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  • Friday, April 28, 2006


    The Star Spanglish Banner

    In my opinion, the only legitimate reason for anyone to be concerned about a Spanish language version of the national anthem would be if someone tried to impose the Spanish version as a replacement for, or addition to, the English version at a public event at which the national anthem would traditionally be sung.

    The Spanish version of the national anthem might get airplay on some Spanish-language radio stations. But I have seen no evidence of anyone trying to "impose" the Spanish version on the nation. The only events at which the national anthem is commonly sung are sports events. At Olympic medal ceremonies, only the music is played without lyrics.

    Until someone demands the national anthem be sung in Spanish at a sports event or at some government meeting, then I see no reason to be concerned. I have not heard anyone even suggest there should be some official or publicly recognized parity between the English and Spanish versions of the national anthem. Unless and until this happens, then I view the condemnations of the Spanish version of the national anthem to be nothing but raw prejudice and hatred. It is simply people seeking to repress something for the sole reason that they are "horrified" at the thought of it. In my opinion, that is not a legitimate reason to condemn or try to repress something or someone.


    Belated Dimwit of the Day Award (c) Goes to Keith Hernandez

    Former MVP first baseman and current New York Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez said women "don't belong in the dugout" when he spotted 33-year-old Kelly Calabrese, the Padres' full-time massage therapist, high-fiving Mike Piazza in the dugout after he hit a home run during New York's 8-1 victory Saturday in San Diego.

    After Hernandez found out later in the broadcast that Calabrese was with the Padres training staff, he repeated that she shouldn't have been there. "I won't say that women belong in the kitchen, but they don't belong in the dugout," he said.

    Hernandez, a former Mets star, then laughed and said: "You know I am only teasing. I love you gals out there — always have."

    This event prompted the following item in The Onion News:

    Keith Hernandez Narrowing Down List Of Places Women Do And Don't

    April 27, 2006
    Issue 42•17

    NEW YORK—Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez, the subject of recent
    controversy after remarking that women "don't belong in the dugout," called a
    press conference yesterday to further explain places where he believes women do
    or do not belong. "While I still do not believe that women belong in dugouts,
    locker rooms, and many other locations, I believe women do in fact belong in
    certain other places," Hernandez said. "For instance, they belong in
    souvenir kiosks, reception areas, certain places in the press box, and even
    limited locations in large board rooms. That's not to say that I think they
    belong only in the kitchen or bedroom, regardless of where they're best suited
    to be. I just don't think they should be in the dugout." Although he was not
    specifically asked, Hernandez also took time to speak at length as to what he
    believed was the proper place for society's Hispanics.

    Thursday, April 27, 2006


    Traveler's Advisory - Radisson Harbor View Hotel in San Diego, California - Do Not Stay!

    If anyone is planning to stay in San Diego or planning a meeting or event in San Diego, I am certain there are many high quality hotels available.

    In my opinion, the Radisson Harbor View Hotel on 1646 Front Street in San Diego is most assuredly NOT one of them.

    The physical condition of the property is deplorable and most of the hotel staff is extraordinarily rude and discourteous. The experience of staying in this hotel is more similar to what I would expect from a Motel 6 or Super 8.

    My recommendation: do not stay or plan a meeting or event at the Radisson Harbor View Hotel in San Diego, California.

    Tuesday, April 25, 2006


    Dimwit of the Day: Dillard's Retail Department Store Chain

    Dillard's Department Stores wins the Dimwit of the Day Award (c) for defending in court, based on so-called "scientific evidence," their practice of charging African-American women higher prices for services in their beauty salons than the prices charged to Caucasian women.

    Initially, Dillard's denied allegations of racial discrimination and issued this statement:

    "Dillard’s does not charge different prices based upon the race of the customer.
    This is a matter which has been distorted by the apparent simplicity of the
    plaintiff's claim. Prices for salon services are based upon the level of
    experienced of the stylist, degree of service, amount of time required and the
    cost of materials provided to the customer."

    But, as shown below, when the truth emerged that Dillard's does charge different prices based on the race of the customer, Dillard's has foolishly shifted its defense theme to trying to justify this practice based on ethnic differences.

    Dillard's says 'ethnic' hair harder to clean in response to discrimination suit

    By Emanuella Grinberg
    Court TV
    Updated April 25, 2006, 3:51 p.m. ET

    Almost three years after Vaughan Thomas says she paid an inflated price at a Montgomery, Ala., hair salon simply for being black, lawyers for Dillard's beauty salons went to court Tuesday to defend the department store from allegations of what Thomas and others call "race-based pricing."

