signed the amendment to the Medicare legislation that delivers 40 million elderly and disabled American citizens into the custody of the good-hands people operating the nation's insurance and pharmaceutical factories. The new authorization purports to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for every needful American, and the White House staff dressed up the photo op in Washington's Constitution Hall to look like a scene of joyful thanksgiving-a vast throng of well-wishers, military band music, a bright blue banner emblazoned with the physician's comforting "Rx," grateful invalids and smiling congresswomen, President Bush in the part of a merry Santa Claus bestowing upon the multitude the gifts of Christmas yet-to-come. Hats off gentlemen, send for the champagne. Great, good news; bread upon the waters; pennies raining from heaven and stars falling on Alabama.

Looked at a little more closely, the scene acquired a somewhat different character and tone. Still celebratory and festive, of course, but the rejoicing of bandits and thieves as opposed to the thankfulness of survivors rescued from a shipwreck. It was hard not to think of Eskimos contemplating the bonanza of a beached whale, the faces in the crowd those of K Street lobbyists eager to congratulate the politicians (chief among them J. Dennis Hastert, speaker of the House of Representatives, and Dr. Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader) who had worked so long and hard to unblock the river of government money now free to water the plains of avarice. It was the genius of Hastert that had formulated the legislation in 681 pages of stupefying prose (and strong-armed the rules of parliamentary procedure in the House to secure the winning vote at 6:00 A.M. on November 22), and it was the calm and morally anesthetized composure of Frist that in the Senate on November 25 had placed the scalpel of extortion against the shaved and naked flesh of the American body politic.

Few or none of the politicians who voted either for or against the bill took the trouble to read it; like them, I rely for my understanding of it on what I've seen in the newspapers and what I've been told by informed medical practitioners, but I think it safe to assume that the particulars speak to Weicker's ideal of free-market perfection. The principal author of the legislation, Thomas A. Scully, set about the task of writing it in June of last year, while he was employed as the federal administrator of Medicare. At the same time he expressed the wish to enter the private sector, putting his services up for auction to five high-priced Washington influence brokers representing the insurance companies, the drug manufacturers, and the health-maintenance organizations. Eight days after the happiness in Constitution Hall, Scully resigned his government post to await bids for his tour guide's knowledge of the small print that allots as little money as possible to individual citizens and as much money as possible to the vested commercial interests.

Although the government must provide drugs to 40 million people, it may not negotiate a bulk discount; it must pay whatever price the manufacturer sets or asks-prices that in the recent past have been rising at a rate of 12 percent a year. The legislation forbids the importing of less expensive drugs from Canada, prohibits beneficiaries from buying supplemental insurance for drugs unacknowledged by Medicare, reduces or eliminates payments to as many as 6 million people for whom Medicaid now defrays at least some of their prescription costs, declares a suspension of payment at precisely the point when most people might need the most help. An annual premium of $420 covers 75 percent of drug expenditures up to $2,250; from that point upward the beneficiary must pay, with his or her own money, 100 percent of the next $3,600 in costs; once the expenditures reach a total of $5,850, the government pays 95 percent of the subsequent bill. The actuarial tables assume that relatively few people can afford (or will live long enough) to pay the toll on the bridge across the river of public money flowing out of Washington into the privately owned catch basins of the medical-industrial complex. As a further means of implementing the shift of the nation's health-care burden from the public to the private sector, the legislation offers various inducements to the life-enhancing profit motive:

A. A $12 billion slush fund from which, over the next ten years, the secretary of health and human services may pay out bribes to HMOs otherwise reluctant to accept patients whose illnesses cannot be prepped for a quick and certain gain.

B. A windfall of $70 billion, also to be provided over the next ten years, to those corporations willing to continue prescription drug coverage for their retired employees, the money to be paid in the form of both tax deductions and tax-free subsidies.

