American Culture


I don’t have pet peeves. I have major, psychotic hatreds.

— George Carlin, who died early this week at age 71; June 23

At this very moment, as we sit here, women around the world are giving birth, raising children, cooking meals, washing clothes, cleaning houses, planting crops, working on assembly lines, running companies, and running countries. Women also are dying from diseases that should have been prevented or treated. They are watching their children succumb to malnutrition caused by poverty and economic deprivation. They are being denied the right to go to school by their own fathers and brothers. They are being forced into prostitution, and they are being barred from the bank lending offices and banned from the ballot box.

— excerpt from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s address to the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, China; Sept. 5, 1995.

Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.

— Will Rogers

Sen. Specter: In our initial conversation, you talked about the stability and humility in the law. Would you agree with those articulations of the principles of stare decisis, as you had contemplated them, as you said you looked for stability in the law?

Judge Roberts: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I would. I would point out that the principle goes back even farther than Cardozo and Frankfurter. Hamilton, in Federalist No. 78, said that, To avoid an arbitrary discretion in the judges, they need to be bound down by rules and precedents. So, even that far back, the founders appreciated the role of precedent in promoting evenhandedness, predictability, stability, adherence of integrity in the judicial process.

— exchange between Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., then-chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and John Roberts during confirmation hearings on Judge Roberts’ nomination to be chief justice of the United States; Sept. 13, 2005.

Since our decision in Miller, hundreds of judges have relied on the view of the Amendment we endorsed there; we ourselves affirmed it in 1980.

— from Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissent in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the U.S. Supreme Court, in throwing out a D.C. ordinance against handguns, ruled that the Constitution protects an individual’s right to have a gun; Miller was a 1939 case that directly addressed the Second Amendment; June 26; emphasis added.

You guys are great on ‘Beat the Clock.’

— an exasperated Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., as members of the House Judiciary Committee questioned David Addington, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, and John Yoo, formerly of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, on definitions of torture and executive authority; June 27.

Cities routinely build in the flood plain. That’s not an act of God; that’s an act of City Council.

— Kamyar Enshayan, a professor and director of an environmental center at the University of Northern Iowa and a Cedar Falls, Iowa, City Council member, explaining that recent Midwest flooding has more to do with human nature than nature; June 19.

The congressman’s appropriations projects are carefully vetted to ensure they are consistent with the needs and interests of his constituency, and there is no connection between his fundraising efforts and his work in Congress.

— Vincent Perez, spokesman for Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, explaining that no connection exists between a $4 million earmark for Digital Fusion and $18,000 in campaign contributions from Digital Fusion executives; The Washington Post’s Robert O’Harrow Jr. reports that “[m]ore than a year after Congress pledged to curb pork barrel funding known as earmarks, lawmakers are gearing up for another spending binge, directing billions toward organizations and companies in their home districts”; June 13.

This legislation will bring unprecedented transparency to lobbyists’ activities. On the first day of the 110th Congress, we passed a landmark rules package, and this is another important step to strengthen accountability and public trust.

— from a July 31, 2007, press release on the Senate Web site of Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, in which he announced his vote supporting the final House-Senate agreement on the Honest Leadership, Open Government Act of 2007, an act that, according to his release, would “[s]trengthen Senate Ethics Rules, similar to already enacted House Reforms: Includes a variety of changes to Senate rules, including a ban on gift and travel by lobbyists and full disclosure of earmarks.” [emphasis added]

This is a con job. It’s a diversion. These guys ought to be given a Mandrake the Magician permanent title, for pretending that this has anything to do with solving gas prices today.

— Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wisc., chairman of the Appropriations Committee, after adjourning a hearing in which, according to a story by David M. Herszenhorn of The New York Times, “he was ambushed by Republicans with an amendment to allow drilling on the outer continental shelf off both coasts”; June 27.

A two-page “survival guide” issued in 2007 to interns in Rep. Don Young’s (R–AK) office lists nine transportation lobbyists as “The A Team” and informs interns that “[t]hese people can talk to whomever they want” when phoning the office. Phone calls from other Members of Congress, however, must be directed to two Young staffers, according to the memorandum. The document is titled “The 2111”, a reference to Rep. Young’s Rayburn Office Number.

— from a report on the Web site of Taxpayers for Common Sense; June 18.

When you see a 15 percent yearly increase, that is an epidemic that is out of control. And yet we don’t see a response that recognizes it is an epidemic out of control.

— Phill Wilson, head of the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles, in a Washington Post story by David Brown reporting that “[t]he number of young homosexual men being newly diagnosed with HIV infection is rising by 12 percent a year, with the steepest upward trend in young black men” according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; June 27.

Years ago, when there was an accident or an injury, neighbors would usually come and help each other. Nowadays, there are fewer family farms and fewer children on those farms, and it’s just not as easy for neighbors to help one another anymore.

