Bad Attitudes, a magazine of culture, politics, art, literature, 
religion & foreign affairs

The Encyclopedia of the Absurd

A certain amount of good stuff is bound to sneak into the papers in spite of the editors. Often it’s buried where you can’t find it, and so Bad Attitudes finds it for you. Most of the following essential items come from The New York Times, the only newspaper I read daily. This limits me, and I will be grateful for contributions. The email address for Bad Attitudes is at the bottom of the page.

Earlier items are stored in Archives of the Absurd. Some very ripe specimens are there, many dating back to the days when we still had an elected president.

Build It and They Will Come . . .

“The number of black men in jail or prison has grown fivefold in the past 20 years, to the point where more black men are behind bars than are enrolled in colleges or universities . . . The increase in the black male prison population coincides with the prison construction boom that began in 1980. At that time, three times more black men were enrolled in institutions of higher learning than behind bars.”

(The New York Times, August 28, 2002)

Sayings of the Chairman:
“Let One Flower Bloom”

President Bush’s late-summer economic photo op in Waco consisted of eight panels whose members represented “diverse points of view,” a White House official told The Washington Post. Questioned further, he said, “I don’t think there’s any point in picking someone who has the opposite point of view.”

(The Washington Post, August 9, 2002)

A Man Never Stands So Tall As
When He Stoops to Help a Boy

Indiana high school wrestling coach Aron Bright, explaining to the Wayne County School Board why he bit the head off a live sparrow to inspire his team: “If I can kill one sparrow, one time, and it has a positive impact on 15 kids, in my mind it’s worthwhile.”

(The Washington Post, May 5, 2002)

Ford Appears Humped

A California jury ordered Ford to pay $290,000,000 in punitive damages to the survivors of a crash that killed three when the fiberglass roof of their 1978 Bronco collapsed in a rollover. The roof featured a hollow hump to suggest a rollover bar that did not exist. The Times reports that “A Ford document called the hollow hump a ‘rollover bar appearance theme.’”

(The New York Times, August 26, 2002)

The Voice of Experience from a Certain
Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Wall Street

President George W. Bush at the Argonne National Laboratory on July 22: “My attitude on Wall Street is they’ll buy you or sell you, depending upon if it’s in their interest”

(The New York Times, July 23, 2002)

Citizen Harvey Pitt Refuses
To Think the Unthinkable

Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Harvey L. Pitt told an interviewer, “This will inevitably sound self-serving, but the fact is it is an enormous advantage to the public to have somebody who knows about the securities business and the securities law as I do, and it would be unthinkable to deprive people of my expertise.”

(The New York Times, July 18, 2002)

And Hitler Was a Victim
Of Jewish Persecution. . .

Speaking at the First Baptist Church of Pearland, Texas, on April 12, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay said God is using him to promote His “worldview” in American politics. As a result:

“They come after me like you wouldn’t believe. I’m the most investigated man in America. Especially when we impeached Bill Clinton. It was incredible . . . If I wasn’t walking with the Lord, I would have been destroyed.”

(The Washington Post, April 20, 2002)

Real Men Don’t Sit Around
Analyzing Global Warming.
Real Men Make It Happen!

Japan has built a computer twenty times faster than the fastest American machine.

Here’s how come:

“The accomplishment is also a vivid statement of contrasting scientific and technology priorities in the United States and Japan. The Japanese machine was built to analyze climate change, including global warming, as well as weather and earthquake patterns. By contrast, the United States has predominantly focused its efforts on building powerful computers for simulating weapons, while its efforts have lagged in scientific areas like climate modeling.”

(The New York Times, April 20, 2002)

I Owe My Soul To the Company Store

The Wall Street Journal reports that hundreds of big companies buy life insurance on low-paid employees without telling them, then pocket the money after the worker dies. It works as a complicated tax dodge, of course, and the companies can also borrow against the policies.

This is “known in the insurance industry as janitors insurance, or, in at least one instance, dead peasants insurance. ‘I want a summary sheet that has the dead peasants in the third column,’ one of Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.’s insurance consultants wrote in a 1996 memo.”