C. The guarantee of "maximum flexibility" to the private entities seeking to recruit customers from the general population now served by Medicare. The private entity may exercise the right to "cherry pick"-i.e., to offer its services only to those individuals not likely to require expensive treatment. The government must provide for everybody else, for the hopelessly enfeebled and the terminally indigent.

D. The legislation's reliance on the drug companies and the private insurers to curtail spending and control costs. The provision serves a dual purpose. It assures the eventual destruction of the entire Medicare apparatus, and it relieves the government of any responsibility for what will be reported as an act of God. Even the dimmest of Republican congressmen knows that the government doesn't have the $400 billion that the drug-prescription benefit presumably will cost over the next ten years-doesn't have the cash on hand or anywhere in anybody's budget projection. The money must be borrowed, at rates of interest yet to be determined. In the meantime, while waiting upon possibly unhappy financial events (wars, revenue shortfalls, stock-market downturns, sustained recession, etc.) the government retains no control of the fees charged by the health plans or the prices that the pharmaceutical companies demand for drugs. Let Mother Nature take her course, and the expenditure estimated at $400 billion easily could become an invoice presented for $1 trillion.

The corporate health-care systems that currently hold captive 10 million Americans (in return for an annual ransom of $952 billion) can't afford the luxury of a conscience or a heart. They're set up to make money, not to care for sick people, and even if the managers sometimes might wish it otherwise, how then would they pay themselves life-enhancing salaries, and what might happen to their faith in the free market? Before investing in private health-care organizations, the Wall Street financial analysts like to see a low "medical-loss ratio" (i.e., that percentage of the yearly revenues actually allotted to patient care) sufficient to offset the administrative costs (9.5 percent in the private sector as opposed to 1.4 percent in the public sector) as well as fund the annual compensations awarded to the chief executives-an average of $15.1 million in 2002 at the country's eleven leading health-care companies.

Proud of its plundering of the American commonwealth on behalf of its corporate sponsors and political accomplices, the Bush Administration follows a practice well established by both its near and distant predecessors. The raids on the federal treasury encouraged by the Reagan Administration took place under the cover of a darkness represented as ideological enlightenment. Deregulation was the watchword for the transfer of wealth from the public to the private sector, the $500 billion savings-and-loan swindle an exemplary proof of what could be done with the theory that big government (by definition wasteful and incompetent) deserved to be sold for scrap to the entrepreneurs in our midst (by definition innovative and efficient) who know how to privatize the profits while socializing the risk and the cost. Wonderful news, said the Wall Street Journal, pennies falling from heaven and stars on Alabama, more swill for the pigs. Diligently applied by a succession of industrious thieves over the last twenty-five years, the theory has resulted in the wreckage of the deregulated airlines, the degradation of the environment, the monopolies strangling the wit and sense out of the news media, the Enron debacle, most recently the Halliburton company's theft of $61 million (configured as a 100 percent markup price of gasoline) from the American army in Iraq.

When the two sections of the transcontinental railroad were joined with a golden spike in May of 1869 at Promontory Point, Utah, the patriotic ceremony in the desert (band music, red, white, and blue bunting, hats in the air) glossed over the swindling mechanics of the prototypical government cost overrun. The work was so shabby that much of it had to be replaced within a year, the railroad setting up dummy corporations that rigged the prices of reconstruction, and the bipartisan majority in Congress content to sell its ethical interest for a percentage of the gross.


Men never do evil so fully and so happily as when they do it for conscience's sake.

The War on Terror is a war against an abstract noun, as unwinnable as the wars on hunger, drugs, crime, and human nature.

General George Patton

Nobody ever won a war by caring for his wounded. He won by making the other poor SOB care for his wounded.

President George W. Bush on NBC's Meet The Press, February 8, 2004

When the United States says there will be serious consequences, and if there isn't serious consequences, it creates adverse consequences.

Senator John McCain(R., Ariz.)
"The President of the United States, I believe, would not manipulate any kind of information for political gain or otherwise."

