This is US weapons inspector David Kay in 2004, describing Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein:
KAY: [Iraq] was really spinning into a vortex of corruption from the very top in which people were lying to Saddam, lying to each other for money; the graft and how much you could get out of the system rather than how much you could produce was a dominant issue.
This is a description of America under the rule of George W. Bush:
On Wall Street, his name is legendary. With money he had made as a lifeguard on the beaches of Long Island, he built a trading powerhouse that had prospered for more than four decades. At age 70, he had become an influential spokesman for the traders who are the hidden gears of the marketplace.
But on Thursday morning, this consummate trader, Bernard L. Madoff, was arrested at his Manhattan home by federal agents who accused him of running a multibillion-dollar fraud scheme â€” perhaps the largest in Wall Street’s history.
Regulators have not yet verified the scale of the fraud. But the criminal complaint filed against Mr. Madoff on Thursday in federal court in Manhattan reports that he estimated the losses at $50 billion.
Speaking of Madoff, here’s a repetition of my rule of thumb for US politics, since it clearly also applies to US society generally:
There’s a rule of thumb for American politics that will never steer you wrong: if the Washington press corps worships a political figure and squeaks for decades on end about how he’s a Brave Man of Honor and Wisdom, that political figure is one of the most dangerous lying scumbags on earth.