(The Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2002)

Takes One to Know One

Q: “Will you go on the public record and stand by a statement you made earlier this morning, which was that Sharon is a man of peace? Which some Israelis might not even agree with. Do you stand by that, that he's a man of peace, considering his record?”

A: “The President believes that Ariel Sharon is a man of peace.”

(Briefing by White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, April 11, 2002)

Salt Lake City Shows Us How to
Laissez Rouler les Bons Temps

From Betty Plott’s letter to the editor, deploring Mayor Rocky Anderson’s habit of drinking a glass of red wine with dinner once a week:

“As near as I can see it, we don’t need a little bit of beer and a little bit of wine to have a good time. All it takes is a couple of nice casseroles, some green Jell-O salad, some punch and homemade apple pie à la mode, and we can have a very nice party.” (The Salt Lake Tribune, March 10, 2002)

Authentic Hero Slain at Last,
Mourned by Authentic Moron

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Reagan’s United Nations representative: “Linguist, philosopher, poet, politician, warrior, Jonas Savimbi has admirers the world over, and I have long been one of them. He is one of the authentic heroes of our time.”

Professor Gerald J. Bender on the late philosopher-poet who plunged Angola into 27 years of civil war: “When the first Unita rep in Washington went back home, Savimbi killed him. The second guy was put under house arrest, and was later killed in a suspicious shootout. Savimbi personally beat another of his representatives, Tito Chingunji, and his wife and children to death with rifle butts.” (New York Times, March 3, 2002)

Good News for Vegan Martyrs!

“Christoph Luxenberg, a scholar of ancient Semitic languages in Germany, argues that the Koran has been misread and mistranslated for centuries ... For example, the famous passage about the 70 virgins is based on the word hur, which is an adjective in the feminine plural meaning simply ‘white.’

“Islamic tradition insists the term hur stands for ‘houri,’ which means virgin, but Mr. Luxenberg insists that this is a forced misreading of the text. In both ancient Aramaic and in at least one respected dictionary of early Arabic, hur means ‘white raisins.’” (New York Times, March 2, 2002)

It’s Because Lack of Badness
Is Remembered as Goodness

Glenn Engel, aviation analyst at Goldman, Sachs: “Southwest doesn’t offer food but in surveys it is consistently rated as serving good meals. How much can customers care about airplane food when they can’t even remember that Southwest doesn’t offer any?” (New York Times, February 10, 2002)

It’s Like Leona Helmsley Said:
Taxes are for the Little People

Stanley Works, like many other corporate patriots, is incorporating in Bermuda to avoid taxes. Their accountant, Kate Barton of Ernst & Young, describes the wrenching decision Stanley faced: “Is it the right time to be migrating a corporation’s headquarters to an offshore location? And yet, that said, we are working through a lot of companies who feel that it is, that just the improvement on earnings is powerful enough that maybe the patriotism issue needs to take a back seat to that.” (New York Times, February 18, 2002)

Man’s Ploy to Avoid Jury Duty
In Dallas Goes Horribly Wrong

Seven out of eight blacks were excluded from the jury by Dallas prosecutors in the 1986 murder trial of Thomas Miller-El, also black. The sole black jurist was selected after he told the court that the thing to do with murderers was to “pour some honey on them and stake them out over an ant bed.” (New York Times, February 13, 2002)

Ariel Sharon, Philosopher-King,
Shares Ponderings on Democracy

More than 100 Israeli army reservists are refusing to shoot into occupied homes, bulldoze houses and kill civilians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: “It will be the beginning of the end of democracy if soldiers don’t carry out the decisions of the elected government.”(New York Times, February 2, 2002)

Gun Nut? Moi?

Since January 1, Utah schools and colleges have been resisting a law that requires them to let guns in the classroom. The Republican attorney general, Mark Shurtleff, said, “People want to paint me as a gun nut. I don’t make the policy. I’m just enforcing the law ... I’m not saying we ought to arm the entire student body, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that more guns equals less crime.” (New York Times, January 25, 2002)

He Can Spell Bankruptcy, Too

Kenneth L. Lay, the fiscal fantast, wrote a note last spring to one Donald Sanders. Mr. Sanders employs a Houston financial analyst named John Olson who had been raising doubts about Mr. Lay’s company for a long time. “John Olson has been wrong about Enron for over 10 years and is still wrong,” Mr. Lay wrote. “But he is consistant.” On seeing the note Mr. Olson told his boss, “You know that I’m old and I’m worthless, but at least I can spell consistent.” (New York Times, January 21, 2002)

Punxsutawney Fights Back!

