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The Quick 10: 10 Famous Comments Made By Non-U.S. Politicians

herbert We're probably all very familiar with phrases uttered by U.S. politicians that have gone down in history. The good: FDR's "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" and Teddy's "Speak softly and carry a big stick." And the bad: the elder Bush's "Read my lips: no new taxes," Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," and Senator Larry Craig's "I have a wide stance."

But the same thing happens in other countries, of course, we just don't often hear as much about them. I thought we'd check some of those out today. And, if we have any natives of those countries reading, let us know if these statements really are widely known and/or mocked.

1. Carlos Saúl Menem, the President of Argentina from 1989-1999, has a whole host of phrases. During his tenure as President, he was accused of corruption, unemployment rates soared to more than 20 percent, and Argentina entered a terrible recession. So when you consider his campaign catchphrase, "¡Síganme, no los voy a defraudar!" ("Follow me, I won't let you down!") you can see how it became the laughingstock of his Presidency (kind of like the No New Taxes debacle). He apparently was also famous for saying, "Hermanito querido"¦" which means "My dear little brother"¦". He would say it condescendingly in speeches and debates.

2. Austrian Chancellor Fred Sinowatz (his term was from 1983-1986) is often quoted tongue-in-cheek. He once said, "Ich weiß, das klingt alles sehr kompliziert...", which means, "I know, this all sounds complicated." People now use the phrase to try to hide when they don't know much about the subject. It's done ironically, though "“ as soon as you say, "I know, this all sounds complicated"¦" people immediately know you are no expert on the subject at hand. Sinowatz just recently died, actually, on August 11.

3. Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien - "I don't know... A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven."

4. "Mit Verlaub, Herr Präsident, Sie sind ein Arschloch." This was said by German foreign minister and Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer. What does it mean?

It's something we've probably all wanted to say at one point or another to at least one of our Presidents: "With all due respect, Mr. President, you are an asshole." They were having a heated debate in parliament and the President had threatened to eject him from the meeting (it's just like baseball!).

5. And yet another "No new taxes" "“esque statement: "Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten." This was said by Walter Ulbricht, a German communist politician who has held several public office roles. The translation? "No one intends to build a wall." Of course, the Berlin Wall was built a couple of months later.

chavez6. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez got his rear handed to him by Juan Carlos I of Spain last year during the Ibero-American Summit. First, he called former Prime Minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar a fascist. Then when the current Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, tried to respond during his allotted time, President Chavez kept interrupting, even when his microphone was turned off on him. Finally, Juan Carlos reached his breaking point, turned to Chavez and said, "¿Por qué no te callas?" Translation: "Why don't you shut up?"

7. Another zinger from Spain: Then-Prime Minister Felipe González was campaigning to keep his position in 1996. His opinion of his opponents were quite clear: "Aznar y Anguita son la misma mierda." You can probably figure this one out if you know how to curse in Spanish "“ "Aznar and Anguita are the same shit."

8. As current Polish President Lech KaczyÅ„ski was about to get into his car in 2002 after attending an event for the Warsaw mayoral campaign, he was stopped by a passerby. The passerby said (in Polish), "You've changed the part, you've run away like rats." The distinguished politician's response?

"Sir, piss off Sir! That's what I'll say to you."
Passerby: "Piss off sir?? Sir, you are just afraid of the truth!"
KaczyÅ„ski: "Piss off, old man!"

Ever since, the phrase "Piss off, old man!" has been seen on t-shirts, movies and cartoons "“ albeit, in a milder form for cartoons. In the Polish versions of Open Season, the Simpsons Movie and Shrek, the form, "Get lost, old man," was used.

9. At the time this quote was originated, Romanian President Traian Băsescu was the Minister of Transport. After a particularly heavy snow, numerous streets were blocked and seemingly nothing was being done about it. When asked about what measures he was taking to be more effective next time, his response was, "Iarna nu-i ca vara" - "When it's winter, it's not like summer."

trudeau10. This last one is probably my favorite. I guess, in some parts of the world, "Fuddle Duddle" is a popular euphemism for the F-Bomb. Similar to "fudge," I suppose. In 1971, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was accused of mouthing "Eff off" during a discussion at the House of Commons. Of course, the press was all over it. Trudeau denied saying it or mouthing it or anything of that nature, although admitted he may have moved his lips at the moment in question. Here's the transcript of an interview from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