If by now we know little else about the President of the United States (George W Bush), we know that no matter what the subject under discussion - Iraq, the budget, the environment, the distribution of tax refunds - the White House manipulates every phrase of every speech and press release to no other purpose except that of political gain.

New York Times David Brooks

"Like most of us, President Bush doesn't have the facility for perfectly expressing his situation in conversation"

Mr. Bush sees the world the way he chooses to see it, preferably in a mirror. For the first time in the country's history, this year's federal budget has been illustrated with handsome four-color photographs, twenty-seven of them of the President-at the foot of the Washington Monument, in front of the American flag, blazing a trail through the Santa Monica mountains, teaching a small child to read the alphabet.

The narcissism is hereditary, not only within the Bush family but also within the American ruling and possessing classes that over the last fifty years have come to regard themselves as virtuous as well as rich, the masters and commanders of Starship Earth. The children of fortune learn to conceive the making of foreign policy as some sort of sporting event-a nation is slave or free, north or south, Christian or Muslim, "with us or against us." They believe themselves entitled to a view from the box seats or the deck of an aircraft carrier, from which vantage point, glory be to God and the science of naval architecture, the world presents itself as object, the United States as subject.

Unlike the poor man, who must study other people's motives and desires if he hopes to gain something from them, the rich man can afford to look only at what comforts and amuses him.

The American electorate doesn't require a presidential candidate to know where to look on the map for Romania or Zanzibar. His ignorance serves as proof of virtue. The man who would be president must present himself as an innocent and clean-limbed fellow, who knows nothing of ambition, murder, cowardice, or lust, and why would such a true American take the trouble to read the history of England, India, or Japan? He never has time to listen to the whole story or read through the long list of names that he doesn't know how to pronounce; he has planes to catch and meetings to attend, and his habit of inattention remands the making of the country's foreign policy to a cadre of Wall Street bankers and corporate executives who perform the service of family lawyers doing things in the heir's name but not in his sight.

Kennedy's Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in the Vietnam War documentary The Fog of War

"In order to do good you may have to engage in evil"

The disdain for disloyal or unpatriotic fact defines the Bush Administration's approach not only to questions likely to embarrass the oil, weapons, and insurance industries but also to those that might interfere with its fanciful conceptions of war and money. The invasion of Iraq went forward with the blessing of counterfeit evidence (about the weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein's alliance with Al Qaeda), as did the passage of the Medicare prescription drug bill (the known cost of $500 billion reduced to a more convenient $400 billion); Christine Todd Whitman resigned her cabinet appointment to the Environmental Protection Agency because she couldn't stomach the White House's instructions to deny the ill effects of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; General Eric Shinseki, the Army's chief of staff, retired after telling Congress that the number of American troops required to occupy Iraq would come closer to "several hundred thousand" than to the 100,000 confidently anticipated by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Paul O'Neill was dismissed as the secretary of the treasury because he refused to say that money grows on trees.

... a society in which fewer and fewer people know how to think is probably easier to manage that one in which too many people ask too many questions ...

All governments enchanted by the story of their own magnificence fall afoul of the same stupidities-the waste of money, the misreading of foreign intelligence reports, the breakdown of interior lines of communication, the inability to see further than three feet into the future. The variable is the character and quality of the excuses.

The senior managers of the Bush Administration came to Washington knowing how to manufacture disinformation in commercial quantity; appreciative of the uses of advanced technology and familiar with the idioms of opaque abstraction ... during their years of experience in the country's corporate boardrooms and reactionary policy institutes.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld testifying before the 9/11 commission about the Iraq War, March 2004

"We're trying to explain how things are going, and they are going as they are going .... Some things are going well and some things obviously are not going well. You're going to have good days and bad days."

Though the object of being a Great Power is to be able to fight a Great War, the only way of remaining a Great Power is not to fight one.