Ground Hog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, will be heavily guarded by soldiers, policemen, and bomb-sniffing dogs on February 2. “Sponsors of the annual event, which uses a groundhog to predict the weather, said that they had considered canceling it in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks but decided that the show should go on to demonstrate the nation’s resiliency.” (New York Times, January 17, 2002)

Real Men Watch TV

Ron Pobuda, 61 and divorced, just got through spending $2.3 million buying and redecorating an apartment on Central Park South. “The apartment is wired throughout for music and outfitted with televisions in every room-- four in all. When his decorator asked why one person needed so many sets, ‘I would say, “Because I’m a man,” Mr. Pobuda said. ‘That was my answer, and that was sufficient.’” (New York Times, January 6, 2002)

And to Think That All This Time
We Thought It Was Rehnquist!

“I do think, Mrs. Bush, that there was some divine guidance in the President being elected. I do.” (Mayor Rudy Giuliani on the Tim Russert show

They Say a Garlic Necklace
Works Pretty Good, Too . . .

George W. Bush to Labor Department employees on October 4, 2001: “We need to counter the shock wave of the evildoer by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates.” (White House transcript)

Simple Fisherman Explicates
Bush’s Environmental Policy

“‘It’s global warning, dude,’ said Pito Robles, 28, an auto mechanic who on Thursday was dangling his fishing line into the Hudson River near West 66th Street in Manhattan. ‘I don’t care if the whole planet burns up in a hundred years. If I can get me a fish today, it’s cool by me.’” (New York Times, December 23, 2001)

It’s Only a Short Step
To Military Tribunals

John Ashcroft: “The deeply conservative son and grandson of evangelical Christian preachers, a man so punctilious that he likes to bake chocolate chip cookies uniform enough to be stacked in a Pringles potato chip can.” (New York Times, November 18, 2001)

How Come They Get Lord Carver
And All We Get is Curtis LeMay?

Field Marshal Lord Carver, Britain’s top military man in the mid-1970s, died December 9. He once said, “The destructiveness of nuclear weapons is so great, and their use so catastrophic, that they have no military utility against a comparably equipped opponent other than the belief that they deter such an opponent from using his nuclear weapons. Therefore, their elimination would remove that justification for their retention. Their use against a nonnuclear opponent is politically and morally indefensible.”(New York Times, December 17, 2001)

You Know Who You Are!

The Human Blockhead, Melvyn Burkhart, died November 8 in Florida, aged 94. He made his living in sideshows, hammering five-inch nails up his nose. Todd Robbins, a New York magician, remembers him: “Anyone who has ever hammered a nail into his nose owes a large debt to Melvyn Burkhart.” (New York Times Magazine)

The City Water
Reeks of Chlorine

“While the Afghans have insistently denied the presence of American combat forces and the American troops have tried to hide from sight, their clandestine presence was betrayed today by a tell-tale trail of piles of plastic Poland Spring mineral water bottles in the mountains.” (New York Times, December 15, 2001)

Cops Don’t Profile People,
People Profile People

“Law enforcement officials also said that many arrests of Middle Eastern men have been made not as a result of profiling but from a flood of tips pouring in about suspicious activities. And in many cases, the focus on Arabs and Muslims simply reflects the public’s perception of where the current dangers lie.” (New York Times, November 25, 2001)

What It Means To
Be an American

“‘I don’t think it’s unpatriotic to use so much gas,’ Sue Smith said, loading her silver Chevy Tahoe with groceries. ‘It’s very patriotic. It’s our way of life.’” (New York Times, November 23, 2001)

At Least As Long As You
Don’t Leave Any Marks...

