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Aldems' Political Quotations: Apt & Otherwise

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by measureless cubits, set up where your green fields of England are furnace-burnt into the likeness of the plain of Dura; this idol, forbidden to us, first of all idols, by your own Master and faith; forbidden to us also by every human lip that has ever, in any age of people, been accounted of as able to speak according to the purposes of God. Continue to make that forbidden deity your principal one, and soon no more art, no more science, no more pleasure will be possible."
       -- John Ruskin,
Traffic (1864)

    "You will tell me I need not preach against these things, for I cannot mend them. No, good friends, I cannot: but you can, and you will; or something else can and will. Even good things have no abiding power -- and shall these evil things persist in victorious evil? All history shows, on the contrary, that to be the exact thing they never can do. Change must come: but it is ours to determine whether change of growth or change of death. Shall the Parthenon be ruins on its rock, and Bolton priory in its meadow, but these mills of yours be the consummation of the buildings of the earth, and their wheels be as the wheels of eternity? Think you that 'men may come and men may go, but mills go on forever'? Not so; out of these, better or worse shall come; and it is for you to choose which."
       -- John Ruskin,
Traffic (1864)

    "What do we, as a nation, care about books? How much do you think we spend altogether on our libraries, public or private, as compared with what we spend on our horses?"
       - John Ruskin,
Sesame and Lilies (1865)

    "A great nation [does not] send its poor little boys to jail for stealing six walnuts; and allow its bankrupts to steal their hundreds of thousands with a bow, and its bankers, rich with poor men's savings, to close their doors 'under circumstances over which they have no control', with a 'by your leave'; and large landed estates to be bought by men who have made their money by going with armed steamers up and down the China Seas, selling opium at the cannon's mouth, and altering, for the benefit of the foreign nation, the common highwayman's demand of 'your money or your life', into that of 'your money and your life'. Neither does a great nation allow the lives of its innocent poor to be parched out of them by fog fever, and rotted out of them by dunghill plague, for the sake of sixpence a life extra per week to its landlords; and then debate, with drivelling tears, and diabolical sympathies, whether it ought not piously to save, and nursingly cherish, the lives of its murderers .... And, lastly, a great nation does not mock Heaven and its Powers, by pretending belief in a revelation which asserts the love of money to be the root of all evil, and declaring, at the same time, that it is actuated, and intends to be actuated, in all chief national deeds and measures, by no other love."
       -- John Ruskin,
Sesame and Lilies (1865)

    "Borrowers are nearly always ill-spenders, and it is with lent money that all evil is mainly done and all unjust war protracted."
       -- John Ruskin,
The Crown of Wild Olive (1866)

    "The distinguishing sign of slavery is to have a price, and to be bought for it."
       -- John Ruskin,
The Crown of Wild Olive (1866)

    "Life without industry is guilt, industry without art is brutality."
       -- John Ruskin,
Lectures on Art, lecture 3 (1870).

    "The first duty of government is to see that people have food, fuel, and clothes. The second, that they have means of moral and intellectual education."
       -- John Ruskin,
Fors Claveriga, letter 67 (1876).
    "Human work must be done honourably and thoroughly, because we are now Men; whether we ever expect to be angels, or were ever slugs, being practically no matter."
       -- John Ruskin,
Fors Claveriga, letter 76 (1877)

    "Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts -- the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art."
       -- John Ruskin,
St. Mark's Rest, preface (1877).

    "Men don't and can't live by exchanging articles, but by producing them. They don't live by trade, but by work. Give up that foolish and vain title of Trades Unions; and take that of Labourers' Unions."
       -- John Ruskin,
Fors Clavigera, vol. 8 (September 29th, 1880)

    "In health of mind and body, men should see with their own eyes, hear and speak without trumpets, walk on their feet, not on wheels, and work and war with their arms, not with engine-beams, nor rifles warranted to kill twenty men at a shot before you can see them."
       -- John Ruskin,
Praeterita (1885)

    "Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who'll get the blame."
       -- Bertrand Russell

    "Next to enjoying ourselves, the next greatest pleasure consists in preventing others from enjoying themselves, or, more generally, in the acquisition of power."
       -- Bertrand Russell

    "The Republicans have a new healthcare proposal: Just say NO to illness!"
       -- Mark Russell

    "Both morally and practically, segregation is to me a basic injustice. Since I believe it to be so, I must attempt to remove it. There are three ways in which one can deal with an injustice. (a) One can accept it without protest. (b) On can seek to avoid it. (c) One can resist the injustice non-violently. To accept it is to perpetuate it."
       -- Bayard Rustin,
letter to prison warden E. G. Hagerman

    "Decide on some imperfect Somebody and you will win, because the truest truism in politics is: You can't beat Somebody with Nobody."
       -- William L. Safire

    "To 'know your place' is a good idea in politics. That is not to say 'stay in your place' or 'hang on to your place', because ambition or boredom may dictate upward or downward mobility, but a sense of place -- a feel for one's own position in the control room--is useful in gauging what you should try to do."
       -- William L. Safire

    "Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they've stolen."
       -- Mort Sahl

    "Many who think they are workers in politics are really merely tools."
       -- Lord Salisbury

    "A politician should have three hats. One for throwing into the ring, one for talking through, and one for pulling rabbits out of if elected."
       -- Carl Sandberg

    "I think it's about time we voted for senators with breasts. After all, we've been voting for boobs long enough."
      -- Clarie Sargent,
Arizona senatorial candidate

    "You know not the misery of sovereign power. The sword is perpetually suspended over our head, and we dread our very guards; we distrust our companions. The choice of action or of repose is no longer in their disposition. Nor is there any age or character or conduct which can protect us from the censure of envy. In thus exalting me to the throne you have doomed me to a life of cares, and to an untimely fate."
       -- Saturninus,
an unwilling usurper against the Roman emperor Probus, 279 A.D.