John Kerry on his return from the Vietnam War - before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 1971

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Even in the best of times the dissenting voice doesn't attract a popular following, rarely walks on stage to the sound of warm and welcoming applause. In times of trouble the expression of contrary or unorthodox opinion comes to be confused with treason, and as a stop in the mouth of a possibly quarrelsome electorate, nothing works as well as the lollipop of a foreign war. The dodge is as old as chariots in Egypt, but ever since the September 11 attack on New York and Washington, the Bush Administration has had little else with which to demonstrate either the goodness of its heart or the worth of its existence. Let too many citizens begin to ask impertinent questions about the shambles of the federal budget or the ill-conceived occupation of Iraq, and the government sends another spokesperson to a microphone with another story about a missing nuclear bomb or a newly discovered nerve gas. Sometimes it's the director of the FBI, sometimes an unnamed source in the CIA, but always it's the same message-suspect your neighbor and watch the sky; say nothing that cannot be safely overheard; buy duct tape.

The instruction receives a high approval rating because it conforms to the character of [an American] society badly crippled by the fear of nearly everything for which it can find a foreign name. Surrounding ourselves with surveillance cameras and security checkpoints, we learn to proceed on the assumption that everybody is guilty of something-if not plotting the murder of the American Olympic team then cheating the insurance or credit-card company, lying to both the doctor and the lawyer, carrying concealed weapons or emotions. The drug companies decorate our television screens with advertisements for miraculous cures of unspecified diseases; when stopping a suburban station wagon for a minor traffic violation, the arresting officers approach with their hands on their guns, as if expecting to find somewhere in the tangle of surfboards and tennis rackets a contraband Arab or a hidden kitchen knife.

When demanding a thumbprint or a urine sample, the agents of government ask the citizenry for its trust and respect, but who in his or her right mind can trust or respect nervous bullies who make arbitrary arrests and choose to look upon the American people as probable enemies deserving of suspicion and contempt? The authorities defeat what they say is their purpose; presenting a deal similar to the one offered the luckless peasants in Vietnam (i.e., to save the village by destroying it), they suggest that we preserve our liberties by placing them in administrative detention-temporarily, of course, for our own good, and in our own best interests. But the government doesn't lightly relinquish the spoils of power seized under the pretext of apocalypse. What the government grasps, the government seeks to keep and hold, choosing to forget that the health and well-being of the American democracy depends less on the swagger of its police forces than on the capacity of its individual citizens to muster the strength of their own thought. We can't know what we're about, or whether we're telling ourselves too many lies, unless we can see and hear one another think out loud.

Harper's Magazine Richard Rosenfeld

In America today, U.S. senators from the twenty-six smallest states, representing a mere 18 percent of the nation's population, hold a majority in the United States Senate, and, therefore, under the Constitution, regardless of what the President, the House of Representatives, or even an overwhelming majority of the American people wants, nothing becomes law if those senators object.

Russian proverb

A country without its czar is like a village without its idiot.

If it is our intention to rule the world from the throne of military empire, how willing are the American people to tolerate or ignore, perhaps even to admire and applaud, the cruelties necessary to the maintenance of so great a glory? Is it possible to construct the ) moral equivalent of a toxic-waste dump in which to dispose of our sentimental squeamishness? If the government chooses to hang its prisoners by their testicles or thumbs, must the authorities in Washington anticipate objections from CBS News? From the Catholic and evangelical churches? From the Supreme Court? If so, how strong an objection, and can it be silenced with the antidote of fear? If a Marine colonel makes a mistake with an experiment involving two Syrian terrorists, a fishing boat, and a shark, will a feature editor at the Washington Post award the story seven paragraphs

... it was hard to find much deviation between the reasons given by American generals for the bombing of Iraqi civilians in Fallujah and those given by Israeli generals for bombing Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip; or to make a clear distinction between Vladimir Putin's belief that too much freedom threatens the stability of the Russian state and the Bush Administration's aversion to any and all forms of constitutional law.

