Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy Birthday, Willie Nelson!

Born April 30, 1933, Willie Nelson has brought decades of pleasure to music lovers, and has tirelessly worked for peace and equity in our sometimes cruel world.

Happy 74th, Willie!

"You Are Always On My Mind":

See it at

Willie talks about peace and the environment:

See it at

And Happy Birthday, Mrs. Mac!

Dick Mac Recommends:

The Essential
Willie Nelson

Friday, April 27, 2007


"We never know who is affected by what we do or say," a spiritual adviser once told me. "So," he continued, "we must always behave in a manner that is respectful and honorable." I often fall short of that advice; but, it is sound advice.

I write this blog every weekday, and spend some time on the weekend researching. It's a labor of love: a little vain, a little lame, but all me! It means a lot to me that people read my rantings and sometimes leave a comment or send me an email message. It really means a lot! I don't think I say "thank you" to my readers enough, so "Thank you"!

In February, 2007, the Thinking Blog originated the Thinking Blogger award.

I learned last night that ellaella, the publisher of the blog From Scratch A lot of chatter about food (and a little about politics) considers my blog one of the five that "make me think"! Wow!

Thank you, ellaella!

With this honor comes a responsibility for me to share with you the five blogs that make me think. I give you the five (5) blogs to which I award the Thinking Blogger Award:

Left I on the News - A very thoughtful blog that sparks me to think long and hard about my pre-conceived notions of the world.

The Rabbi Report - My fave film, music, and social critic. He's rather dapper, too!

Danny Schechter The News Dissector - Danny was the news guy on the old WBCN-FM during my teenage years. He was the ultimate radio newsman who helped form my ability to analyze the news and see past the headlines.

Cavebat's Beast Blog - Lori, in The Bronx, always hits the nail on the head. She can discuss and analyze economics, politics, music, painting, or fingernail polish with a sensibility that leaves me begging for more.

TomDispatch - A regular antidote to the mainstream media.

My humble nod to the five writers/publishers above comes with responsibilities:

1. If, and only if, you got tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of your award.

3. Optional: Proudly display the "Thinking Blogger Award" with a link back to them.

Dick Mac Recommends:

Patti Smith

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Shop Til you Drop (from hunger)

Just how poor is the working poor?

In Oregon, a family with a modest income (that is, not enough to pay the bills) is entitled to food stamps to buy food.

On the average, the family receives $21.00 per week for groceries. About the cost of a lunch of burger, fries, drink, taxes and tip at a not-very-fancy pub in Midtown Manhattan.

In an effort to understand this, the Governor of Oregon spent a week trying to live on a grocery budget of twenty-one dollars. It was, after all, Hunger Awareness Week in Oregon.

Can you imagine this?

Can you imagine that we expect a family of any size (even a family of one) to live on $21.00 worth of groceries for a week?

Well, this is your America. This is the conservative America we opted for with two terms of Reagan, one of Bush, two of Clinton and two of another Bush. Almost three decades of conservatism has led us to this: families living on $21.00 worth of food.

I am ashamed.

This is disgusting!
Ore. gov. starts week on food stamps
By JULIA SILVERMAN, Associated Press Writer
Wed Apr 25, 3:27 AM ET

If Gov. Ted Kulongoski seems a little sluggish this week, he's got an excuse: he couldn't afford coffee.

In fact, the Democratic governor couldn't afford much of anything during a trip to a Salem-area grocery store on Tuesday, where he had exactly $21 to buy a week's worth of food — the same amount that the state's average food stamp recipient spends weekly on groceries.

Kulongoski is taking the weeklong challenge to raise awareness about the difficulty of feeding a family on a food stamp budget.

Accompanied by reporters and food stamp recipient Christina Sigman-Davenport, Kulongoski headed straight for a display of organic bananas, only to have Sigman-Davenport steer him toward the cheaper non-organic variety.

The governor pined wistfully for canned Progresso soups, but at $1.53 apiece, they would have blown the budget. He settled instead for three packages of Cup O'Noodles for 33 cents apiece. Kulongoski also gave up his usual Adams natural, no-stir peanut butter for a generic store brand, but drew the line at saving money by buying peanut butter and jelly in the same jar.

"I don't much like the looks of that," said Kulongoski, 66, staring at the concoction.

Other shoppers in the store were bemused by Kulongoski's quest.

"Obviously, he doesn't shop often," Barb Sours of Salem said, as Kulongoski bounced around the aisles in search of granola. "He's all over the place."