    Thomas is one of eight black women suing the department store for racial discrimination after she allegedly was told that Dillard's beauty salons charge black customers more than whites because of the "kinky" nature of "ethnic" hair.

    "Hair is hair regardless of what color you are, and the prices should be the same for everybody," Thomas told Courttv.com. "This is a practice that's still being done in the 21st century, and it should be stopped."

    While lawyers for Dillard's deny that the retailer practices "race-based pricing," they claim that scientific evidence supports the theory that "ethnic" hair requires more effort to treat — and therefore should be subject to higher pricing.

    A defense brief submitted in Alabama federal court cites numerous supposed characteristics of black hair that make treating it more "time consuming and technically demanding than fulfilling the minimal (or non-existent) conditioning needs" of the typical white customer.

    "The rendering of professional hair care is a personal service typically tailored to the specific needs and preferences of the individual," Dillard's scientific expert, Mort Westman, said in a deposition. "Numerous factors exist and must be considered during the process of cleansing, conditioning and styling, rendering the resultant treatment somewhat unique."

    The brief, which is based in large part on Westman's declaration and a study published in 2003 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, highlights the "highly brittle, tightly curled" texture of ethnic hair as a factor that prolongs the cleansing portion of the treatment.
    The brief also refers to "lack of resiliency" and the frequent use of "intricate coiffures" and extensions as other factors that affect the complexity of drying and styling the hair of black customers.

    "These factors would typically indicate that the pricing for the shampooing, conditioning and styling of the African-American client would normally be higher than that of the Caucasian client," Westman claims.

    The cosmetic chemist is expected to appear in Birmingham federal court this week to testify on Dillard's behalf in a hearing on whether the individual lawsuits should be consolidated under one class-action lawsuit.

    The lead attorney for Dillard's, Brian Bostick, said he expected to finish his case by Thursday. He declined to comment further, citing orders from Dillard's. The company's in-house general counsel did not return calls for comment.

    Lawyers for the plaintiffs presented their case two weeks ago in support of their argument that Dillard's alleged pricing scheme was part of a systematic effort to charge customers across the country solely on the basis of race.

    One of the advantages to class-certification would be the plaintiffs' ability to seek an injunction against Dillard's from continuing its race-based pricing, said lead attorney, Patrick Cooper.

    "It's amazing to me that a Fortune 500 company would use this kind of pseudo-science in court to prove that it takes longer to wash African-American hair," Cooper said.

    "The day they can show me that every black woman in the country has the same hair is the day I'll ask the judge to dismiss the case immediately," he said.

    Article URL: http://www.courttv.com/people/2006/0425/dillardssalon_ctv.html

    Monday, April 17, 2006


    American Spiritual Crisis

    Congratulations to Rabbi Michael Lerner for, on the April 16, 2006 Meet the Press television broadcast, so eloquently describing what he identifies as the true spritual crisis in the lives of most Americans today:

    There is a real spiritual crisis in the lives of most Americans, and in the book
    “The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country From the Religious Right,” I
    interviewed 10,000 middle-income working families and learned in detail about
    the way in which spending day after day in a world of work in which the bottom
    line is to maximize money and power, and in which people learned that the common
    sense of the world of work, of our economy, is to look out for number one,
    nobody else is there to protect you, and hence to see other people from the
    standpoint of what they can do for you, how they can be of use, this
    utilitarian, instrumental way of looking at the world comes home into personal
    life where it undermines loving relationships and families.

    unfortunately, the political right has—and particularly the religious right—has
    often blamed the selfishness and materialism that, in fact, surrounds people and
    undermines loving connection, undermines families, makes—undermines friendships,
    they’ve blamed that very often on the demeaned others of the society. In Europe,
    the, the political right used to blame that on the Jews. In the United States,
    it’s now not only Native Americans and African-Americans that get blamed, but
    gays and lesbians, feminists and most recently, all secular people and all
    liberals are blamed as though we had introduced the selfishness and materialism
    into the society when, in fact, the—that selfishness is deeply rooted in the
    ethos of capitalism.
    And in the—and see, what I, I think is critical is to
    understand that there is a religion that dominates the public sphere today, and
    it’s the religion that validates that which can be measured, and that which can
    be validated through sense datum. And everything else is seen as irrelevant or,
    literally, nonsense. And that dominant religion has—plays into an ethos of
    selfishness, because what can be counted is money, but what can’t be measured is
    love and kindness and generosity.