Ever since its 1967 conquest of the Palestinian territories in Gaza and the West Bank, more desperately since the rising of the second intifada in September 2000, the Israeli government has been searching for new and improved techniques guaranteed to control the pestilence of a subject population. In the process it has developed lines of anesthetic reasoning, among them the theory of preemptive strike and precautionary assassination, to protect its own citizens against the pain induced by an overly active conscience. Many of the same arguments we have adopted as palliatives for our own states of anxiety, but we have yet to learn the secret of removing from the American body politic large numbers of people deemed undesirable, dangerous, or impious. The Israelis are fortunate to find every antisocial trait of character in the same enemy, and so their experiment with a wall neatly separating the just from the unjust might not prove immediately applicable to the American circumstance. Our society is too multifaceted, infiltrated by too many people of different races, colors, creeds, and sexual orientations. The work in Israel, however, deserves serious consideration and careful study. An alarming number of our most eminent political theorists and financial advisers foresee a soon arriving end not only to American democracy but also to the country's longabiding economic prosperity. If their premonitions of heavy debt and chronic unemployment prove as well founded as their own offshore bank accounts, how then do our ruling and possessing classes redistribute the presence of the no longer working poor?

Some of the more impregnable gated communities in the country's upscale suburbs already incorporate elements of medieval fortress architecture, but they don't come fully equipped with floodlights, razor wire, and readily available armored vehicles; fences along the Mexican border from California to Texas are, in places, adequate to their purpose but not suitable to the terrain along the Canadian border in Minnesota and Montana. It's conceivable that we might wish to build model communities within the United States that combine the theory of the refugee camp at Khan Younis with the design of Camps X-Ray, Romeo, and Delta.

The lessons to be learned in the Russian laboratories have to do with the problems presented by a national economy fallen into the hands of thieves. During the long siege of the Cold War, Russia bankrupted itself in the attempt to compete with America's weapons industry and thus to earn promotion to the rank of superpower and the name of hegemon. The collapse of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 put an end to Communism, and within a matter of months a new class of arriviste oligarchs, schooled by American bankers in the science of high-end swindle, privatized what remained of the national wealth. Now comes the question as to whether they can keep the rewards of their entrepreneurial enterprise. The Putin government, increasingly authoritarian in character and method, seeks to repatriate the assets lost to the private sector. The fledgling system of representative government has been canceled by a return to czarism, the news media have been brought obediently to heel, and among the richest captains of Russian industry and finance quite a few have been forced to depart for London and the French Riviera.

Thomas Jefferson

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, J but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.

London Daily Mirror published result of 2004 American presidential election under the headline

"How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb?"

The American people might be dumb, but were they also deaf and blind? Who but a lunatic or a columnist for the New York Post could fail to see President George W. Bush as a dishonest and self-glorifying braggart lost in the fog of a quack religion. Surely the facts spoke for themselves. Under a pretext demonstrably false, the man had embarked the country on a disastrous and unnecessary war, mortgaged its economic future to foreign banks, assigned the care of the natural environment to the / machinery certain to strip the land, poison the water, and pollute the air. What else did a voter need to know?

historian Gary Wills , New York Times, November 4, 2004

"Many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin's theory of evolution."

How is it moral for the President of the United States to ask a young American soldier to do him the service of dying in Fallujah in order that he might secure for himself a second term in the White House? Why is it moral to deny medical care to 40 million people who can't pay the loan-shark prices demanded by the insurance companies but to allow 12 million American families to go hungry in the winter? What is moral about an administration that never goes before a microphone to which it doesn't tell a lie?

What was known to have occurred in Florida [in 2004] - statistical anomalies, election laws configured to prevent any chance of a recount, the malfunction of easily abused voting machines, many voters denied access to the polls, large numbers of ballots spoiled or lost-and although the scraps of evidence didn't make the weight of an indictment on charges of either grand or petty larceny, they at least provided clues worthy of further investigation:

* A precinct in Franklin County, Ohio, possessed of only 638 voters awarded 4,258 votes to Bush.

* In forty-seven of the sixty-seven counties in Florida, Bush received more votes than there were registered Republicans.