    "The best party is but a kind of conspiracy against the rest of the nation."
       -- George Savile, Lord Halifax

    "The people are never so perfectly backed, but that they will kick and fling if not stroked at seasonable times."
       -- George Savile, Lord Halifax

    "The Republicans may be better off without an agenda. They don't scare people."
      -- Bill Schneider,
CNN political analyst, 1999

    "When people ask me why I am running as a woman, I always answer, 'What choice do I have?'"
       -- Rep. Pat Schroader (D-CO)

    "A criminal is a person with predatory instincts without sufficient capital to form a corporation."
       -- Howard Scott

    "Wait a minute! I'm not interested in the agriculture. I want the military stuff."
       -- Senator William Lloyd Scott (R-VA),
at a Pentagon briefing

   "The White House has always attracted the mentally ill."
       -- a Secret Service Agent,
explaining the need for security

    "To be able to endure odium is the first art to be learned by those who aspire to power."
       -- Seneca

    "The difference between the men and the boys in politics is, and always has been, that the boys want to
be something, while the men want to do something,"
       -- Eric Sevareid

    "A party with one idea; but that is a noble idea the idea of equality -- the equality of all men before human tribunals and human laws."
       -- William H. Seward,
on Republicans

    "That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once: how the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it were Cain's jaw-bone, that did the first murder! It might be the pate of a politician, which this ass now o'er-reaches; one that would circumvent God, might it not?"
       -- William Shakespeare,

    "Experience suggests that the first rule of politics is never to say never. The ingenious human capacity for manoeuvre and compromise may make acceptable tomorrow what seems outrageous or impossible today.'
       -- William V. Shannon

    "New opinions often appear first as jokes and fancies, then as blasphemies and treason, then as questions open to discussion, and finally as established truths."
       -- George Bernard Shaw

    "What Englishman will give his mind to politics as long as he can afford to keep a motor car?"
       -- George Bernard Shaw

    "Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few."
       -- George Bernard Shaw

    "Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve."
       -- George Bernard Shaw

    "Political necessities sometime turn out to be political mistakes."
       -- George Bernard Shaw

    "He knows nothing, and thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career."
       -- George Bernard Shaw

    "Do not waste your time on Social Questions. What is the matter with the poor is Poverty; what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness."
       -- George Bernard Shaw

    "If absolute power corrupts absolutely, does absolute powerlessness make you pure?"
       -- Harry Shearer

    "[The word
class has] been excised from the acceptable political vocabulary, except in the limited usage of right-wingers when they accuse liberals of inciting 'class warfare' -- a charge that means it's okay for rich people to vote their economic interests but it's not all right to encourage poor people to do so."
       -- Harry Shearer

    "I learned in business that you had to be very careful when you told somebody that's working for you to do something, because the chances were very high he'd do it. In government, you don't have to worry about that."
       -- George P. Shultz

    "Democracy encourages the majority to decide things about which the majority is ignorant."
       -- John Simon

    "It is safest to be moderately base -- to be flexible in shame, and to be always ready for what is generous, good, and just, when anything is to be gained by virtue."
       -- Sydney Smith

    "The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority."
       -- Ralph W. Sockman

    "You can have power over people as long as you don't take everything away from them. But when you've robbed a man of everything, he's no longer in you power."
       -- Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

    "I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses."
       -- Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

    "You won the elections, but I won the count."
      -- Anastasio Somoza

    "It is much easier to modify an opinion if one has not already persuasively declared it."
       -- Justice David H. Souter

    "You don't tell us how to stage the news, and we don't tell you how to report it."
       -- Larry Speakes,
Reagan White House spokesman
    "I would dodge, not lie, in the national interest."
       -- Larry Speakes,
Reagan White House spokesman

    "It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything."
       -- Josef Stalin

    "Our elections are free--it's in the results where eventually we pay."
       -- Bill Stern

    "When a man dies, all his glory among men dies also."
       -- Stesichorus, Greek lyric poet, 6th Century BC

    "One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."
        -- Justice John Paul Stevens,

    "An Independent is someone who wants to take the politics out of politics."
       -- Adlai Stevenson (D-IL)

    "A politician is a person who approaches every subject with an open mouth."
      -- Adlai Stevenson (D-IL)

    "If the Republicans will stop telling lies about us, we will stop telling the truth about them."
       -- Adlai Stevenson (D-IL)

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