    [T]here needs to be a new bottom line
    in this society, and that means taking religion—all the religions of human, of
    human experience, not just Christianity. My grandparents certainly wouldn’t have
    come here if they’d thought this was a Christian country. They came here because
    they thought they were going to be protected from being—having a religion
    imposed on them. But all, but all the religious and spiritual traditions of the
    human race have a common wisdom that can be applied as a counter to this
    selfishness and materialism that dominates in the old bottom line. We need a new
    bottom line of love and caring and kindness and generosity.

    Arguably, western society has long "worshipped" the acquisition of material possessions and wealth at the expense of less tangible goods such as sharing, helping, loving, and ways of celebrating and appreciating each other for our unique, inherent qualities, abilities, and talents, as opposed to reducing and judging each person based on his or her possession of certain valued utilitarian 'skill sets" or contributions to a desired financial "bottom line."

    From my perspective as someone who was born in the early 1960's, it seems to me that what we have witnessed in the United States in the past twenty-five (25) years is that the ethos of selfishness and materialism has become pervasive at all levels of our government and legal system. It seems that politicians at all levels of government, both Republicans and Democrats, have become subservient to and are beholden only to the power wielded by the large, and in most cases multi-national, corporate and business interests that have become dominant in American society.

    Corporations are legal and artificial, not human, entities, and the only goal of their existence is to increase and maximize their profits or shareholder equity. Corporations have a legitimate and salutary purpose and function in society. In the past twenty-five years, led by a propagandistic glorification of wealth, material possessions, and outright greed in the names of laissez-faire capitalism, economic development, deregulation, supply-side economics, the legal boundaries and controls that must exist in order to regulate the large-scale economic activities of the corporate interests in the United States and the world have been subject to a systematic attack and purposeful erosion. As a result, Americans are leading the world in becoming enslaved by our own creations.

    A lot of Americans are looking at where this has taken us as a country and a society, and they do not like what they are seeing. I think America needs to strike a better balance between individual and corporate power.

    Sunday, April 16, 2006


    Music That Sells Is Not Necessarily "Good"

    The evolution of popular music in the United States from the 1960's through today is characterized by an increasing divergence between music that is "good" (i.e., as defined by my subjective standard of excellence in the quality of technical musicianship) and what music sells the most units.

    Listening to the music of today from my perspective as a kid who grew up listening to rock music in the late 60's, 70's, and 80's, there appears to be an inversely proportional relationship between musical quality or musicianship and the commercial success of the product. So much of the bestselling music industry product of today consists of men and women, competing to convey the most unwholesome and grotesque image possible, shouting mentally-challenged, obscene, and violent rants over background tracks consisting largely of reconstituted, recombined, or recycled samples of music produced years ago by what I classify as real musicians. And it only seems to be getting worse.

    With this state of affairs dominating our music industry, it is no wonder that some people nostalgically and fondly regard the music of the 60's, 70's and 80's as "better" than much of what passes for music today and sells the most. Of course, what constitutes musical quality or musicianship is highly subjective and is obviously in the eye or ears, in this case, of the beholder.

    In the past 25 years or so, popular music has become increasingly diverse in terms of the geographic and socioeconomic origins of the music and musicians, as well as the technologies used to create and produce the "music." This has led to the proliferation of an enormous amount of variation and diversity in the choices available to us as consumers or listeners of "music," which I think is a wonderful thing. Every kind of music you can imagine is being produced today. For example, if you are looking for hard rock or heavy metal that is played by real musicians who are virtuosi of their respective instruments, there are still bands out there who are composing and recording such music. And, with the technology available today, any kind of music we choose to listen to is within easy reach. Because there are so many choices now, it may be more of a challenge today to find what we consider to be "good" music. Overall, I think the situation from a music consumer's perspective has never been better!

    Friday, April 14, 2006


    Interesting Take On Rummy Resignation Ruminations

    Desert Rats Leave The Sinking Ship
    Why Rumsfeld Should Not Resign

    The Guardian - Comment
    Friday, April 14, 2006
    By Greg Palast

    Well, here they come: the wannabe Rommels, the gaggle of generals, safely retired, to lay siege to Donald Rumsfeld. This week, six of them have called for the Secretary of Defense's resignation.