* Of the 120,200,000 votes cast on Election Day roughly a third were processed by electronic voting machines supplied not by government but by private corporations, at least one of them (Diebold) controlled by a zealous partisan of the Republican Party who made no secret of his wish to bring victory home for the holidays. The software programs enjoyed the protection granted to commercial trade secrets.

* In three states that relied extensively on paper ballots (Illinois, Maine, Wisconsin) the exit polls corresponded to the final tally. In six states that relied extensively on electronic touchscreens (North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio) the discrepancy between the exit polls and the final tally invariably favored Bush.

* In ten of the eleven swing states the final result differed from the predicted result, and in each instance the shift added votes for Bush.

* Voters in six states, most particularly those in three Florida counties (Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach) reported touching the screen for Kerry and seeing their ballots marked for Bush.

* The electronic machines in Broward County began counting absentee ballots backward once they had recorded 32,000 votes; as more people voted, the official vote count went down.

* Exit polls in states equipped with verifiable paper receipts corresponded to the final tally; in states employing electronic touch screens the margin of difference between exit Ls and the final tallies was as high as 5, 7, and 9 percent.

If we know nothing else about the government now returning to office in Washington, we know that it doesn't hesitate to cheat and steal and lie. Its family values are those of the Corleone and Soprano families ...

Thorstein Veblen

The Propaganda of The Faith is quite the largest, oldest, most magnificent, most unabashed, and most lucrative enterprise in sales-publicity in all Christendom .... By contrast, the many secular adventures in salesmanship are no better than upstarts, raw recruits, late and slender capitalisations out of the ample fund of human credulity.

It's truly amazing," Waxman said, "that so many people still think that this place is on the level." He explained that ever since the Republicans gained the majority in the House in 1994, the House leadership had been changing rules-eliminating the possibility of debate when one of their own bills comes to the floor for a vote, routinely giving the Democrats as little as twelve hours to read 800 pages of small and stupefying print. No Democrats were invited to the House and Senate conference considering last year's intelligence bill; nor were any Democrats allowed to propose an amendment to the medical prescription bill. Congressional requests for information from the executive agencies of government from the Pentagon about the cost of weapons, from the justice Department with regard to its policies on torture and the detention of "enemy combatants"-may or may not receive the courtesy of a reply.

More than once while listening to the several confessions of parliamentary weakness, it occurred to me that our elected representatives of government construe themselves as having been reduced to the peonage of journalists. Dorgan had reformulated the Democratic Policy Committee to hold hearings meant to advertise the malfeasance of the Bush Administration-hearings about the subversion of the Social Security System, about the Halliburton Company's failure to account for the $10 billion that it had either stolen or buried in the deserts of Mesopotamia-but because the committee lacked subpoena power as well as legislative footing, it would depend for its effect on the whim of the news media. Would CBS News send a camera, or the New York Times a reporter? Waxman likewise presented himself as a mere gadfly, doomed to convene press conferences in the hope that somebody would accept the invitation. Markey described Congress as a "stimulus-response institution," taking its cues from the expression of public outrage that maybe could be incited by the circulation of e-mail and messages posted on the Internet. "We must capture the words," he said, "convert issues into melodrama-children dying, mothers weeping.

... the Senate Judiciary Committee briefly examine the qualifications of Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, to serve as attorney general of the United States. The nominee showed himself to be a man of little principle and less integrity, a clever eunuch in a corporate harem, grinning and self-satisfied, unwilling to give a straight answer to questions about the part he played in the drawing up of the memoranda for President Bush that referred to the Geneva Convention as "quaint" and "obsolete," and defined torture as "only physical pain of intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injuries such as death or organ failure." When asked for specific recollection of documents that the White House refused to release to the committee, he dodged behind the phrases "I don't recall I don't remember . Obviously, Senator, "his [President Bush's) priorities will become my priorities .

For everybody who can afford the price of a Harvard diploma and a pet politician, America is a very nice place to live; for people not so fortunately situated, America is fast becoming a brand name pasted on a bad movie or an empty box.