Israel’s delegate to the United Nations, Yaakov Levy, defending his country from Amnesty International charges that it violates the 1987 Convention Against Torture:

“‘A careful reading’ of the convention, Mr. Levy said, ‘clearly suggests that pain and suffering, in themselves, do not necessarily constitute torture.’” (New York Times, November 21, 2001)

Yeah, But Those Folks Are Too
Dumb To Inspect Baggage Anyway

Kenneth P. Quinn, chief lobbyist for the Aviation Security Association, reacts to the new law giving government jobs with pensions, good wages, and full benefits to airport security personnel who currently have none of those things:

“People may think the work force will transition to the federal government, but they could well be dead wrong. There are lots of folks who don’t want to work for the federal government. . .” (New York Times, November 16, 2001)

What If the Airline CEOs Had
Half The Class of Steven Brill?

“Mr. Brill declined to blame the sour advertising climate or the economic aftershocks of the terrorist attacks for the demise of his magazine, Brill’s Content. He said, ‘The current economic climate, let alone Sept. 11, is no excuse for us. If we had built a vibrant, independent, successful magazine, which is what I told the world I was going to do, we would have survived the economic climate we were in.’” (New York Times, October 16, 2001)

GOP Biggie Defines American Spirit

“‘The model of thought that says we need to go out and extend unemployment benefits and health insurance benefits and so forth is not I think one that is commensurate with the American spirit here,’ said Representative Dick Armey of Texas, the majority leader...On Friday, Congress approved the bailout for the airline industry to help it recover. The bill included a provision allowing airline executives to keep collecting their large salaries.” (New York Times, September 26, 2001)

Well, That Clears That Up!

“Suggestions of partisan influences on the Supreme Court’s ruling in last year’s presidential election are off base, Justice Clarence Thomas told a conference of federal judges and lawyers in St. Louis. ‘I think one of the ways our process is cheapened and trivialized is when it’s suggested we have sort of a way to make decisions that have more to do with politics,’ Justice Thomas said.” (New York Times, July 14, 2001)

Restoring Honor to the White House

“Elliott Abrams...was appointed to President Bush’s national security council on Thursday as director of its office for democracy, human rights and international operations...Mr. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two misdemeanor charges of withholding information from lawmakers who were investigating the Reagan administration’s clandestine efforts to support Nicaraguan contra rebels despite a Congressional ban... the White House spokesman called Mr. Abrams ‘an out-standing diplomat’ and said the president considered Mr. Abram’s legal troubles ‘a matter of the past, no worse than snorting a little coke.’” (Okay, I made the coke part up.)
(New York Times, June 30, 2001)

China Shows Mr. Bush
How a Real Man Does It

“China executed more people in the last three months than the rest of the world did in the last three years, Amnesty International reported...It said it had counted 1,781 executions..” (New York Times, July 7, 2001)


“‘We should never execute anybody who is mentally retarded,’ President Bush said, according to a transcript of the remarks provided by the White House...


“...When Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, he opposed legislation to bar executions of the mentally retarded and he maintained that position during his campaign for president. Texas has executed seven mentally retarded defendants since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.” (New York Times, June 12, 2001)

...Explained by the Great Montini

“The art of selling conservatism as compassion is taught here, a few miles from the White House, at boot camp for young conservatives who aspire to power. Class was in session...a teacher cut off a 20-year-old who was delivering a speech about taking cynicism out of politics.

“‘How do I know you are genuine?’ shouted the teacher, Mark Montini, at the Leadership Institute.

“Without hesitation, Doug Tietz, a University of Michigan junior with a pressed white shirt, a short haircut and a burning desire to be a campaign strategist, shouted back, ‘Because I appear genuine.’

“#145Exactly so.

“‘The words you say are important, but they are much less important than the visuals and the vocals,’ Mr. Montini told Mr. Tietz and seven other eager Republicans in their early 20s. He advised them to elongate words to show compassion and bite them off to show anger. He said 93 percent of the impression that any politician made on an audience came from how he looked and how he sounded---not what he said.” (New York Times, June 11, 2001)

...But Rejected by Bill Ratliff

...George W. Bush’s lieutenant governor, who took over after Mr. Bush’s levitation to the presidency and recently dropped out of the race to become the next governor of Texas. Lt. Gov. Ratliff explained that he would either have to abandon his moderate beliefs to raise money from the far right, or be badly outspent.

