American Culture


Exxon Mobil is acting like a dinosaur now, not adopting to a changing environment.

— Stephen Viederman, a New York shareholder, after “Exxon Mobil’s chairman and chief executive, Rex W. Tillerson, defeated a shareholder effort … to take away one of his jobs at an annual meeting punctuated by a debate of the company’s policy toward renewable energy and global warming”; May 28.

Despite significant challenges in the U.S. market, we continue to reshape our business for long-term success. This attrition program gives us an opportunity to restructure our U.S. work force through the entry-level wage and benefit structure for new hourly employees.

— from a statement by Troy A. Clarke, the president of G.M.’s North American operations, announcing that “19,000 hourly workers — a quarter of a unionized work force that already has been drastically pared down — have accepted buyouts“; up to 16,000 of these $28-an-hour workers may be replaced by “entry-level” non-assembly workers making $14 an hour; May 30; emphasis added.

The years of keeping Saddam in a box were coming to a close. The international consensus that he be kept isolated and unarmed had eroded to the point that many critics of military action had decided the time had come again to do business with Saddam, despite his near daily attacks on our pilots, and his refusal, until his last day in power, to allow the unrestricted inspection of his arsenal. Our choice wasn’t between a benign status quo and the bloodshed of war. It was between war and a graver threat.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Not — Not our political opponents. Certainly not a disingenuous filmmaker who would — who would have us believe, my friends, who would have us believe that Saddam’s Iraq was an oasis of peace when in fact — when in fact it was a place of indescribable cruelty, torture chambers, mass graves, and prisons that destroyed the lives of the small children inside their walls.

— presidential candidate John McCain, from his address at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

World leaders are in a state of denial but their failure to act has a high cost. As Iraq and Afghanistan show, human rights problems are not isolated tragedies, but are like viruses that can infect and spread rapidly, endangering all of us.

— Irene Khan, the secretary general of Amnesty International, in a statement accompanying a report that “singled out for criticism China, the United States, and Russia and accused the European Union of complicity in the rendition of terrorism suspects”; May 28.

We cannot have a fair prosperity in isolation from a fair society. So I will continue to stand for a national health insurance. We must — We must not surrender — We must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government at every level. Let us insist on real controls over what doctors and hospitals can charge, and let us resolve that the state of a family’s health shall never depend on the size of a family’s wealth.

— Sen. Ted Kennedy, addressing the 1980 Democratic National Convention.

The economy has been taken hostage by people that took some very bad decisions. The answer is to pay as little ransom as possible to the least ill-deserving people we can find.

— Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee, whose “housing rescue plan, which has passed the House and is being massaged by the Senate Banking Committee, would let the Federal Housing Administration refinance distressed borrowers into government-guaranteed loans worth up to $300 billion”; May 19.

What we want to achieve in the health system is a higher individual responsibility, making the consumers more responsible for what they consume.

— Peter Pazitny, executive director and one of the founding partners at the Health Policy Institute in Bratislava, Slovakia, and formerly the principal adviser to the minister of health, defending the government’s decision to charge modest health-care fees; other Central European nations may follow suit; May 27.

We also said we shared the pain of the Chinese people and earthquake victims in Sichuan.

— a spokesman for Dior in Paris, who asked not to be identified because of company policy, on a Dior announcement that it would stop using actor Sharon Stone in its advertising in China after Ms. Stone’s comment that recent earthquakes in Sichuan Province were karmic retribution for Beijing’s treatment of Tibet; May 29.

[T]he public enemy of all mankind.

— description of Sharon Stone in an editorial by Xinhua, the state-run Chinese news agency; May 29.

Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House. For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew.

— White House press secretary Dana Perino, commenting on former press secretary Scott McClellan’s claims, about to be published in a book, that President Bush engaged in “self-deception,” and committed a “serious strategic blunder” in invading Iraq and decided to “to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed”; May 28; emphasis added.

This does not sound like Scott; it really doesn’t.

— former White House aide Karl Rove on Scott McClellan’s new book; May 29; emphasis added.

You’ve heard the way Scott briefed — it doesn’t sound like him.

— former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on Scott McClellan’s new book; May 29; emphasis added.

It would be an inglorious conclusion to something that has survived wars and man’s other follies. But that is the scenario we are facing: the end of guano.

— biologist Uriel de la Torre on news that the “worldwide boom in commodities … is shifting attention to guano, an organic fertilizer once found in abundance on this island and more than 20 others off the coast of Peru”; “Guano in Peru sells for about $250 a ton while fetching $500 a ton when exported to France, Israel and the United States”; May 30.

We demand that the government severely punish the killers who caused the collapse of the school building. Please, everyone sign the petition so we can find out the truth.