Various sets of statistics establish the exchange rate between the currencies of the private and the public good-one American adult in every five living in a state of poverty, as opposed to one in every fifteen in Italy; the quality of America's health-care services ranked thirty-seventh among the world's industrial nations; productivity per hour of work lower in the United States than in Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, and France; Europe in 2003 giving $36.5 billion to other countries in need of development money, while a third of that sum was forthcoming from the United States; the disparity in the incomes of a CEO and a common laborer standing at a ratio of 475 to 1 in America, 15 to 1 in France, 13 to 1 in Sweden. The less abstract comparisons between the standards of living show up on postcards (the look of the architecture, the taste of the food and drink, etc.), but I think it worth noting that in the arena of foreign trade the American export of advanced-technology products declined by 21 percent in 2004, as opposed to its rising export (up by 135 percent) of scrap and waste. The numbers serve as a gloss on our current accounts deficit ($164 billion) and the fall in value of the dollar over the last few years (nearly 30 percent) /hen fixed against the euro.

Edward Gibbon

The theologian may indulge the pleasing task of describing Religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity, A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption, which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings.

Mark Twain

The portrait [of God in the Old Testament] is substantially that of a man-if one can imagine a man charged and overcharged with evil impulses far beyond the human limit; a personage whom no one, perhaps, would desire to associate with now that Nero and Caligula are dead. In the Old Testament His acts expose His vindictive, unjust, ungenerous, pitiless and vengeful nature constantly. He is always punishing-punishing trifling misdeeds with thousand fold severity; punishing innocent children for the misdeeds of their parents; punishing unoffending populations for the misdeeds of their rulers; even descending to wreak bloody vengeance upon harmless calves and lambs and sheep and bullocks as punishment for inconsequential trespasses committed by their proprietors. It is perhaps the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere.

Robert Green Ingersoll

"Is there an intelligent man or woman now in the world who believes in the Garden of Eden story? If you find any man who believes it, strike his forehead and you will hear an echo. Something? is for rent."

The guarantee of terrible punishment for God's enemies, combined with the assurance of an ending both happy and profitable for God's business associates, provides the plot for the Left Behind series of neo-Christian fables (thirteen volumes, 62 million copies sold) that have risen in popularity over the last ten years in concert with the spread of fundamentalist religious beliefs and the resurrection of the militant Christ. The co-authors of the books, Tim LaHaye and Jerry P. Jenkins, tell the story of the Rapture on that marvelous and forthcoming day when the saved shall be lifted suddenly to heaven and the damned shall writhe in pain; like most of the prophets who have preceded them to the corporate skyboxes of boundless grace, they express their love of God by rejoicing in their hatred of man. Just as the Old Testament devotes many finely wrought verses to the extermination of the Midianites (also to the butchering of all the people and fatted calves in Moab), LaHaye and Jenkins give upward of eighty pages to the wholesale slaughter of apostates in Boston and Los Angeles, the words as fondly chosen as the film footage in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ or the instruments of torture in a seventeenth-century Catholic prison. The twelfth book in the series delights in the spectacle of divine retribution at the battle of Armageddon: "Their innards and entrails gushed to the desert floor, and as those around them turned to run, they too were slain, their blood pooling and rising in the unforgiving brightness of the glory of Christ."

Robert Green Ingersoll's essay "God and the Constitution"

When the theologian governed the world, it was covered with huts and hovels for the many, palaces and cathedrals for the few .... The poor were clad in rags and skins-they devoured crusts, and gnawed bones. The day of Science dawned, and... There is more of value in the brain of an average man of today-of a master-mechanic, of a chemist, of a naturalist, of an inventor, than there was in the brain of the world four hundred years ago.

These blessings did not fall from the skies. These benefits did not drop from the outstretched hands of priests. They were not found in cathedrals or behind altars-neither were they searched for with holy candles. They were not discovered by the closed eyes of prayer, nor did they come in answer to superstitious supplication. They are the children of freedom, the gifts of reason, observation and experience-and for them all, man is indebted to man.