“He chose to do neither....‘If there was one thing my father could not tolerate, it was a hypocrite,’ recalled Mr. Ratliff...‘I think he may have ingrained that too deeply in me.’” (New York Times, June 9, 2001)

Stupid Cig Execs
Blow Billions on
Worthless Ads!!

“The fears among consumer advocates and some longtime staff members have been stoked in part by the senior staff assembled by Mr. Muris. The new head of the (Federal Trade Commission’s) consumer protection bureau, for instance, is J. Howard Beales III, an economist who has asserted that there is no link between cigarettes advertisements and smoking among teenagers.” (New York Times, June 12, 2001)

Prez Protects
Family Farms

“‘I heard somebody say, “Well, you know, the death tax doesn’t cause people to sell their farms,” Mr. Bush said from a stage set up in front of a colossal green combine. ‘I don’t know who they’re talking to in Iowa.’

“Maybe Harold and Lilla Barrett, the heads of the family whose 3,500 acres of farmland Mr. Bush was visiting. When Mr. Barrett was asked by reporters if he had ever known someone forced to sell a family farm in order to pay estate taxes, Mr. Barrett, 80, said that he had not. Mrs. Barrett added that she did not think many children these days really wanted to go into farming.” (New York Times, June 9, 2001)

(For more on this particular rural myth, see “If It Ain’t Broke, Congress Will Fix It”, in the Archives of the Absurd.)

Mister Smiley Face
Goes to Washington

New York Times reporter Frank Bruni’s June 5, 2001, interview with President George W. Bush:

Q: The Jeffords day. Was that one of your bluer days in office?

A: I haven’t had any blue days. Every day has been chipper.

Q: That was a chipper day?

A: Every day is a great day when you’re the president.

So Why Didn’t Al Gore Just Say No
Like the Birmingham Thirteen Did?

“A week after the Supreme Court ruled that federal judges in Birmingham must pay an occupational tax like other taxpayers, 13 judges are still refusing to pay that tax in Jefferson County. The judges contend that the federal judiciary should be exempt from business taxes that are efforts to regulate them. But the court ruled that the tax was an effort to raise revenue and not a regulation.” (New York Times, June 6, 2001)

The Greening of the Klan

“National Alliance stickers and pamphlets appear regularly in state trouble spots, said Ann Van Dyke (civil rights investigator for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission), along with provocations from a wide assortment of other groups seeking to exploit local frustrations. ‘Even the environmentalist Ku Klux Klan, with green stripes on their sheets,’ she said...noting that the state’s high number of waste dumps is an endless source of local fears.” (New York Times May 27, 2001)

Governor Pataki Cracks Down Hard...

“Governor George E. Pataki signed a bill yesterday that bans gifts and gratuities to juries following a case in which a wealthy defendant offered jurors $2,500 each after his acquittal...The law is a response to the case of Abe Hirschfeld, who offered checks of $2,500 last year to each of ten members of a New York City jury after they deadlocked over whether he was guilty of tax fraud.” (New York Times, Page B4, May 25, 2001)

...While in an Unrelated Development:

“A charter airline company that was awarded about $30,000 in no-bid contracts to fly Governor George E. Pataki to events throughout the state is owned by two Westchester County developers who have been big donors to Republican committees and candidates...Summit Aircraft is owned by Louis R. Cappelli and Jon L. Halpern, Westchester County developers. Over the last six years, they have given generously to various Republican state committees and to the governor through their companies.” (New York Times, Page B5, May 25, 2001)

...And in Two Other Supremely Related Developments:

“President Bush nominated Janet Rehnquist, daughter of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, to be inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. She is currently an assistant United States attorney in Virginia and was associate White House counsel under President Bush’s father. Eugene Scalia, son of Justice Antonin Scalia, was previously nominated to be solicitor of labor.” (New York Times, June 2, 2001)