— UPS pilot Bill Gross, whose non-profit group Farm Rescue helps farmers who have suffered a major illness, injury or natural disaster; June 27.

President Bush has set forth a clear and detailed plan for making our public schools excellent, so that every child in this country can have access to a quality education. He has included in that plan not only the objectives, but the support and the flexibility that states and school districts and schools and parents need in order to reach the objective.

President Bush has assumed this as his mission — the mission that no child will be left behind. He’s made it clear that he sees the urgency involved in making our classrooms safer and equipping every child with reading and math skills, and closing the inexcusable achievement gap that exists among students attending public schools across this country — primarily among minority students and economically disadvantaged students.

— from remarks by Dr. Roderick Paige during his swearing-in as Secretary of Education; Jan. 21, 2001.

Q: Has the President ever considered an executive order that would ban torture specifically? There’s a letter out now from a bipartisan group of former Secretaries of State, including Secretary of State George Shultz, with whom the President was a couple of weeks ago, and former Defense Secretaries and military officials saying that there should be an executive order with the force of law saying that torture is unacceptable.

MS. PERINO: Well, we certainly respect the views of George Shultz. And one thing I would point to is that we have a set of laws that have been passed during this administration, and an executive order, in fact. There was the Detainee Treatment Act, there was the Military Commissions Act, and then there was the President’s executive order interpreting Common Article 3.

So we feel like we have taken steps to address that issue. And I would also point out that we face a very different enemy today than America has ever faced before. We face an enemy that respects no borders, respects no uniforms, and certainly has no regard for civilians, especially innocent women and children and the elderly. So we take his position seriously, but we do think that we have the mechanisms in place to address the issue.

— exchange between reporter and press secretary Dana Perino at a White House press briefing; June 25.

I am shocked. I think all this is a provocation. If I get punished, I’ll quit training and do something else.

— Bulgarian weightlifter Ivan Stoitsov, who took two gold medals at last year’s world championships, after he and 10 teammates — seven men and three women — tested positive for the banned anabolic substance methandienon; Bulgaria withdrew its weightlifting team from the Olympics; June 27.

[W]e are making broad and dramatic progress against corporate fraud in America. We’re defending our free enterprise system against corruption and crime. And we’re beginning a new era of corporate integrity. Corporate responsibility is essential to America. It’s essential to shareholders. It is essential to investors.

— President Bush, unveiling a Corporate Fraud Task Force at the White House-sponsored Corporate Fraud Conference on Sept. 26, 2002.

That was a complete victory for the defendants. The judicial system has become more conservative and more sensitive to economic rights and business interests. This is one of many cases that has restricted the scope of investor recovery.

— Georgetown University law professor Donald C. Langevoort, commenting on the Supreme Court’s decision in Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta that “strictly limited the ability of investors who lost money through corporate fraud to sue other businesses that may have helped facilitate the crime”; Jan. 16.

There isn’t a lot of latitude these days to indulge controversy or ideas in fashion, and so even Miuccia Prada in her strong collection seemed far less intent than usual on engaging in what Carlo Antonelli, the editor of Italian Rolling Stone, termed “the discourse about gender.” In other words, Prada ditched the peplums and other feminizing elements of her last, determinedly noncommercial collection and sent out a tightly organized presentation that combined elements of sports and formal wear and that eroticized men without rendering them drones.

— from a review of the Milan Fashion Week by Guy Trebay of The New York Times; June 26.

I have a million children.

— Kermit Love, the creator of many “Sesame Street” characters including Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, who died this week at 91; June 26.

photo credits:

• George Carlin: HBO promotional photo via Associated Press
• Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack O’Bama at “unity” rally: Jim Bourg, Reuters

• Rep. Silvestre Reyes: Rep. Reyes’ Senate Web site
• male model at Milan Fashion Week: Matteo Bazzi, EPA

Quotabull is a weekly feature of Scholars & Rogues.

6 replies »

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  2. I’ve got to highlight that article about David Addington and John Yoo’s testimony on torture. In order to get the full effect, though, you should watch the squirming:

  3. Supreme Court’s decision in Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta that “strictly limited the ability of investors who lost money through corporate fraud to sue other businesses that may have helped facilitate the crime.”

    There must be a way to make us immune to all this immunity.

  4. And all of this underlines the following question:

    Why does Yoo have a job at Berkeley and likewise for Feith at Georgetown?

    Whenever, wherever genocide occurs it does so under the watch of those willing to provide intellectual cover for its perpetrators. There are many such in our midst such as these two. Another prime example is Jared Taylor (

    Russ said: “There must be a way to make us immune to all this immunity.”

    That pretty much sums it up. I propose that the way to expose these bastards is to use modern developments in social networking theory. Someone should embark on a project to classify and categorize this nest of bigots and the web relationships they share with so called “mainstream organizations” and those who facilitate the sanitization of their views for mass consumption (e.g. David Brooks)

    The best immunity from infection is sunlight.