American Culture


I think blogs are dedicated to cruelty, they’re dedicated to dishonesty, they’re dedicated to speed.

— Buzz Bissinger, author of “Friday Night Lights” and other bestsellers, castigating blogs on HBO’s “Costas Now”; May 1.

It’s one of the bigger Cadillacs. I’ve got a desk in it. It’s like an airplane. … I want them to feel that they are somebody and their congressman is somebody. And when they say, ‘This is nice,’ it feels good.

— Rep. Charles Rangell, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, describing the 17-foot-long, 300-horsepower, 2004 Cadillac DeVille he leases for for $777.54 a month; House rules permit members to lease any vehicle at taxpayer expense; May 1.

While serving as Administrator, Ms. Doan worked to strengthen GSA’s ability to respond effectively during times of emergency and make government buildings more energy efficient. The President is grateful for her service and wishes her and her family the best.

— statement from White House spokeswoman Emily A. Lawrimore about the resignation of embattled General Services Administration head Lurita Alexis Doan, criticized by Congress for mismanagement; May 1.

I have been asked by the White House to resign.

— from a voice-mail message left by GSA head Lurita Alexis Doan for a Washington Post reporter; May 1.

I’m betting we’re going to see regular under $2 a gallon again [but] what we have is volatility and the volatility may continue.

— Robert A. Lutz, vice chairman and product development chief of General Motors, explaining why GM, despite September 2005 sales of Chevy Tahoes and Suburbans and GMC Tahoes dropping 50 percent from August 2005, gas prices near or more than $3 a gallon and negative credit watches by the ratings agencies, predicts the big SUV market will perk up again soon; Oct. 4, 2005.

With rising fuel prices, a softening economy and a downward trend on current and future market demand for full-size trucks, a significant adjustment was needed to align our production with market realities.

— Troy Clarke, president of General Motors’ North American operations, after GM said that “it would slash production of big trucks and sport utility vehicles by nearly 140,000 units this year, a move that would eliminate assembly shifts at four plants and cause about 3,550 workers to be laid off”; April 29.

[Global warming is a] total crock of shit. I’m a skeptic, not a denier. Having said that, my opinion doesn’t matter. I’m motivated more by the desire to replace imported oil than by the CO2 [argument].

— Robert A. Lutz, General Motors’ vice chairman, describing his attitude toward climate change; Jan. 30.

A traffic jam in a suburb of New Delhi, India.

According to normal economic theory, and the history of oil, rising prices have two major effects. They reduce demand and they induce oil supplies. Not this time.

— Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the International Energy Agency in Paris, explaining why non-OPEC oil producers have not increased their output; April 29; emphasis added.

Deeply concerned about future energy supply, the market wants growth, growth and growth. Exxon Mobil does not offer that right now.

— Paul Sankey, an analyst with Deutsche Bank, after ExxonMobil posted its second-most profitable quarter in its history, $10.9 billion, but disappointed the market because production declined; May 1; emphasis added.

Blaming ethanol as the bad guy behind high gas and grocery bills and world food shortages could result in long-term damage. If the argument gains traction, it could impede the growth and development of other domestic alternative fuels like cellulosic ethanol that are needed to displace foreign petroleum and provide U.S. consumers with viable alternatives and an energy safety net.

— Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, waving an ear of corn and holding a box of Corn Flakes, defending corn-based ethanol, Iowa’s biggest industry, against criticism that it is responsible for food shortages and prices; Grassley is one of only two active farmers in the Senate; May 1.

A lot of lawmakers are wondering who the hell they woke up with.

— Scott Faber, vice president for federal affairs at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, comparing lawmakers to late-night revelers who are just beginning to understand the consequences of their actions, which in this case is their passage of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), which requires that 36 billion gallons of ethanol be produced by 2022; of that, 15 billon gallons would come from corn, according to The Hill newspaper; May 1.

We do conduct ourselves ethically and adhere to our responsibilities under the rules of ethics.

— Justice Department lawyer Anthony J. Coppolino, addressing a federal judge in a court hearing regarding whether Justice officials have undertaken illegal surveillance of lawyers involved in terrorism cases; April 28.

The Fed has accurately diagnosed that this is a brain tumor and responded by prescribing an aspirin. In the industry, there is a fair amount of denial. They just don’t get it. There is a calamity within the industry, and they don’t have a new script yet, so they rely on the old script, which is that regulation will raise costs. What we now see is that the unintended consequences of deregulation are worse. Their line is that regulation will cut back access to credit. That’s been their line ever since the small loan laws were adopted in the early 1900s.

— Kathleen E. Keest, a former state regulator who is now a senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, a group supporting home ownership, on attempts by the loan industry to weaken proposed new rules on mortgage lending; April 28; emphasis added.

The substantial easing of monetary policy to date, combined with ongoing measures to foster market liquidity, should help to promote moderate growth over time and to mitigate the risks to economic activity. The committee will continue to monitor economic and financial developments and will act as needed to promote sustainable economic growth and price stability.

— from a Federal Reserve statement this week announcing a cut in the federal funds rate; May 1.

We are all neighbors in a small and fragile world.

— The emir of Qatar to students at Xavier University, a $17.5 million beneficiary of the Qatar Katrina fund, on why he gave $100 million to the Gulf region after Hurricane Katrina; April 30.

No nation, no society, no community can hold its head high and claim to be part of the civilized world if it condones the practice of discriminating against one half of humanity represented by women.