President George W. Bush

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

... nobody took the trouble to consider the nature of the army that young Americans are now being invited to join. What is its purpose, and at whose pleasure does it serve? Judging by the uses to which the all-volunteer army has been put since it was formed in 1973, the defense of the United States ranks very low on its list of priorities. So does the business of waging foreign wars. The domestic political response to the high number of American casualties in Vietnam (57,000 killed, 153,000 wounded) forced the Pentagon to the discovery that it was best to leave the world's noblest sport to well-trained machines and randomly chosen civilians. Although paid for with public money, the Army now operates for the benefit of a primarily private interest, distributing expensive gifts to venal defense contractors, rounding up goons for the oil companies doing merger and acquisition deals in hostile environments, functioning as a prop in presidential-election campaigns, managing a large-scale public-works project that finds employment for the unemployable. The privatization of what was once a public service undoubtedly adds to the country's prestige as well as to the net worth of the consortiums that build planes that don't fly and tanks that sink in the sand, but it cannot be said to constitute a noble cause for which young Americans of any social-economic class-rich, poor, privileged, underachieving sally gladly forth to fight and die.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, November 4, 1938

... if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, then Fascism and Communism, aided, unconsciously perhaps, by old-line Tory Republicanism, will grow in strength in our land.

Umberto Eco in his essay "Ur-Fascism," published in The New York Review of Books in 1995, describes a set of axioms on which all the fascisms agree, including:

* The truth is revealed once and only once.

* Parliamentary democracy is by definition rotten because it doesn't represent the voice of the people, which is that of the sublime leader.

* Doctrine outpoints reason, and science is always suspect.

* Critical thought is the province of degenerate intellectuals, who betray the culture and subvert traditional values.

* The national identity is provided by the nation's enemies.

* Argument is tantamount to treason.

* Perpetually at war, the state must govern with the instruments / of fear.

* Citizens do not act; they play the supporting role of "the people" I in the grand opera that is the state.


The comfort of the rich rests upon an abundance of the poor.

GOP strategist Jack Burkman, September 7, 2005, about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans

I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen."

As it became increasingly evident that the storm [Katrina - New Orleans, 2005] had inflicted its heaviest damage on people who were poor, illiterate, and predominantly black, what emerged from the Mississippi mud was the ugly recognition of the United States as a society divided against itself across the frontiers of race and class. Not "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" but two nations, divisible by bank account, with liberty and justice for those able to pay the going rate for a government pimp.

The unwelcome sight evoked angry shouts of Woe from all the trumpets of the news media-outraged editorials, harsh questions from television anchorpersons ordinarily as mild as milk, a rising tide of bitter reproach from politicians both Democratic and Republican. The abrupt decline in the President's approval ratings prompted his press agents to send him on a frenzied round of image refurbishment - Mr. Bush holding a press conference to accept responsibility for the federal government's storm-related failures, Mr. Bush at the National Cathedral in Washington, declaring a "National Day of Prayer and Remembrance," Mr. Bush back again on the Gulf Coast, posed in front of the stage-lit St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, promising to do and spend "what it takes" ($100 billion, maybe $200 billion) to restore "the passionate soul" of the dead city.

If the performances weren't as uplifting as the President might have hoped, the fault possibly was to be found in his inability to hide the fact of his genuine and irritated surprise. What was everybody complaining about, for God's sake? Who didn't know that America was divided into a nation of the rich and a nation of the poor? What else had every self-respecting Republican politician

Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address

"Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem"

British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, 1987

"Who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women; there are families"?

Congressman Richard Baker (R., La.), Wall Street Journal on September 9, 2005

"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."


Not to know what happened before one was born is always to be a child.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, on NPR's Morning Edition in May 2001

"I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

Kurt Tucholsky

A country is not only what it does - it is also what it puts up with, what it tolerates.

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