Kulongoski did pause to chat with shoppers John and Bonnie White of Salem, telling them all about his $21 limit.

"Don't spend it all in one place," John White warned.

Along the way, Sigman-Davenport, a mother of three who works for the state Department of Human Services and went on food stamps in the fall after her husband lost his job, dispensed tips for shopping on a budget. Scan the highest and lowest shelves, she told the governor. Look for off-brand products, clip coupons religiously, get used to filling, low-cost staples like macaroni and cheese and beans, and, when possible, buy in bulk.

At the check-out counter, Kulongoski's purchases totaled $21.97, forcing him to give back one of the Cup O'Noodles and two bananas, for a final cost of $20.97 for 19 items.

After the hourlong shopping trip, Kulongoski said he was mindful that his week on food stamps will be finite and that thousands of others aren't so lucky.

"I don't care what they call it, if this is what it takes to get the word out," Kulongoski said, in response to questions about whether the food stamp challenge was no more than a publicity stunt. "This is an issue every citizen in this state should be aware of."
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Humor - Olympic Swimmer

A female Olympic swimmer from Central Europe complained to her team-mates that she was worried that she was starting to grow hair in scary places.

"Where?" they asked.

"Oh," she replied, "mostly on my nuts."

Dick Mac Recommends:

Hollywood Brats
Hollywood Brats

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Emmanuel College Fires Professor

An adjunct professor of Financial Accounting at Emmanuel College, in Boston, Massachusetts, was fired from his job for using the Virginia Tech massacre as a lead-up to a discussion of economics.

The school issued no public statement and has responded that they do not publicly discuss personnel matters.

I disagree with Nicholas Winset's position on handgun control, but he has the right to talk about it; and I think the school's decision to fire him is more despicable than his position on the Second Amendment.

This is America. Unless we are actually hurting someone, we have the freedom to speak-out and speak our mind. Any organization that does not honor that basic tenet of our Republic should be refused access to government funds and should lose their tax-exempt status.

Emmanuel College should be ashamed of tiself.

See Professor Winset speak-out at

The local Murdoch rag in Boston covers the story.

Article at the Freedom4um blog.

Dick Mac Recommends:

Tony Visconti

Monday, April 23, 2007

James Osterberg Turns 60!

Jimmy Osterberg, a/k/a Iggy Pop, celebrated his 60th Birthday with a concert at the Warfield Theater, in San Francisco, on April 21, 2007.

I have seen many Iggy Pop shows. I have never seen a bad Iggy Pop show. Iggy is the consummate entertainer.

Happy Birthday, Iggy!

Iggy Pop returns to the stage after diving into the crowd during a performance with 'The Stooges' on his 60th birthday at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, California April 21, 2007. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

Iggy performs "The Passenger" thirty years ago:

Some links:

The Louie Louie video at

The Passenger video at

The Iggy site: Iggy & The Stooges.

Iggy's entry.

Iggy's entry.

Iggy & The Stooges' concert rider. It is worth the read!

Dick Mac Recommends:

The Idiot
Iggy Pop

Friday, April 20, 2007

There They Go Again!

On Wednesday, April 18, 2007, the United States Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision upholding the Federal Abortion Ban.

A government that cannot provide health care to its citizens is now telling the citizens what health care it can't have.

This is a mistake.

Joan Malin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City, said in a press release:
"The American public should be absolutely outraged by this unprecedented and dangerous intrusion into the private relationship between a woman and her doctor. Today five men with a gavel -- two of whom were handpicked by George W. Bush - decided that they know more about medicine than do doctors. We have never before seen such a politically motivated and unwarranted invasion into the private relationship between a woman and her doctor."

Support a woman's right to reproductive freedom.

Dick Mac Recommends:

Donate to Planned Parenthood

Donate to NARAL

Some links:

A wikipedia article about the pro-choice movement
Planned Parenthood information
NARAL Pro-Choice America

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cho Seung-Hui on NBC

The following photo is a screen-grab from the video sent to NBC by Cho Seung-Hui, the killer at Virginia Tech.

It looks like a promo picture for an NBC series.

This is a pretty good representation of what the media conglomerates who control the entertainment and information industries pass off as entertainment.

This is an American citizen, not an actor.

