American Culture


I know that I speak for all Americans. We’ll do everything necessary to try and rebuild their lives.

— Republican presidential candidate John McCain while inspecting flooding in Columbus Junction, Iowa, a town of 1,900 people; June 20; emphasis added.

The country stands with you. We’ll do all in our power to help you.

— President Bush, addressing residents of the Gulf Coast at the end of a Rose Garden press briefing on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; Aug. 31, 2005; emphasis added.

Flood Fighter 2008, Iowa City, Iowa

— words on a T-shirt to be sold nationally by a Davenport, Iowa, business founder to aid his alma mater;, founded by University of Iowa alumnus Steve Grubbs, will donate 70 percent of gross proceeds from sales of two flood-themed T-shirts to the university’s flood relief fund; June 20.

That water’s going to come down that street and take a left turn. I don’t usually drink beer, but I’m going to sit on the porch and pop a top because I’m in for a tough road ahead. I don’t have the money to move it. I’m three months behind on my truck payments.

— Keith Abernathy of Winfield, Mo. (population about 900 people), unable to move his house trailer and facing an impending flood caused by a levee break; Malcolm Gay and Monica Davey of The New York Times reported that one of Winfield’s two levees burst, flooding 250 homes; June 20.

Pro-patient, pro-competition and pro-intellectual property.

— a description by David Reid, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s acting general counsel, of the agreement between Pfizer and Ranbaxy Laboratories, an Indian generic drug maker, that would delay Ranbaxy’s plan to market a generic version of Lipitor, the world’s best-selling medicine, until November 2011; Lipitor costs up to $3 a day, but a generic version could sell for less than a dollar, saving consumers money but eroding Pfizer’s sales ($12.7 billion in 2007) ; June 18.

We hope to see a bluer sky.

— Zhou Zhengyu, a spokesman for Beijing’s traffic committee, announcing temporary new rules that restrict owners of private cars to driving on alternate days and extend hours that public transportation operates to improve air quality for the Olympics; June 20.

Anchormen are leading men. If they made a movie about Peter Jennings, Carey Grant would have played him; Peter Falk would have played me. I’m more of a character actor who wanted the job of leading man.

— Aaron Brown, former CNN anchor ousted to make room for “rising star” Anderson Cooper, in an interview after his CNN no-compete contract restrictions expired; Mr. Brown has been teaching at Arizona State University and will join the PBS “Wide Angle” series; July 6, 2007.

And in the networks’ endless pursuit of controversy, we should ask: What is the end value — to enlighten or to profit? What is the end result — to inform or to confuse? How does the ongoing exploration for more action, more excitement, more drama serve our national search for internal peace and stability?

— former vice president Spiro T. Agnew, from his Nov. 13, 1969, speech on television news coverage in Des Moines, Iowa.

Perhaps no advancement in energy technology could mean more to America than the clean burning of coal and the capture and storage of carbon emissions.

— Republican presidential candidate John McCain, in a speech in Springfield, Mo., in which he also advocated for construction of 45 nuclear power plants in the United States by 2030; June 19.

One reason the State Department misread Vietnam so badly in the early 1960s is that the liberal experts on East Asia were purged under McCarthyism. I fear that a conversation about the sources of violence and terrorism run under the auspices of the Pentagon might be similarly misshapen.

— Hugh Gusterson, an anthropologist at George Mason University, expressing skepticism of a Pentagon effort to “recruit social scientists and direct the nation’s brainpower to combating security threats like the Chinese military, Iraq, terrorism and religious fundamentalism”; in a New York Times story by Patricia Cohen, Mr. Gusterson said the project was ““assigning the recruitment task to the agency that doesn’t know how to do this and ignoring the ones that do”; June 18.

I’d say the majority of the pictures I took for this project were early morning. No buses, no cabs, no noise. Sunrise. It was so quiet out in the morning, you could even hear birds on Michigan Avenue.

— Ray Bauzys, 51, a homeless Chicago man, was part of a 6-year-old photo project called “After Supper: Visions of My Life” in which participants were given disposable 35mm film cameras, according to a story by Chicago Sun-Times religion reporter Mike Thomas; Mr. Bauzys took the photo at left; June 20.