Olson Never Had Sexual Relations
With That Man Either, Although Hale
May Seem to Have ‘Stiffed’ Him

“Senate Republicans said today that they would push for a final vote this week on the nomination of Theodore B. Olson as solicitor general, while Democrats said they were unsure if they had been given enough time to examine accusations that Mr. Olson had misrepresented his role in anti-Clinton activities...Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee also released documents to shed light on one of the questions raised about Mr. Olson: whether he was truthful when he said he had never been paid to represent a Clinton critic...Mr. Olson said he had never been paid for his work, which involved helping Mr. Hale deal with a Congressional subpoena...The report disclosed today concluded that Mr. Olson’s firm had sent a bill of $140,000 to Mr. Hale but had never received payment.” (New York Times May 23, 2001)

Eschew the ‘M’ Word, Too.
Remember the Sin of Onan?

“The morning devotionals are not the only sign that Ashcroft approaches religion differently from his predecessor, Janet Reno, who ran a strictly secular office...The Justice Department also issued new style guidelines for correspondence carrying Ashcroft’s signature. They forbid, among other things, the use of ‘pride,’ which the Bible calls a sin.” (Washington Post May 14, 2001)

“Justice” Nixes
Sex Slave Suit:
Hirohito Walks

“The United States is seeking dismissal of a lawsuit filed in Washington against Japan on behalf of women forced into sexual slavery during World War II. The statement prepared by the State and Justice Departments argues that when the slavery occurred, sovereigns--including the emperor of Japan--enjoyed immunity from prosecution in the United States. A lawyer for the women said that position signals that no government that forces women to be sex slaves will be prosecuted in the United States.” (New York Times, May 15, 2001)

And God Bless Us,
Each and Every Exxon

“‘The American way of life is a blessed one, and we have a bounty of resources in this country,’ said Ari Fleischer, the president’s spokesman. ‘The American people’s use of energy is a reflection of the strength of our economy, of the way of life that the American people have come to enjoy.’” (New York Times, May 11, 2001)

Crimelords Confab
In Court Cafeteria

Accused drug lord Tommy Edelin faces the death penalty for conspiring to murder 11 people in the District of Columbia. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Pfleger told the jury that “much of the testimony in the case will involve accounts of conflicts that Edelin’s group had with other organizations...One feud subsided for a while after a meeting that was arranged in the cafeteria at D.C. Superior Court, he said. ‘They do it there...because of the metal detectors. It’s the one place in the city they know they can go where nobody has a gun.’” (Washington Post, May 10, 2001)

Big Sugar Offended by
UnAmerican Subsidies

American sugar producers are protected from the free market by a government program that costs taxpayers some $2 billion a year. But now trade agreements like NAFTA could open the U.S. Market to sugar from abroad. “‘We don’t believe we ought to sacrifice the American farmer to bring in sugar that is subsidized by other governments,’ said Judy Sanchez, a spokeswoman at U.S. Sugar.” (New York Times, May 6, 2001)

I’m Terrible on Faces
But I Never Forget an Eye

New Delhi correspondent Barry Bearak: “Generally the top Taliban leaders...have banned depictions of the human form whether in photographs, films or paintings...but photographs are actually required when applying for a passport or visa, though in the case of women only the eyes are allowed to show.” (New York Times, May 6, 2001)

A:  Stuff Fairies in Lockers
Q:  What Would Jesus Do?

“A bill intended to stop bullying in public schools has stalled in the Washington state legislature, in part becaue of opposition from the Christian Coalition, which called it a gay rights measure in disguise. Under the bill, school districts would have to write antibullying policies and train teachers, students and others to help stop such harassment. The Christian group said the measure could be used to prevent students from speaking against homosexuality.” ( New York Times, May 4, 2001)

Straight Talk on Stocks

Stockholder suits have charged that many fund managers and stock underwriters have collaborated in running up the price of initial stock offerings, while making sure to sell their own shares before they tanked. “If a fund manager did not want to be a long-term investor, he would sell the stock after a few days, sometimes trading through a different firm. The practice, another money manager said, is referred to as puking a stock back to the market.” (New York Times, May 2, 2001)

One Clinton Initiative
Bush Won’t Roll Back

“Since new rules signed by President Bill Clinton went into effect at the end of 1996, welfare rolls have plummeted here and all over the state. Unlike other New York counties, Delaware County is able to offer a rare glimpse into life after welfare...

