American Culture


You just heard a Ronald Reagan speech from a president of France. It was an almost out-of-body experience for all of us.

— Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke to a joint session of Congress, Nov. 7.

I have a partner in peace, somebody who has clear vision, basic values, who is willing to take tough positions to achieve peace. And so when you ask, am I comfortable with the Sarkozy government sending messages, you bet I’m comfortable.

— President Bush praising French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Nov. 7.

In view of everything we know now — the flawed intelligence, the miserable execution of the post-military phase — the French certainly were right.

— Rep. Tom Lantos, (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, who said that France was correct to refuse to back the war in Iraq.

This agreement is proof that by working together with our UAW partners, it is possible to find solutions that collectively benefit our employees, retirees and the company.

— Ford President and chief executive Alan Mulally after Ford agreed to a new contract with UAW that will pay “all new hires a starting rate of $14.20 an hour and a full rate of $15.34 an hour, nearly half the current level” … and will “put $13.2 billion into a new fund that will allow it to shed billions in retiree benefits.”

Our bargaining team negotiated a contract that protects wages, benefits and seniority for our active members and provides income and health care security for our retired members.

— UAW President Ron Gettelfinger on his union’s new contract with Ford.

We have nothing to do [with] where the price is today. (…) We work very hard and consciously to be sure that whatever actions we take that we are responsible do not dampen economic growth. (…) We are today not producing all our capacity because it is not needed. The demand is not there, the customers are not there.

— Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi in an interview with The Financial Times, Nov. 12.

Every little bit helps.

— President Bush, outlining a plan to temporarily halt deposits into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to hold down rising gasoline costs, Nov. 13.

We are trying to minimise disruption to customers.

— a spokesman for British Airways, saying the company had insufficient crew for passenger flights, to explain the dozens of empty trans-Atlantic flights its planes made even as it added fuel surcharges to tickets; critics claimed BA made the flights solely to maintain airport landing rights; environmentalists said each empty flight emitted 1.3 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

When Bush ran for president, his slippery slogan of “compassionate conservatism” convinced many Washington journalists that he was a moderate. When he then pushed a right-wing agenda, they were stunned. They hadn’t looked hard enough at his record. Likewise, if Giuliani becomes president, he will probably emerge as an unabashed social conservative — as seen in his judicial appointments, his efforts to aid religious schools, the free hand he gives the government in fighting crime and terrorism, and an all-around authoritarian style. Let’s not get fooled again.

— Rutgers University historian David Greenberg, writing in the Oct. 28 Washington Post.

Oh father, we acknowledge our wastefulness. … But we’re doing better. And I thought it was time to acknowledge that to the creator, the provider of water and land, and to tell him that we will do better.

— Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, praying for rain with 250 others outside the Georgia Capitol to relieve a severe drought that has prompted a water war among southeastern states, Nov. 13.

Atlanta can’t spend all summer during a drought watering their lawns and flowers and then expect someone else to bail them out.

— Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, chastising Georgia for its lack of water-conservation efforts this summer.

This whole situation has been like Katrina in slow motion. It’s the same confluence of factors. There’s Mother Nature, the Army Corps of Engineers and the utter failure to plan for the growth of metro Atlanta.

— “Smart growth” advocate David Goldberg, an Atlanta writer on urban affairs, on the origins and consequences of drought in the southeastern United States.

At Yahoo, we believe in the transformative power of the Internet. That’s why we are so committed to working to support free expression and privacy around the world.

— Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang after the company “settled a lawsuit with the families of imprisoned journalist Shi Tao and political dissident Wang Xiaoning, both of whom were given 10-year sentences after the Internet company turned over information—from personal e-mails and anonymous posts on Yahoo message boards—to the Chinese government.” No dollar amounts were disclosed.

The Internet is a place where haters can roam free, where psychopaths run free, and threaten lives. I’ve never had my life threatened, but I’m getting death threats now.

— Chris Crocker, the notorious “Crying Britney Fan,” in an MSNBC interview.

Where do parents get a lot of their information? If you are a desperate parent at 10 or 11 o’clock at night on a Saturday and your kid has a cold, what do you do? You go to the drugstore and see all this stuff on the shelves with pictures of babies and assume it must work.