Pierre Trudeau: Well what are they, lip readers or something?
Press: Did you"¦?
Pierre Trudeau: Of course I didn't say anything. I mean that's a"¦
Press: Did you mouth anything?
Pierre Trudeau: I moved my lips and I used my hands in a gesture of derision, yes. But I didn't say anything. If these guys want to read lips and they want to see something into it, you know that's their problem. I think they're very sensitive. They come in the House and they make all kinds of accusations, and because I smile at them in derision they come stomping out and what, go crying to momma or to television that they've been insulted or something?
[later in the press conference]
Pierre Trudeau: Well, it's a lie, because I didn't say anything.
Press: Sir, did you mouth it?
Pierre Trudeau: [visibly annoyed] What does "mouth" mean?
Press: Move your lips.
Pierre Trudeau: Move your lips? Yes I moved my lips!
Press: In the words you've been quoted as saying?
Pierre Trudeau: [half smile] No.
Press: (After murmurs by other press) What were you thinking"¦ when you moved your lips?
Pierre Trudeau: What is the nature of your thoughts, gentlemen, when you say "fuddle duddle" or something like that? God, you guys"¦! [walks away]

Needless to say, the press had a blast with this. When his wife became pregnant with their first child, a popular radio station declared, "Margaret Trudeau has been fuddle-duddled!"

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History
A Founder of Earth Day Looks Back on How It Began
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated

On the very first Earth Day in 1970, Denis Hayes stood on a stage in Central Park, stunned by the number of people who'd come to honor the planet. Now in his 70s, Hayes remembers it was like looking at the ocean—“you couldn’t see where the sea of people ended.” Crowd estimates reached more than a million people.

For Hayes, who is now board chair of the international Earth Day Network, it was the culmination of a year’s worth of work. As an urban ecology graduate student at Harvard University, he’d volunteered to help organize a small initiative by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson was horrified by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, and wanted to raise awareness about environmental issues by holding teaching events similar to those being held by civil rights and anti-war activists.

Senator Nelson saw a growing disconnect between the concept of progress and the idea of American well-being, Hayes tells Mental Floss. “There was a sense that America was prosperous and getting better, but at the same time, the air in the country was similar to the air today in China, Mexico City, or New Delhi," Hayes says. "Rivers were catching on fire. Lakes were unswimmable.”

Nelson's plan for these environmental teach-ins was for speakers to educate college students about environmental issues. But he had no one to organize them. So Hayes, Nelson’s sole volunteer, took control on a national level, organizing teach-ins at Harvard first and then across the U.S. Initially, the response was tepid at best. “Rather rapidly it became clear that this wasn’t a hot issue at colleges and universities in 1969,” Hayes says. “We had a war raging, and civil rights were getting very emotional after the Nixon election.”

Still, both Hayes and Nelson noticed an influx of mail to the senator's office from women with young families worried about the environment. So instead of focusing on colleges, the two decided to take a different tactic, creating events with community-based organizations across the country, Hayes says. They also decided that rather than a series of teach-ins, they'd hold a single, nationwide teach-in on the same day. They called it Earth Day, and set a date: April 22.

Hayes now had a team of young adults working for the cause, and he himself had dropped out of school to tackle it full time. Long before social media, the project began to spread virally. “It just resonated,” he says. Women and smaller environmental-advocacy groups really hooked onto the idea, and word spread by mouth and by information passing between members of the groups.

Courtesy of Denis Hayes

With the cooperation and participation of grassroots groups and volunteers across the country, and a few lawmakers who supported the initiative, Hayes’ efforts culminated in the event on April 22, 1970.

Hayes started the day in Washington, D.C., where he and the staff were based. There was a rally and protest on the National Mall, though by that point Hayes had flown to New York, where Mayor John Lindsay provided a stage in Central Park. Parts of Fifth Avenue were shut down for the events, which included Earth-oriented celebrations, protests, and speeches by celebrities. Some of those attending the event even attacked nearby cars for causing pollution. After the rally, Hayes flew to Chicago for a smaller event.

“We had a sense that it was going to be big, but when the day actually dawned, the crowds were so much bigger than anyone had experienced before,” Hayes said. The event drew grassroots activists working on a variety of issues—Agent Orange, lead paint in poor urban neighborhoods, saving the whales—and fostered a sense of unity among them.

“There were people worrying about these [environmental] issues before Earth Day, but they didn’t think they had anything in common with one another," Hayes says. "We took all those individual strands and wove them together into the fabric of modern environmentalism.”

Hayes and his team spent the summer getting tear-gassed at protests against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Nixon authorized just six days after Earth Day. But by fall, the team refocused on environmental issues—and elections. They targeted a “dirty dozen” members of Congress up for re-election who had terrible environmental records, and campaigned for candidates who championed environmental causes to run against them. They defeated seven out of 12.

“It was a very poorly funded but high-energy campaign,” Hayes says. “That sent the message to Congress that it wasn’t just a bunch of people out frolicking in the sunshine planting daisies and picking up litter. This actually had political chops.”

The early '70s became a golden age for environmental issues; momentum from the Earth Day movement spawned the creation of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Environmental Education Act (which was initially passed in 1970 and revived in 1990), and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We completely changed the framework within which America does business, more than any other period in history with the possible exception of the New Deal,” Hayes says. “But our little revolution was brought entirely from the grassroots up.”

