American Culture


In a garbage dump in Haiti, people scavenge for food.

They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.

— Saint Louis Meriska of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, whose “children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day”; food prices in Haiti have spiked 45 percent since 2006; April 18.

Million pieces of direct mail sent out by credit card companies in October 2007

Million pieces sent out in February 2008

— illustration with New York Times brief about credit-card companies scaling back on direct-mail offers; April 14.

Sleep well tonight. Your National Guard is at work.

Since 1836, the National Guard has played an important role protecting our country’s freedom so American can rest easy in their homes and at work, every hour of the night and day. The Guard is vigilant and ever-alert to potential threats in every time zone across our country and around the world.

At home, the Guard stands ready to respond to earthquakes, fires, floods, blizzards, tornadoes and hurricanes, and potential terrorist attacks. Around the world, the National Guard is a force multiplier in the Global War on Terror. At the same time, the Guard is playing a key role in peace-keeping operations in places like the Sinai, Bosnia and Kosovo, while strengthening our international alliances around the globe, providing critical support for national security objectives, world peace and freedom.

Day or night, in peace and at war, your National Guard is at work — saving lives, preserving order and easing human suffering. When it comes to keeping our homeland secure, your Guard remains always ready, always there.

— from an ad for the National Guard in the April 16 New York Times; some emphasis added.

This free trade agreement is in our national interests, yet that bill is dead unless the speaker schedules a definite vote. And it’s not in our country’s interest that we stiff an ally like Colombia and that we don’t encourage our goods and services to be sold overseas. [emphasis added]

— President Bush, complaining about delays engineered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a vote for a trade deal with Colombia; April 14.

For seven long years, the president’s failed economic plan has stiffed the American people. [emphasis added]

— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reply to President Bush’s complaint; April 14.

That’s a huge issue for so many of my friends who are freshly out of graduate school. … My friends are making decisions based on the income level they need to service their debt.

— Chelsea Clinton, daughter of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, on the level of debt students incur to attend college; Jan. 5.

We are no longer satisfied with insights only into particles, or fields of force, or geometry, or even space and time. Today we demand of physics some understanding of existence itself. [emphasis added]

— a 1981 statement by physicist Dr. John A. Wheeler, who coined the term “black hole”; Dr. Wheeler died of pneumonia this week at 96.

One of the things that you’ve got to understand is that we’ve got to develop a continuity in order to relate to exacerbate those whose curiosity has not been defended, yet the information given can no longer be used as allegoric because the defendant does not use the evidence which can be substantiated by … What was the question?

— a definition of the meaning of life by 93-year-old Professor Irwin Corey, who has been on the comedy circuit for eight decades, billed as “The World’s Foremost Authority”; April 14.

I have yet to meet a teacher who thinks excluding the arts is a good idea. If you just memorize facts and figures and numbers, you’re not contributing to society. You’re a maker of widgets. [The arts] can be a divine spark that grows.

— Emil de Cou, the associate conductor for the National Symphony Orchestra, which played in a Washington, D.C., concert hall packed with 2,500 fourth-graders as part of a partnership with the Kennedy Center; April 18.

He’s a really nice guy who’s talking about really important issues and I am aware that he is African-American. But there is this fascination, mostly in the press, with certain elements of race issues that, for whatever reason, only get raised with high-profile African-Americans. Have you asked any non-African-American politicians why they are supporting Senator Obama, and if they are getting flak from their constituents for supporting Senator Obama?

— Michael A. Nutter, the mayor of Philadelphia, who is black and supports presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who is white; April 14.

They don’t really exist now. They’re just names. There has been so little activity from so many of them. SCLC rose from the dead, but we’re not so certain life has been blown into it yet. And the NAACP is vital, but they’re not doing what I’d expect.

— the Rev. C.T. Vivian, a former interim director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, on the apparent decline of the influence of decades-old civil rights organizations; April 5.

A federal district judge sentenced Samuel Israel III, co-founder of a hedge fund, the Bayou Group, now defunct, to 20 years in prison on Monday for his role in a scheme that cheated investors of more than $400 million. … She also ordered that he pay $300 million in restitution.

— from a Reuters story about “[t]he demise of Bayou, a Connecticut-based firm, [that] shook many in the hedge fund industry and led to calls for more oversight”; April 14.