— Manmohan Singh, prime minister of India, excoriating those who overtly or covertly support the widespread practice of aborting female fetuses, saying that a “patriarchal mind-set and preference for male children” has led to a “terrible onslaught on our civilization”; April 29.

Q: The New York Times has reported that over the last —

MS. PERINO: Definitely going to be a good question. (Laughter.)

Q: — over the last six years the Pentagon conducted a secret operation designed to sell the war in Iraq and the war on terror to the American people. It recruited more than 75 ex-military officers, many with financial ties to the defense industry, provided them with talking points and an extraordinary degree of access not available to ordinary members of the press, including meetings with the Secretary of Defense, and it got them higher supposedly independent military analysts by every U.S. television network. One of its participants described it —
MS. PERINO: Do you have a question?

Q: One of its participants described the program as “psyops on steroids” and others said that if they —

MS. PERINO: Is this your opinion?

Q: I’m describing the program.

MS. PERINO: What’s your question?

Q: Others said that if they departed from the Pentagon’s talking points, their access was cut off. And my question is, did the White House know about and approve of this operation?

MS. PERINO: Look, I didn’t know — look, I think that you guys should take a step back and look at this — look, DOD has made a decision, they’ve decided to stop this program. But I would say that one of the things that we try to do in the administration is get information out to a variety of people so that everybody else can call them and ask their opinion about something.

And I don’t think that that should be against the law. And I think that it’s absolutely appropriate to provide information to people who are seeking it and are going to be providing their opinions on it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those military analysts ever agreed with the administration. I think you can go back and look and think that a lot of their analysis was pretty tough on the administration. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk to people.

Q: Thank you.

— exchange between Raw Story’s Eric Brewer and press secretary Dana Perino at a White House press briefing; April 30.

I believe in democracy, but I can’t stand for someone to criticize my country using biased ways. You are wearing Chinese clothes and you are using Chinese goods.

— Minna Jia, a Chinese graduate student in political science at the University of Southern California after another Chinese student was removed from a Tibetan monk’s lecture after challenging the monk’s view of China; April 29.

Annie Leibovitz photographing Miley Cyrus.

I think it’s really artsy. It wasn’t in a skanky way. Annie took, like, a beautiful shot, and I thought that was really cool. That’s what she wanted me to do, and you can’t say no to Annie. She’s so cute. She gets this puppy-dog look and you’re like, ‘OK.’

I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen, and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about.

— Disney pop star Miley Cyrus: before, in a Vanity Fair story accompanying her barebacked photo; after, in a statement issued by her publicist; April 27; emphasis added.

[Miley] Cyrus will not be attending Friday’s red carpet event at the [Orlando, Fla,.] resort as planned, Walt Disney World spokesman Gary Buchanan said Thursday. It would have been her first public event since Vanity Fair published photos this week that have thrown her status as a role model for young girls into question.

For weeks she’d been scheduled to appear at the media party, along with dozens of other Disney Channel stars in town to film the “Disney Channel Games,” a charity competition. Buchanan did not elaborate on why Cyrus is no longer expected.

— excerpt from an Associated Press story; May 2.

I kept wondering what more I could have done. I realize I didn’t found a company or discover a new insect. I feel like it’s coming to a point where you have to do something like that to get into schools like Princeton or Stanford.

— Sam Werner of Norwalk, Conn., who had perfect SATs and was ranked third in his high-school class, after rejections from Stanford and Princeton; April 29.

[S]ometimes some of these students will denounce world hunger but be unfriendly to the homeless. They will debate environmental policy but never offer to take out the trash. They will believe vehemently in many causes but roll their eyes when reminded to be humble, to be generous and to “do what is right.” It is these people, though, who often climb America’s ladder of success. They rise to the top, partly on their own merits yet also partly on the backs of equally deserving but “nicer” people who let them steal the spotlight. Before they, or we, know it, they are the politicians and corporate executives subverting the very moral positions they espouse. They are the (frighteningly) many figureheads who purport to be leaders even as they embarrass our country and mar our history books.

— Amelia Rawls, a graduate of Princeton University and a first-year student at Yale Law School, telling her younger sister, just accepted at an Ivy League school, what the students are like; May 1; emphasis added.

President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific and said ‘mission accomplished’ for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission. And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner. And I recognize that the media is going to play this up again tomorrow, as they do every single year.

— White House press secretary Dana Perino on the impending fifth anniversary of the “Mission Accomplished” banner flown on the USS Abraham Lincoln; May 1.

photo credits:
Dana Perino: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
New Delhi traffic jam: Gurinder Osan, Associated Press
Annie Leibovitz and Miley Cyrus: Vanity Fair

Quotabull is a weekly feature of Scholars & Rogues.

4 replies »

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  2. 1: Bob Lutz is willing to bet that we’ll see $2/gal gas again. I believe I’m willing to take that bet.

    2: How many pairs of knee pads do you think Dana Perino goes through a week?

  3. Another great set of quotes. Scott Faber’s and Ms. Rawls’s are my favorites.

  4. Bob Lutz better hope that we see less than $2/gal gasoline again. His company can’t keep bleeding $3.3B/quarter forever.

    Minna Jia has a damned good point about all of us.

    A lot of voters should be wondering who the hell they woke up with. But of course, the farmers take the brunt of the blame, while the real profits from corn ethanol go to the agribusinesses. The agribusinesses fund the university research; why would they fund research on stock material that they wouldn’t benefit from?

    Rep. Rangell wants everyone in town to know that he is a pimp, player, and money-motherfucking-maker…oh wait, that’s your money. (return to “pimp”)

    Thanks, Dr. Denny, wonderful selection.