— Liu Lifu, a quarry worker in in Dujiangyan, China, after he grabbed the microphone at an informal gathering of parents at Juyuan Middle School and began calling for justice; his 15-year-old daughter, Liu Li, was killed along with her entire class during a biology lesson in the earthquake in Sichuan Province; May 28.

If I could just get a warm room. I could take it from there.

— Ronald Gardner, 54, an H.I.V.-positive man who said he had never before slept on the streets until Hurricane Katrina; “a survey by advocacy groups in February showed that 86 percent were from the New Orleans area. Sixty percent said they were homeless because of Hurricane Katrina, and about 30 percent said they had received rental assistance at one time from the Federal Emergency Management Agency”; May 28.

People don’t seem to realize that political committees are big businesses that are raising significant sums of money without traditional accounting and business oversight. In politics, no one wants to be a bean counter.

— Jan Baran, an election expert at the law firm Wiley Rein in Washington, in a story about a $1 million forensic audit of the National Republican Congressional Committee following the disclosure that hundreds of thousands of dollars were missing and presumed stolen by its treasurer; May 27.

One has to assume anyone buried there had some good credentials.

— Dr. Parker Pearson, a British archeologist, on research that says Stonehenge was used as a cemetery from 3,000 B. C. well into its zenith around 2,500 B.C. with up to 240 people buried there; May 29.

This is the message of the Beatles, the Dylans of the world. [Ron Paul’s message of freedom and peace is] an ancient message — it inspired people in the 60s and 70s. I want to bring back that era of magic.

— Marc Scibilia, a 21-year-old songwriter from Buffalo, N.Y., who posted a video of his Ron Paul-themed song, “Hope Anthem,” on YouTube, and this summer will lead a 28-city “Freedom Tour” featuring other musicians; May 27.

Rwanda’s economy has risen up from the genocide and prospered greatly on the backs of our women. Bringing women out of the home and fields has been essential to our rebuilding. In that process, Rwanda has changed forever. … We are becoming a nation that understands that there are huge financial benefits to equality.

— Agnes Matilda Kalibata, minister of state in charge of agriculture in Rwanda, on the revival of the nation’s economy since the genocide of 14 years ago, when 800,000 people were killed in three months; May 16.

After two days I woke up. Birds were eating my dead children. This was too much for me. I wanted to be killed. … I felt as if I was dead, too. I did not want to go on.

— Jeanette Nyirabaganwa, 39, a minority Tutsi in Rwanda; she is now “employing eight laborers, she is growing three times as much coffee as her father and husband did. They sold their poorer-quality beans for local consumption. Her finer grade is largely for export, roasted overseas and sold in coffee shops and specialty stores in cities including London, New York, Chicago and New Orleans”; May 16.

No one likes to hear that people are using their mobile phone records. It gives one the sense that Big Brother can watch you and hear you.

— Lutz Hachmeister, director of the Institute for Media Policy in Berlin, “after an admission by Deutsche Telekom that it had surreptitiously tracked thousands of phone calls to identify the source of leaks to the news media about its internal affairs”; May 27.

Presidential candidate Obama’s speech may be formulated as follows: hunger for the nation, remittances as charitable handouts and visits to Cuba as propaganda for consumerism and the unsustainable way of life behind it. I am not questioning Obama’s great intelligence, his debating skills or his work ethic. [But] I am obliged to raise a number of delicate questions.

— former president of Cuba Fidel Castro, 81, in a column he wrote for Cuban newspapers; May 26.

I really want to know how my guests view their lives, their jobs, their friends. Are they content? What are their dreams?

— Natascha Kampusch, who spent 8 1/2 years trapped in an underground cell in the home of Austrian kidnapper Wolfgang Priklopil, on her new career as a talk-show host; May 29.

I created this site as a thank you, to you, for sharing the journey with me and to invite you to continue to explore what the future will bring.

— a message from actor Tom Cruise on his newly created Web site celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film “Risky Business”; May 29.

Really, a T-shirt with your name on it? Is it so you remember or we never forget? Maybe it should be spelled backwards because we suspect that every time she looks in the mirror there’s a split second when she wonders, “Wait, who’s Sirap?”

— Elizabeth Spiridakis in her “Very” fashion column for The New York Times; May 22.

photo credits:
• Sharon Stone: The Guardian
• Patrick Pugh and Clara Gomez outside their tent at a homeless encampment under a highway overpass in New Orleans: Lee Celano, The New York Times
• Stonehenge: Ken Geiger, National Geographic
• Paris Hilton: Beretta/Sims/Karius/RexUSA

Quotabull is a weekly feature of Scholars & Rogues.

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