Days before the collapse of Bear Stearns, the bank’s chairman, James E. Cayne, paid $25 million for a 14th-floor condo at the Plaza Hotel.

— excerpt from a New York Times story headlined “Despite Tough Times, Ultrarich Keep Spending”; April 14.

There is nothing wrong with it — it’s not illegal. But it’s ugly.

— William H. Gross, chief investment officer of the bond fund Pimco, on reports that hedge fund managers James H. Simons and George Soros each earned almost $3 billion last year; April 16. [emphasis added]

Airlines are going to add as many fees as humanly possible. They don’t need the market to approve fees like they do with fare increases. This is an easier way to get revenue … and they can be extremely lucrative.

— Michael Miller, an airline industry analyst, on the dramatic increase of fees and surcharges levied by airlines; April 9; airlines have piled on a host of new fees.

We were really motivated to try keeping up with what was going up on the fuel side. We don’t like having to do this. [emphasis added]

— Lee Macenczak, an executive vice president at Delta, on the airline’s imposition of fuel surcharges and fees; April 9.

It is not justified because they are delivering less and less service. I think it’s gratuitous. They deliver less and less value, but they are charging you more in an indirect way. You feel completely powerless.

— Sarah Cannova, 32, a District of Columbia resident with two daughters, on the airlines’ imposition of fees and surcharges; April 9.

The whole issue of opening ceremonies is a nonissue. I think it is a way of dodging what really needs to happen. … I think, unfortunately, a lot of countries say, ‘Well, if we say that we are not going to the opening ceremonies, we’ve checked the box on Tibet.’ That’s a cop out.

— Stephen J. Hadley, President Bush’s national security adviser, on reports that some foreign leaders plan to skip the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing, China; April 14.

It reminds me of the bound-foot grandmothers who performed ‘loyalty dances.’ Although the contents are different, the root cause and logic are the same.

— Dissident author Wang Lixiong, who, along with his wife, Tibetan essayist Tsering Woeser, has been under house arrest in Beijing since before the riot in Lhasa last month, on the parallels between on the Chinese government’s training of hundreds of thousands of “official cheerleaders” and events of the Cultural Revolution; April 6.

The picture of a fully clothed model which appeared in a number of U.K. tabloid newspapers can hardly be deemed to be offensive when many of those same newspapers carry pictures of topless models and adverts for sex lines, etc.

— a statement by Ryanair, a European low-cost airline historically known for provocative advertising, after the British Advertising Standards Authority, which monitors ads for taste and accuracy, complained about a “schoolgirl” ad image; April 14.

I don’t think he’s planning to do much this year. I talked to him about the bats yesterday and he said: ‘Leave them there. I don’t know if I’ll need them.’

— Sam Holman, founder of the Original Maple Bat Corp., after setting aside “12 pieces of the lightest-density wood he had” for the baseball bats he makes for former Giants slugger Barry Bonds, baseball’s career home run leader who has not yet signed to play this season; April 17.

Anna Sui delivered sweet candy stripes and sexy short-shorts this season, in her usual playful yet of-the-moment manner. With colorful punk wigs and pops of fuchsia, the collection was bright and wearable, with many Sui signature motifs: graphic prints, florals, neons, thick stripes, and layered fabrics were playful and feminine. Extravagance was in the details-mesh, sequins, bows, feathers and jewels. Puffed sleeves and high waists continued for spring, and a wide-leg white pinstripe pantsuit was elegant and sophisticated, a surprisingly tailored look for Sui. The Anna Sui girl knows how to have fun- part hipster, part fashion, she knows who she is and isn’t afraid to dress to impress.

— from the description of an Anna Sui design in Fashion Week Daily.

photo credits:

garbage dump in Haiti: Tyler Hicks, The New York Times
Irwin Corey: The Professor Irwin Corey Web site
Ryanair ad: The Sydney Morning Herald
Chelsea Clinton: Katherine Frey, The Washington Post
Anna Sui fashion model: FirstView

Quotabull is a weekly feature of Scholars & Rogues.

2 replies »

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  2. There will soon only one airline and it will be nationalized. Air travel will be available to the super-rich only. Tourism as we know it will no longer exist

    Teleconferencing will replace business travel. Grown children will have to live near their aging parents.