— Wayne R. Snodgrass, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch, who joined “a campaign that led an expert panel of the Food and Drug Administration to conclude [earlier this month] that [certain cold medication] products should not be used in children younger than 6, shocking many parents and setting up a possible clash between the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry, which is vowing to continue selling the products.”

Last year, the state controller was murdered by her husband, Clark County commissioners were convicted in a strip club bribery scandal and a candidate for governor was accused, although never charged, of getting grabby with a cocktail waitress after drinks at a seafood joint.

Really, it’s not always like that.

— lede to a Nov. 14 Las Vegas Sun story about how Nevada government works on the eve of a national presidential candidates’ debate.

The new GT2 is the fastest and most powerful production road Porsche 911 ever, with a top speed just over 200 mph. Vastly lighter than the 911 Turbo after dropping from all-wheel-drive to rear-wheel drive, loads more powerful and efficient thanks to twin turbos and clever intake manifold innovations, and more racetrack-ready than ever before: the 2008 911 GT2 will be showcased in a few days at the LA Auto show, and it’s a beauty. In fact, it’s the fastest and most powerful production road Porsche 911 the company has ever homologated for the road, belting out a stern 530 rear-wheel drive horses, hitting 100 kmh in a mere 3.7 seconds and topping out at an eye-widening 329 kmh (or just over 200 mph).

— from a review of the 2008 Porche 911 GT2.

Looking for someone to curate your life? Need a personal concierge whose expertise is not picking up dry-cleaning but helping chose your wardrobe, your tastes, your friends? Ms. Storr calls herself a personal manager, but her duties go far beyond that. Her clients, all of them men, pay monthly fees of $4,000 to $10,000 to have her be their personal decider in nearly all things lifestyle-related.

— from a Nov. 8 New York Times story about personal manager Allison Storr, whose “clients are single and too preoccupied with work to organize their personal lives.”

… $66.95 for a sirloin, $36.95 for lasagna, $18.95 for minestrone. It’s tempting to devote the rest of this review to a price list. Nothing else I can present is nearly as compelling. Besides, prices are the point of Harry Cipriani, which exists to affirm its patrons’ ability to throw away money. It’s the epitome of a restaurant whose steep tariffs justify themselves, subbing for membership dues and assuring that the spouse, in-law, client or canine psychic being treated to a $16.95 piece of chocolate cake will be impressed.

— from a Nov. 14 New York Times review of a Fifth Avenue restaurant headlined “The Gloss of Opulence.”

This is a very overt sign of the tremendous wealth that’s being created in the Middle East these days.

— Doug McVitie, managing director of Arran Aerospace, a consultancy in Dinan, France, on the purchase for $300 million of a 240-foot, double-deck, 262-foot wingspan, 560-ton Airbus A380 for personal use by Saudi Prince Walid bin Talal, the 13th-richest man in world with a worth estimated at $20.3 billion.

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed — for lack of a better word — is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms — greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed — you mark my words — will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

— corporate raider Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, in the 1987 film “Wall Street.”

In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves
reduced to I
and the whole thing
became silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to

But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove
along the shore, through the rags of fog
where we stood, saying I.

— Poet Adrienne Rich, 1991.

Quotabull is a weekly feature of Scholars & Rogues.

6 replies »

  1. That was probably the best set of quotes from Quotabull ever.

    The meaning of you, we and the reduction to I was particularly poignant.

    …if only theories of existence didn’t have to deal with the realities of human nature. Man the animal is still paramount.

    The yahoo one sickened me. I understand giving no privacy to criminals and illegal porn consumers and producers but the platform for handing over individuals who espouse freedom to a corrupt dictatorship I cannot fathom.

  2. An interesting alliance has been formed between those who think that Gekko was right and the purported Xians of the Fundament, the sacred texts of which disdain material possessions and describe the love of money as the root of all evil. Paging Dr. Faustus.

  3. At the risk of incurring Sam’s wrath, thanks for the Adrienne Rich quote, Denny. A wonderful coda to a group of quotes that had my jaw dropping again and again.