In 1990, Hayes was at it again. He organized the first international Earth Day, with about 200 million participants across more than 140 countries. Since then it’s become a global phenomenon.

Despite its popularity, though, we still have a long way to go, even if the improvements Hayes fought for have made these issues feel more remote. Hayes noted that everything they were fighting in the '70s was something tangible—something you could see, taste, smell, or touch. Climate change can seem much less real—and harder to combat—to the average person who isn’t yet faced with its effects.

Hayes also notes that people have become more skeptical of science. “Historically, that has not been a problem in the United States. But today science is under attack.”

He warns, “This [anti-science sentiment] is something that could impoverish the next 50 generations and create really long-term devastation—that harms not only American health, but also American business, American labor, and American prospects.”

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entertainment
13 Great Jack Nicholson Quotes
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Jack Nicholson turns 81 today. Let's celebrate with some of the actor's wit and wisdom.

1. ON ADVICE

"I hate advice unless I'm giving it. I hate giving advice, because people won't take it."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

2. ON REGRETS

"Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do."

From an interview with The Talks

3. ON DEATH

"I'm Irish. I think about death all the time. Back in the days when I thought of myself as a serious academic writer, I used to think that the only real theme was a fear of death, and that all the other themes were just that same fear, translated into fear of closeness, fear of loneliness, fear of dissolving values. Then I heard old John Huston talking about death. Somebody was quizzing him about the subject, you know, and here he is with the open-heart surgery a few years ago, and the emphysema, but he's bounced back fit as a fiddle, and he's talking about theories of death, and the other fella says, 'Well, great, John, that's great ... but how am I supposed to feel about it when you pass on?' And John says, 'Just treat it as your own.' As for me, I like that line I wrote that, we used in The Border, where I said, 'I just want to do something good before I die.' Isn't that what we all want?"

From an interview with Roger Ebert

4. ON NERVES

''There's a period of time just before you start a movie when you start thinking, I don't know what in the world I'm going to do. It's free-floating anxiety. In my case, though, this is over by lunch the first day of shooting.''

From an interview with The New York Times

5. ON ACTING

"Almost anyone can give a good representative performance when you're unknown. It's just easier. The real pro game of acting is after you're known—to 'un-Jack' that character, in my case, and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific, fictional person."

From an interview with The Age

6. ON MARRIAGE

"I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I've always thought that it's counterproductive to have a theory on that. It's hard enough to get to know yourself and as most of you have probably found, once you get to know two people in tandem it's even more difficult. If it's going to be successful, it's going to have to be very specific and real and immediate so the more ideas you have about it before you start, it seems to me the less likely you are to be successful."

From an interview with About.com

7. ON LYING

“You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.”

From a 1994 interview with Vanity Fair

8. ON HIS SUNGLASSES

"They're prescription. That's why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you've experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can't look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can't emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

9. ON MISCONCEPTIONS

"I think people think I'm more physical than I am, I suppose. I'm not really confrontational. Of course, I have a temper, but that's sort of blown out of proportion."

From an interview with ESPN

10. ON DIRECTING

"I'm a different person when suddenly it's my responsibility. I'm not very inhibited in that way. I would show up [on the set of The Two Jakes] one day, and we'd scouted an orange grove and it had been cut down. You're out in the middle of nowhere and they forget to cast an actor. These are the sort of things I kind of like about directing. Of course, at the time you blow your stack a little bit. ... I'm a Roger Corman baby. Just keep rolling, baby. You've got to get something on there. Maybe it's right. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe you can fix it later. Maybe you can't. You can't imagine the things that come up when you're making a movie where you've got to adjust on the spot."

From an interview with MTV

11. ON ROGER CORMAN

"There's nobody in there, that he didn't, in the most important way support. He was my life blood to whatever I thought I was going to be as a person. And I hope he knows that this is not all hot air. I'm going to cry now."

From the documentary Corman's World

12. ON PLAYING THE JOKER

"This would be the character, whose core—while totally determinate of the part—was the least limiting of any I would ever encounter. This is a more literary way of approaching than I might have had as a kid reading the comics, but you have to get specific. ... He's not wired up the same way. This guy has survived nuclear waste immersion here. Even in my own life, people have said, 'There's nothing sacred to you in the area of humor, Jack. Sometimes, Jack, relax with the humor.' This does not apply to the Joker, in fact, just the opposite. Things even the wildest comics might be afraid to find funny: burning somebody's face into oblivion, destroying a masterpiece in a museum—a subject as an art person even made me a little scared. Not this character. And I love that."

From The Making of Batman

13. ON BASKETBALL

"I've always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn't the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. ... Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

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