Reuters - An image that NBC News say they received from Cho Seung-Hui, the shooter in the Virginia Tech shootings, is seen as it is aired on the NBC Nightly News, April 18, 2007. The gunman who went on a deadly rampage at Virginia Tech university this week paused between shootings to mail a rambling account of grievances, photos and videos to NBC, the network said. (Courtesy of NBC News/Handout/Reuters) Wed Apr 18, 7:57 PM ET

I don't think this is what the nation's founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the Bill of Rights. I think this is the image that Hollywood and gun manufacturers have of the United States as a nation.

This is not representative of our right to bear arms.

Gun control, especially handgun control, has to be addressed no matter how powerful the NRA and gun manufacturers' lobby. Will the parents of Cho's victims speak-out or will they be silenced by the mainstream media?

Will we hear their opinions about handguns or only see their sorrow?

Will the mainstream media make any sincere effort to bring the handgun control debate into the public discourse, or will it be swept under the rug while we are spoon-fed a digital diet of shock, outrage and sorrow?

It is time for this to stop! it is time for Americans to talk about this as much as they talk about Paris Hilton and Barry Bonds. It's time for all of us to call our elected officials and demand a change.

Added at 14:09

The Virginia State Police are expressing disappointment that NBC had broadcast part of the video sent to them by Cho Seung-Hui. I am disappointed that they haven't broadcast the entire video! America should bear witness to this tragedy.

State police chief Steve Flaherty said, "We're rather disappointed in the editorial decision to broadcast these disturbing images."
(See, Reuters article at

Why is Reuters reporting this? I don't care what the police think of NBC. I want to know what the state police think about handguns being readily available for purchase in the State of Virgina.

How can a so-called civilized nation allow Cho Seung-Hui to have such easy access to handguns?

In Virginia, there is no state requirement that handgun buyers obtain a handgun license or undergo any type of safety training prior to buying a handgun. (See, Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence.)

Wikipedia gives an overview of Virginia's gun laws.

Why aren't the police talking about their disappointment with Virginia's gun laws?

As usual, the media is avoiding the real issue and focusing our attention on emotionalism and the pain of victimhood instead of placing the spotlight on the real issue: gun control.

Dick Mac Recommends:

The Personal Beliefs of Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Red Bulls Have An Angel

Juan Pablo Angel
Colombian National and
New York Red Bull, Juan Pablo Angel

Red Bull New York signed one of my favorite international players, Juan Pablo Angel!

This is a major signing for my team and a very exciting proposition for Major League Soccer, as it follows-up the signing of David Beckham and shows a true commitment by the teams in the league to spend the money needed to make this a world-class league.

If all goes perfectly, Angel could play this weekend. I will be sitting in my corner seat enjoying the match!

Red Bulls acquire Colombian forward Juan Pablo Angel

April 17, 2007

SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) -- The New York Red Bulls signed Colombian forward Juan Pablo Angel from English Premier League club Aston Villa on Tuesday, their second acquisition under MLS' rule allowing teams to add players outside the salary cap.

The Red Bulls hope to have the 31-year-old available to play within two weeks, club spokesman Eric Tosi said. Angel will join former U.S. international midfielder Claudio Reyna, also acquired under MLS' designated player rule, and Dutch goalkeeper Ron Waterreus.

Both were added since the Red Bulls hired ex-U.S. national team manager Bruce Arena late last season.

"I'm extremely excited about this opportunity," Angel said by telephone from Aston Villa's stadium in Birmingham, England. "I can't wait to join my teammates and start as soon as I can."

Angel's arrival is the latest high-profile player acquisition since MLS adopted in November its designated player rule, which gave teams the ability to sign up to two players outside the $2.1 million salary cap.

The Los Angeles Galaxy announced the signing of David Beckham in January, followed by the Red Bulls' acquisition of Reyna and the Chicago Fire's acquisition of Mexican forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

"(That) did play a part, all the big names going to the league," Angel said in explaining his reasons for the transfer. "When I had the opportunity to talk to Bruce, I wanted to be a part of what they were trying to do.

"The fact that MLS is trying to improve, bringing in well-known players from all over the world, it's been a great help."

Arena has been rebuilding the team since his arrival in late July, which came not long after his contract with the national team was not renewed following the U.S. team's first-round elimination at the 2006 World Cup.

"In November we traded with Chivas USA for a second designated player with the hopes of bringing in a proven forward and midfielder," Arena said. "With Juan Pablo Angel we met those goals. He's a fantastic addition, not only to the club but to MLS."

Angel was Aston Villa's most expensive acquisition in club history when he joined the northern English team in 2001 for $14 million. But after Aston Villa acquired John Carew from Lyon and Ashley Young from Watford during the January transfer window, Angel's playing time decreased.