“The study found that after leaving welfare, families in the county continued to fall behind on rent. They were just as likely to have their lights shut off, almost as likely to live without a phone and more likely to have no food in the house. After welfare, survey respondents said, they were more likely to turn to a food bank, a church or friends. Or, they said, they simply ‘ate less.’

“...The median income of those who left welfare in 2000 was about $11,000, and 70 percent remained below the poverty line, a little over $14,000 for a family of three. Those who had left welfare a year earlier were slightly better off: 45 percent lived in poverty. Only half of those who had left the rolls were working at the time of the survey. Around 30 percent depended on disability benefits.” (New York Times, March 29, 2001)

A Great Newspaper Demonstrates Its
Editorial Independence, or Something

“New York Times Digital...operates The Times Company’s Internet properties, based in Manhattan. Around 70 employees were laid off in January; several found out from articles in The New York Times and on its Web site. Lisa Carparelli, a spokeswoman for The Times, said: ‘While it was an awkward and unfortunate circumstance that some of our employees learned of the news from an article in The Times before we had a chance to tell them in person, it demonstrates the editorial independence of our news-gathering operation and the objectivity with which it goes about covering itself.’” (New York Times, March 18, 2001)

In Case You’re Thinking of Going

Strictly speaking this item doesn’t belong here, not being from a newspaper. But you should know that there exists a Disney World for Dummies. It is a chapter book with 384 pages, and literally practically a gazillion words in the thing. Its full title is Walt Disney World and Orlando for Dummies.

The CIA Brings in the Grownups

The new executive director of the CIA is A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard, 64, a former Baltimore moneylender. He is a cigar-smoking soldier-sniffer who has a shooting range on his estate, trains with police SWAT teams, and practices kung fu:

“The purpose of his exercise regime was not just to stay fit, he once said, but to increase toughness and discipline. To that end, he would thrust his hands repeatedly into buckets of dried rice or absorb blows to the stomach from a heavy medicine ball...

“One former agency official said yesterday that he found it ‘absolutely astounding’ that CIA director George Tenet installed Krongard in such an important job. ‘When you meet him, he tells you to punch him in the stomach to see how tough he is,’ the former official said.” (Washington Post, March 17, 2001)

Levity Among the Lutherans

The Reverend Michael Bray of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Bowie, Maryland, runs an annual benefit banquet for imprisoned murderers, bombers, arsonists and other criminals in the anti-abortion movement:

“For example, he said, Paul Hill, convicted for the 1994 killings of a doctor who performed abortions and his escort in Florida, sent along a letter listing the ten commandments. Mr. Malvasi’s contributions to the charity auction, Mr. Bray said, included the watch he used as a timing device in a bombing attempt in the 1980s.

“‘You can understand the level of levity here,’ Mr. Bray said. He added that the items sold for amounts up to $100.” (New York Times, March 31, 2001) Opposed to Being Misled by, Let’s
Say, VISA’s 3.2% Introductory Offer

Republicans, their warm hearts keenly tuned to the anguish of the usurer, are about to make it harder for the poor to duck their debts by going bankrupt.

This, for the Party of Integrity, is elementary Morality 101. Lawful debts entered into in good faith must be paid, and that, my friend, is simply that. Well, in most cases, anyway:

“Wealthy American investors in Lloyd’s of London, the insurance concern, have managed through their lobbyists to insert a provision in the bill that would block Lloyd’s from collecting millions of dollars that the company says is owed by the Americans...

“The issue involves liabilities incurred by Lloyd’s...when it was forced to pay off claims on several disasters, like the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Investors in Lloyd’s are expected to share both its profits and its losses, but the Americans have refused to settle the debts, claiming they were misled by Lloyd’s.” (New York Times, March 13, 2001)

Same to You, God

From a Washington Post story of March 12, 2001, on Mr. Bush’s new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives: “The message for after-hours calls provides the business hours and then says, ‘May God bless you, and have a nice day.’”