Whenever you get Israel and Iran within the same sentence, you have a price reaction.

— Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Ill., in a story by John Wilen of the Associated Press reporting an oil price surge following reports that “a large scale Israeli military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean early this month could been a demonstration of Jerusalem’s ability to attack Iranian nuclear facilities”; June 20.

Q: Tony, I know you’ve been asked this at least once before this morning, but can you talk a little bit more now about that New York Times report on the Israel doing a dress rehearsal for —
MR. FRATTO: I don’t have anything on that.
Q: Can you say why you can’t comment?
MR. FRATTO: It’s an — on operational matters like that I just don’t have any comment.
Q: Is Defense commenting?
MR. FRATTO: Not that I’m aware of.

— exchange between reporters and deputy press secretary Tony Fratto aboard Air Force One; June 20.

If I was black and blue, it was Gene. And if it was Fred, I didn’t have a scratch.

— dancer Cyd Charisse, explaining how her husband knew whom she had been dancing with, Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire; Ms. Charisse, “the leggy beauty whose balletic grace made her a memorable partner for Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in classic MGM musicals like ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ ‘The Band Wagon’ and ‘Brigadoon,'” died this week; June 18.

Things are getting done in days and weeks that normally take months and years. But the bottom line is there’s 141,000 cars a day that have to go someplace else right now, and that’s hard on everyone.

— Kevin Gutknecht of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, on construction progress of a new Interstate 35W freeway bridge in Minneapolis; contractors Flatiron Constructors of Longmont, Colo., and Manson Construction of Seattle stand to make an additional $27 million on the $234 million if they finish the job early; June 19.

So this morning, I ask Democratic Congressional leaders to move forward with four steps to expand American oil and gasoline production. First, we should expand American oil production by increasing access to the Outer Continental Shelf, or OCS. Experts believe that the OCS could produce about 18 billion barrels of oil. That would be enough to match America’s current oil production for almost ten years. The problem is that Congress has restricted access to key parts of the OCS since the early 1980s. Since then, advances in technology have made it possible to conduct oil exploration in the OCS that is out of sight, protects coral reefs and habitats, and protects against oil spills. With these advances — and a dramatic increase in oil prices — congressional restrictions on OCS exploration have become outdated and counterproductive.

— from a transcript of President Bush’s remarks on energy independence; June 18.

We have a solemn responsibility to care for our seas and show concern for the plant and animal life that inhabit them. Oceans bring enjoyment and prosperity to countless people, from boating and fishing, to transporting goods, to traveling the waterways. By being good stewards of the oceans, we can ensure that future generations are able to enjoy the great blessings of our natural heritage. My Administration is committed to safeguarding the oceans and ensuring effective conservation.

— from a proclamation by President Bush declaring June as National Oceans Month; June 2.

It demonstrates that the private sector is beginning to get interested in Iraq, that it recognizes the tremendous potential for Iraq to become an even more major oil supplier. That’s really a good sign, and it will be a good sign if Iraq can increase its oil production, because of course the supply and demand of oil is a major concern to all of us.

— Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Ernesto Londoño and Simone Baribeau of The Washington Post report that “Iraq is preparing to award contracts to several Western energy companies to help develop its vast oil resources, allowing them to consolidate their positions in a country that has seemed less threatening in recent months as security has improved”; June 20.

Wall Street has lost all confidence at this point. The senior managers have clearly lost confidence in the strategy and have lost confidence in Sue and Jerry, and that’s not a good thing.

— Ross Sandler, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, discussing the increasing isolation of Yahoo’s leadership team of chief executive Jerry Yang and president Susan L. Decker; according to a New York Times story by Miguel Helft, “… after Yahoo’s announcement last week that merger talks with Microsoft had ended and that the company had instead chosen to sign a search advertising partnership with its No. 1 rival, Google, three executive vice presidents, two senior vice presidents and handful of other well-regarded employees have announced their intention to leave”; June 20.

I made it just in time. They stopped serving gas at the old prices just 20 minutes after I left.

— Zhang Li, a tour guide in Gansu Province, China, after filling up his Land Rover Freelander; China, which has subsidized fuel prices to stimulate economic growth, raised prices of fuels — 16.7 percent for gasoline and 18 percent for diesel; June 20.