    Well, according to my watch, they're about four years too late -- and they still don't get it.

    I know that most of my readers will be tickled pink that the bemedalled boys in crew cuts are finally ready to kick Rummy in the rump, in public. But to me, it just shows me that these boys still can't shoot straight.

    It wasn't Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who stood up in front of the UN and identified two mobile latrines as biological weapons labs, was it, General Powell?

    It wasn't Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who told us our next warning from Saddam could be a mushroom cloud, was it Condoleezza?

    It wasn't Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who declared that Al Qaeda and Saddam were going steady, was it, Mr. Cheney?

    Yes, Rumsfeld is a swaggering bag of mendacious arrogance, a duplicitous chicken-hawk, yellow-bellied bully-boy and Tinker-Toy Napoleon -- but he didn't appoint himself Secretary of Defense. Let me tell you a story about the Secretary of Defense you didn't read in the New York Times, related to me by General Jay Garner, the man our president placed in Baghdad as the US' first post-invasion viceroy. Garner arrived in Kuwait City in March 2003 working under the mistaken notion that when George Bush called for democracy in Iraq, the President meant the Iraqis could choose their own government. Misunderstanding the President's true mission, General Garner called for Iraqis to hold elections within 90 days and for the U.S. to quickly pull troops out of the cities to a desert base. "It's their country," the General told me of the Iraqis. "And," he added, most ominously, "their oil." Let's not forget: it's all about the oil. I showed Garner a 101-page plan for Iraq's economy drafted secretly by neo-cons at the State Department, Treasury and the Pentagon, calling for "privatization" (i.e. the sale) of "all state assets ... especially in the oil and oil-supporting industries."

    The General knew of the plans and he intended to shove it where the Iraqi sun don't shine. Garner planned what he called a "Big Tent" meeting of Iraqi tribal leaders to plan elections. By helping Iraqis establish their own multi-ethnic government -- and this was back when Sunnis, Shias and Kurds were on talking terms -- knew he could get the nation on its feet peacefully before a welcomed "liberation" turned into a hated "occupation." But, Garner knew, a freely chosen coalition government would mean the death-knell for the neo-con oil-and-assets privatization grab. On April 21, 2003, three years ago this month, the very night General Garner arrived in Baghdad, he got a call from Washington. It was Rumsfeld on the line. He told Garner, in so many words, "Don't unpack, Jack, you're fired." Rummy replaced Garner, a man with years of on-the-ground experience in Iraq, with green-boots Paul Bremer, the Managing Director of Kissinger Associates. Bremer cancelled the Big Tent meeting of Iraqis and postponed elections for a year; then he issued 100 orders, like some tin-pot pasha, selling off Iraq's economy to U.S. and foreign operators, just as Rumsfeld's neo-con clique had desired.

    Reading this, it sounds like I should applaud the six generals' call for Rumfeld's ouster. Forget it. For a bunch of military hotshots, they sure can't shoot straight.

    They're wasting all their bullets on the decoy. They've gunned down the puppet instead of the puppeteers. There's no way that Rumsfeld could have yanked General Garner from Baghdad without the word from The Bunker. Nothing moves or breathes or spits in the Bush Administration without Darth Cheney's growl of approval.

    And ultimately, it's the Commander-in-Chief who's chiefly in command. Even the generals' complaint -- that Rumsfeld didn't give them enough troops -- was ultimately a decision of the cowboy from Crawford. (And by the way, the problem was not that we lacked troops -- the problem was that we lacked moral authority to occupy this nation. A million troops would not be enough -- the insurgents would just have more targets.) President Bush is one lucky fella. I can imagine him today on the intercom with Cheney: "Well, pardner, looks like the game's up." And Cheney replies, "Hey, just hang the Rumsfeld dummy out the window until he's taken all their ammo." When Bush and Cheney read about the call for Rumsfeld's resignation today, I can just hear George saying to Dick, "Mission Accomplished." Generals, let me give you a bit of advice about choosing a target: It's the President, stupid.

    ********** Read more about the untold story of General Garner and the secret war plans in ARMED MADHOUSE, by Greg Palast, to be released June 6 (US) and July 6 (UK). View Palast's interview with Garner for BBC Television at http://www.gregpalast.com/

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