Aw, I Don’t Know. I Guess My Own Personal
Victim-Philosopher Has Still Got to Be Jesus

“It is sometimes thought that we must all have some great insight into life and the intellect of the great philosophers. Obviously, it is quite important that we have people of ideas and intellect. It is awe inspiring to read the works of Gertrude Himmelfarb, Michael Novak, Michael Ledeen, Judge Bork, and others in this audience. But as much as great works of genius are necessary, they are insufficient. This is particularly so when the responses are not of the intellect. It does no good to argue ideas with those who will respond as brutes. Works of genius have often been smashed and burned, and geniuses have sometimes been treated no better.”

(From the remarks of Clarence Thomas, a U.S. Supreme Court justice, before the American Enterprise Institute, February 13, 2001. Interested parties may find the complete text at, which is not a clickable link. When the American Enterprise Institute links to Bad Attitudes, Bad Attitudes will link to them. Meanwhile, here’s a clickable link to annotated excerpts from the speech.)

Alan Greenspan Tries His Best to Say,
“You Sure Got That Right, Senator!”

(Dodd of Connecticut suggests to Greenspan of the Banks that the president’s proposed $1,600,000,000,000.00 tax cut might come too late to kick-start a faltering economy. The Federal Reserve chairman:)

“Except for the low probability that the--any recession that might occur is prolonged. It’s only under those conditions that I envisage it to be an insurance premium, in effect, because we use insurance for low-probability events and, in that regard, it would act positively. But aside from that, I have not been able to find a useful means of employing it to fend off a recession. In other words, if a recession is going to happen--and I must say to you, it’s not happened yet--it’s unlikely to be affected one way or the other by what tax policy is going to be because the determination of a trigger as to when--I shouldn’t use the word ‘trigger’--the determination of the point at which the markets determine whether we’re flattening out or stabilizing or falling, that’s way before the implementation of any tax cut I can envisage happening.” (New York Times, February 14, 2001)

Bush Recounts Re-voting Developments
In a World Totally Lacking in Standards

Bush: ...This is how I’d describe it: I’d survive any recount, I couldn’t survive any re-vote, and they were re-voting...

Q: A couple of days before that Gore had gone out and proposed a statewide recount if you wanted that...Did that cause you any concern?

Bush: I can’t even remember what it was about. It was nothing new, really...

Q: Why did you not ask for recounts of your own in different places?

Bush: Because there’s a difference between recounting and re-voting. We survived the recounts. I didn’t mind a recount.

Q: But you could have asked for a manual recount.

Bush: Because there’s no standard. The problem was that we were dealing in a standardless world. The only area where we urged and fought hard for to make sure people got their ballots counted was the overseas ballots...

(Washington Post interview with George W. Bush, in which he recalls the tumultuous days preceding his appointment to the presidency)

Bush’s Top Strategist Explains
Why His Man Lost the Election...

“Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political adviser, regrets that he allowed his boss to take a Sunday off 10 days before the election. In fact, he said, he should have added one event a day in Wisconsin and New Mexico in the closing week of the campaign, a move that he said may have averted narrow Bush defeats in those states.

“Mr. Rove also wishes that he had recognized earlier that Mr. Gore was a threat in Florida. ‘I should have shored up the ground game in Florida earlier,’ he said, citing that lapse as one of ‘a whole series of little tactical miscues.’” (New York Times, February 12, 2001)

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

“While President Bush is lobbying Congress to pass his $1.6 trillion tax cut proposal in Washington, lawmakers in his home state are struggling with budget problems that some critics are tracing to tax cuts Mr. Bush passed here as governor...

“After a legislative hearing last week on rising Medicaid costs, State Senator Chris Harris, a Republican from Arlington, criticized the tax cuts. ‘We made tax cuts because we thought we had this huge surplus,’ he said, according to the Associated Press. ‘I might have voted a little differently on all those tax cuts had I realized...’”(New York Times February 12, 2001)

Copyright © 2004 by Jerome Doolittle