A decade ago the thing to deplore was the stereotyping of black models by dressing them in African-inspired clothes (or the Asian girls in kimonos). This at least gave work to minority models, but it also encouraged a Western view of African culture of the many-bangles-many-beads variety.

O.K., so fashion ain’t deep. It looks into a mirror and sees … itself. The irony in fashion is that it loves change but it can’t actually change anything. It can only reflect a change in the air. But what changes fashion? What would finally move American designers to include more black models on their runways? That 30 percent of the country is nonwhite? That black women spend $20 billion a year on clothes? That an African-American is the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party?

— from a New York Times “Critic’s Notebook” piece by Cathy Horyn on the work of fashion photographer Steven Meisel; June 19.

photo credits:

• broken levee in Meyer, Ill.: Todd Heisler, The New York Times
• Chicago River: Ray Bauzys
• Cyd Charisse in “Silk Stockings” in 1957: Warner Bros. via Reuters
• Jack Ryan drill ship: BP
• Naomi Campbell: Steven Meisel for Italian Vogue

Quotabull is a weekly feature of Scholars & Rogues.

8 replies »

  1. Pingback:
  2. Thanks for quoting from the homeless photographers article. I followed the link, read it, and viewed more of their photos.

  3. Unfortunately, there was a glitch for me at the Sun-Times site and i couldn’t view the rest of the photos…but what i saw made me think that humanity, even at its worst, is still human.

    I noticed that G.W. didn’t mention that H.W. signed the moratorium on off shore drilling. Is America really so daft? There isn’t a supply problem with the oil market. Moreover, any oil drilled in the US will still be an international commodity. If oil is at $150/bbl, it will cost the same whether it gets drilled in Kuwait or Alaska. Only if we can produce enough to significantly alter the total, world production can new drilling change the game…and i’m sure that even in that case something will happen to keep the price high.

  4. My God, I loved Cyd Charisse. The number in Singin’ in the Rain with that slinky green dress and that looooong pan up those loooong legs… whew.

    And black, brown, and curvy girls will be in demand in this country as models when that shriveled witch Anna Wintour says they are, and not before. Brava to Sozzani, whatever her motivation; Meisel’s photos are always sublime eye candy and sometimes, as in this case, much more.

  5. Now at least I won’t get as many strange looks when I mention the phrase “peak oil” in a conversation. Funny how a small jump* in oil price is enough to change attitudes so quickly.

    * its doubled recently, from around $80 to $140 for crude and in similar proportion for the gas pump price. That might not seem “small”, but (and correct me if I’m wrong) when supplies start to run out, prices increase exponentially, so on log scale a 100% increase only signals the beginning. The Saudis have long non-airconditioned nights ahead of them and so do we!

  6. Lex,

    Do you have javascript disabled. You might have an extension (if you use firefox) which disables js? I had to enable scripting on the sun-times site to see the pictures.


  7. Lex,

    There certainly is a supply problem in the oil market, along with the demand…..which may be lessening due to high prices. Although fungible, oil doesn’t cost the same whether drilled in Alaska or Kuwait as witnesed by the price spreads between the contracts at the NYMEX, ICE, and Dubai exchanges. Oil price at the well head is different in Texas than in Illinois(yes, they produce oil in Illinois), or Kuwait. Quality of oil also affects the price to a major degree. Much of the oil produced in the USA is sold for well below the spot price(or nearby futures price), as oil well operators like to lock in prices with long term contracts. It should be interesting to see when these contracts rollover reflecting the newer, higher prices, what the impact will be at the retail level. This bull market in oil has all the attributes of a classic bull market. There will be price declines sometimes in the future, because oil, like all commodities, are subject to the law that….. nothing goes up forever. One benefit of having speculators in the oil market is that they’ve allowed for the prices to have a much slower uptrend than if there was no liquidity added due to the speculators. Absent speculators, one could surmise that oil would be witheld from the market and there would be gas shortages and supply disruptions similar to the 1972-73 fiasco. Back during the Arab oil embargo, the lack of liquidity due to speculation caused a host of the aforementioned problems. With the present market system in place, such disruptions, although painful for many, still allow for oil to be obtained at the retail level.