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Apr-30-2009 07:32printcomments

Conservative Dilemma 4: Prelude to Regime Change in America

Some thoughts du jour.

American Gothic by Grant Wood
American Gothic by Grant Wood

(CALGARY, Alberta) - America on the world stage:

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not an isolated episode. It was the culmination of a 110-year period during which Americans overthrew fourteen governments that displeased them for various ideological, political, and economic reasons. Like each of these operations, the ‘regime change’ in Iraq seemed for a time—a very short time—to have worked. It is now clear, however, that this operation has had terrible unintended consequences. So have most of the other coups, revolutions and invasions that the United States has mounted to depose governments it feared or mistrusted.

“Throughout the twentieth century and into the beginning of the twenty-first, the United States repeatedly used its military power, and those of its clandestine services, to overthrow governments that refused to protect American interests. Each time, it cloaked its intervention in the rhetoric of national security and liberation. In most cases, however, it acted mainly for economic reasons—specifically, to establish, promote, and defend the right of Americans to do business around the world without interference.” (Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow)

In his 2005 Nobel speech English Playwright Harold Pinter said: “The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good.”

Rush Limbaugh: “America is the solution to the world’s problems. We are not the problem.”

Were Ronald Reagan and his conservative supporters unwittingly behind 9/11?

Reagan launched the complete deregulation of the airline industry. “Twenty years later, the entire air transit system had been privatized, deregulated and downsized, with the vast majority of airport security work performed by underpaid, poorly trained, non-union contractors.” Shock Doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism

American exceptionalism

“The high number of its prison inmates is exceptional. The quality of its health care is exceptionally bad. The degree of its social inequality is exceptionally acute. Public education has gone into exceptional decline. The Americanization of the Holocaust and uncritical support for Israel have demonstrated an exceptional ability to gloss over uncomfortable truths, including broad American indifference to Hitler’s genocide as it happened.” (Roger Cohen, reviewing book The Myth of American Exceptionalism.


Jared Bernstein in the preface to his book, Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed? (And Other Unsolved Economic Mysteries): “Economics has been hijacked by the rich and powerful, and it has been forged into a tool that is being used against the rest of us.”

Bob Herbert in the New York Times agrees: “Working people were not just abandoned by big business and their ideological henchmen in government, they were exploited and humiliated. They were denied the productivity gains that should have rightfully accrued to them. They were treated ruthlessly whenever they tried to organize. They were never reasonably protected against the savage dislocations caused by revolutions in technology and global trade.” (March 9, 2009)

Economist Stephen Mihm “Recessions are signal events in any modern economy. And yet remarkably, the profession of economics is quite bad at predicting them. A recent study looked at “consensus forecasts” (the predictions of large groups of economists) that were made in advance of 60 different national recessions that hit around the world in the ’90s: in 97 percent of the cases, the study found, the economists failed to predict the coming contraction a year in advance. On those rare occasions when economists did successfully predict recessions, they significantly underestimated the severity of the downturns. Worse, many of the economists failed to anticipate recessions that occurred as soon as two months later.”


David Frum, former G. W. Bush speechwriter: “Economic conservatives like me may not like it much, but for many millions of senior citizens, George Bush's most important legacy is a national prescription-drug program that relieves those over 65 of the fear that they cannot afford the medications they need.”

David Frum: “Immigration is good for America as a whole only because—and only to the extent that—it is bad for the poorest Americans. Conversely, low-skilled immigration enriches upper America, lowering the price of personal services like landscaping and restaurant meals. And by holding down wages, immigration makes the business investments of upper America more profitable.”

Benjamin Disraeli (19th century British PM): A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy.

Paul Krugman, Nobel economist, in New York Times: “When the government is run by a political party committed to the belief that government is always the problem, never the solution, that belief tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Key priorities are neglected; key functions are privatized; and key people, the competent public servants who make government work, either leave or are driven out.” September 1/08

Political scientist Michael Wolfe: “Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well. As a way of governing, conservatism is another name for disaster.”

On wealth

Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street: “The richest one percent of this country owns half our country's wealth, five trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It's BS. You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it. You've got that killer instinct. Stick around pal, I've still got a lot to teach you.”

Gordon Gekko's "Greed is good" speech was inspired by a similar speech given by Ivan Boesky at the University of California's commencement ceremony in 1986. Boesky was a Wall Street arbitrageur who paid a $100 million penalty to the SEC to settle insider trading charges later that same year. In his speech, Boesky said "Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself."

In 2003, conservative columnist David Brooks asked:

“Why don't more Americans want to distribute more wealth down to people like themselves?”