He last played for the club on Jan. 31 against Newcastle and last started a match 11 days earlier against Watford.

Angel is likely to boost interest in the Red Bulls among New York City's sizable Colombian immigrant population.
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
Updated on Tuesday, Apr 17, 2007 8:12 pm EDT

Dick Mac Recommends:

Playing For Uncle Sam
David Tossell

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Death in Virgina

A man with a handgun killed thirty-two people and himself on the campus of Virginia Tech.

According to Reuters:
Most of those killed were students attending classes at a hall at Virginia Tech, where the gunman apparently used chains to lock doors before shooting the victims, university and police officials said.

Fifteen people were wounded, included those shot and students hurt jumping from windows in a desperate attempt to escape the gunfire, officials said.

More than thirty thousand people die from gunshot wounds in the United States each year. Still, gun control is almost non-existent.

Here's to liberty!

Dick Mac Recommends:

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire
Gore Vidal

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Riddle For Today

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a big one.
Michael J. Fox has a small one.
Madonna doesn't use one.
The Pope has one but doesn't use it.
Clinton uses his all the time.
Bush is one.
Mickey Mouse has an unusual one.
Liberace never used his on women.
Jerry Seinfeld is very, very proud of his.
Cher claims that she took on 3.
We never saw Lucy use Desi's.
What is it?

Answer: A Last Name

Dick Mac Recommends:

Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford University

Friday, April 13, 2007

Imus Fired

"There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society," CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said in announcing the decision. "That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision." - AP Thursday, April 12, 2007, 7:49 PM ET

Don Imus referred to the Rutgers' women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos" after they lost the national basketball championship final. I assume that the term "nappy-headed" refers to their hair texture, and not the British term for diapers (but I am uncertain) and I assume he uses the term "hos" to refer to the women as prostitutes.

In reality, as well as being superb athletes, one of the women is a class valedictorian, another a future lawyer, and another is a musical prodigy. See, "Remember that the victims here are 10 young women, not Don Imus," by AP columnist, Tim Dahlberg.

I never liked "shock jocks." I didn't like the Imus show, I didn't like the Howard Stern show. I think both of these men are horrible people. I don't find them entertaining.

In the past I have defended Howard Stern's First Amendment rights to say what he says. Generally he picks on stars and gazillionaires and government agencies and corporations. I think of them as fair game. I loathe his tit jokes and obsession with homosexuality, but you get the bad with the worse. I also think that people and organizations making a lot of money by being in the public eye or doing business with the public are fair game.

I don't think referring to the women on the Rutgers basketball team as nappy-headed hos is fair, and what Imus has done goes beyond the pale. He should not have been fired, if he had an ounce of decency he would have resigned before they had a chance to fire him. But, Imus has no decency. He said what he said because he's made millions saying shit like this for decades.

I am glad Imus was fired. If I used that language at work I would be fired. Same for pretty much everyone I know. It's just wrong.

Sadly, Imus will be back. Probably on satellite radio. Someone will want the ten or fifteen million dollars a year he can generate in ad revenues. But at least CBS and NBC have taken stands.

Some links:

Here's an article that asks why we are not upset about the way Imus has referred to Arabs and Muslims over the years. This is an odd article I think is worth reading.

The standard Fox/News Corporation apologist approach.

CNN coverage of the Rutgers' players' graceful reaction to Imus' words.

An earlier article from The Guardian, in England.

A call to hold black rappers accountable for their demeaning references to black women.

Dick Mac Recommends:

Now & Then
Gil Scott-Heron

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Is Rudy Giuliani Really A Patriot?

Asked about the flying of the Confederate flag in some Southern states, Giuliani said, "That's a good thing to be left on a state-by-state basis." - AP, Tuesday, April 10,2007, 9:45 PM ET

Rudy Giuliani thinks that each state should decide whether or not citizens may fly the Confederate flag.

Though he bills himself as a patriot, he believes that white people should be able to fly the flag of the movement that tried most effectively to destroy the united States, assassinate a President, and perpetuate slavery.

I see inconsistency here. Either you are a patriot and you support a strong United States of America, or you think people should be allowed to venerate the symbol of the only movement that has come close to destroying our nation.

Giuliani insists that he opposes terrorism. He seems to forget that prior to 9/11, the terrorist acts (bombings) that had taken place were all committed by Southerners who considered themselves Christians and who targeted American citizens. Oklahoma City, Atlanta Olympics, reproductive health centers, and gay bars were targeted and only Americans were killed.