There are several answers, he said:

“People vote their aspirations.

The most telling polling result from the 2000 election was from a Time magazine survey that asked people if they are in the top 1 percent of earners. Nineteen percent of Americans say they are in the richest 1 percent and a further 20 percent expect to be someday. So right away you have 39 percent of Americans who thought that when Mr. Gore savaged a plan that favored the top 1 percent, he was taking a direct shot at them.”

“Income resentment is not a strong emotion in much of America.”

“Many Americans admire the rich.”

“Americans resent social inequality more than income inequality.”

“Americans do not see society as a layer cake, with the rich on top, the middle class beneath them and the working class and underclass at the bottom. They see society as a high school cafeteria, with their community at one table and other communities at other tables. They are pretty sure that their community is the nicest, and filled with the best people, and they have a vague pity for all those poor souls who live in New York City or California and have a lot of money but no true neighbors and no free time.”

Literature Nobelist Anatole France (1921): “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread.”

Simon-Henri Linguet, a lawyer in pre-Revolutionary France, was disbarred from practice because he was critical of both the law and property, said: “Laws are destined above all to safeguard property. Now as one can take away much more from the man who has than from the man who has not, they are obviously a guarantee accorded the rich against the poor. It is difficult to believe, and yet it is clearly demonstrable, that the laws are in some respects a conspiracy against the majority of the human race.”

Four months before the election political writer Zev Chafets asked Rush Limbaugh what his own presidential agenda would look like. A Limbaugh administration would seek to

1. Open the continental shelf to drilling. Ditto the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

2. Establish a 17 percent flat tax.

3. Privatize Social Security.

4. Give parents school vouchers to break the monopoly of public education.

6. Abandon all government policies based on the hoax of man-made global warming.

Limbaugh: “I consider myself a defender of corporate America.”

Limbaugh is especially animated by his belief in American exceptionalism. “Reagan rejected the notion among liberals and conservatives alike who, for different reasons, believed America was in a permanent state of decline,” he wrote to me in an e-mail message. “He had faith in the wisdom of the American people. . . . He knew America wasn’t perfect, but he also knew it was the most perfect of nations. Reagan was an advocate of Americanism.”

Higher education

Author and professor Camille Paglia: “My 1960s generation was far more rebellious about college as the alleged gateway to all future happiness. There's no rationale for this automatic mad funnelling of people through such an expensive process -- especially since it so often proves culturally empty. . . . [G]eneral liberal-arts education is no longer what it was, and has become a huge scam. Can anyone honestly say that humanities graduates from the elite schools, with their obscene price tags, are showing a higher level of creativity in the arts and letters or in popular culture? Absolutely not! In fact, we're seeing dwindling knowledge and declining skills."

York University Professor of Psychology Irwin Silverman (2003): “In 40 years as a university professor in Canada and the U.S., I have watched students' unremitting decline, through disuse of independent thought, judgment and personal responsibility.”

Forty-two year old freelance writer Brennan Clarke writes: “As the holder of not one but two undergraduate arts degrees…I am quickly reminded by the working world that being intelligent and capable is no longer enough. You have to do something that makes somebody money.”

On the future of America

Michael Moore: “We're plagued with an every-man-for-himself attitude. That attitude may have been good in helping us build this country and helping us become the innovators that we are. But we won't make it through the 21st century intact as a great country if we don't adopt a different ethos that says we're all in the same boat. We sink or swim together. We have to help each other.”

What goes around, comes around…

“In 1976, the year of Argentina’s coup, when thousands of young activists were snatched from their homes, the junta had full financial support from Washington (“If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.” Kissinger had said.)That year Gerald Ford was president, Dick Cheney was his chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld was his secretary of defense, and Kissinger’s executive assistant was an ambitious young man named Paul Bremer.” Shock Doctrine

Here are the other parts to this series:

The Conservative Dilemma - Political Perspective by Daniel Johnson

Conservative Dilemma 2 - Political Perspective by Daniel Johnson

The Conservative Dilemma 3 - Political perspective by Daniel Johnson


Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class—a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves—writing and trying to make the world a better place

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Vic April 30, 2009 5:48 pm (Pacific time)

Very interesting article !! Thank you for taking the time to write/complile this. I esp liked the quote from Anatole France..never read that before.

Henry Clay Ruark April 30, 2009 8:44 am (Pacific time)

To all: Some wise man once wrote: "Telling truth to power is the highest level for powerful writing".
Here we have an outstanding example: Thank you, Daniel !

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