Where does Giuliani stand on the issue of domestic terrorism perpetrated by Americans over the past 150 years?

How many Americans have been killed by American terrorists (Southerners) in our lifetime? How many people died saving our nation during the civil war?

Well, the Confederate Flag is a symbol of hate and anti-Americanism, of the Christian right, of pro-slavery closed-mindedness, of much that is unAmerican.

Can you be opposed to terrorism and support a state's right to fly the Confederate flag?

I think not.

Giuliani is a scam-artist extraordinaire. Let the polls show him as a contender for the Presidency. In the end, the Southerners who really do support flying the Confederate flag would never vote for an oft-divorced lapsed-Catholic cross-dresser. In the case of Giuliani, we should be grateful for that.

Dick Mac Recommends:

Misquoting Jesus
Bart D. Ehrman

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," by Gil Scott-Heron

I have written about Gil Scott-Heron's legal troubles and about a show I saw him do in London.

I think Scott-Heron's influence on American music in the 1970s is directly responsible for the success of rap music. And I mean the vital rap movement of the 1970s and 1980s, not the so-called hip-hop scene we know today that exists only for marketing purposes. There is no 'soul' in hip-hop, there is only cash, guns and bad jewelry. Rap, on the other hand, had soul. It was vital, it was alive. And if Gil Scott-Heron hadn't made his records, I truly believe that rap never could have be born.

Official promo for Gil Scott Heron's collected lyrics and poems, Now and Then, published by Canongate Books. Produced by Peter Collingridge and directed by Julian House (Intro) in 2001:

Or see it at

Dick Mac Recommends:

Now & Then
Gil Scott-Heron

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wild Irish Ho

An Irish daughter had not been home for over five years. Upon her return, her father cursed her.

"Where have ye been all this time? Why did ye not write to us, not even a line? Why didn't ye call? Can ye not understand what ye put yer old mum through?"

The girl, crying, replied, "Sniff, sniff . . . Da . . . I became a prostitute. . . . "

"Ye what!? Out of here, ye shameless harlot! Sinner! You're a disgrace to this family."

"OK, Dad -- as ye wish. I just came back to give mum this fur coat, title deed to a ten bedroom mansion, and savings certificate for $5 million."

"For me little brother, this gold Rolex and for ye daddy, the sparkling new Mercedes convertible that's parked outside plus a membership to the country club . . . (takes a breath) . . . and an invitation for ye all to spend New Years' Eve on board my new yacht in the Riviera, and . . . "

"Now what was it ye said ye had become?" says dad.

The girl, crying again, whimpered "Sniff, sniff . . . a prostitute dad! Sniff, sniff."

"Oh! Beejesus! Ye scared me half to death, girl! I thought ye said a Protestant. Come here and give yer old man a hug."

Dick Mac Recommends:

All-Time Greatest Hits
Helen Reddy

Monday, April 09, 2007

Italian Soccer

My friend, The Rabbi, reports on his blog in an article published last week about police brutality, that the police officer killed earlier this year at a soccer match in Sicily may not have been killed by a fan, as reported by me and many others around the world.

According to The Guardian, the officer was struck by a police car, and that the fireworks allegedly thrown at him by a 17-year-old fan were not the cause of death. Not only are the Italian police brutalizing soccer fans, they are brutalizing each other.

The BBC reported police brutality against Manchester United fans during that teams visit to play AS Roma in a Champions League match. The following video of the BBC report shows graphic violence.

The brutality of the police is remarkable. Italian soccer is a shambles. The Italian government, now controlled almost excusively by corporate interests, cannot control its own security forces, and soccer fans from England are being villified, when it is clear that the Italian Football Association and police are totally at fault.

If the Italian football auhorities and the police are unable to host soccer matches at which all fans are kept safe, then soccer should be banned in Italy, and Italian fans and teams banned from soccer matches throughout Europe and the world.

After the violence that led to the Heysel disaster in 1985, English fans and teams were banned from from European football. The same should be done to Italian fans and teams today.

Thank you to The BBC, MUTV, and The Rabbi for this info.

Dick Mac Recommends:

Playing For Uncle Sam
David Tossell

Friday, April 06, 2007

Circuit City

Where do you shop? Do you ever think about the stores you choose? Do you simply shop for the best price?

Most of us have some establishments where we just will not do business. Whether we have had a bad experience in the place, or they treated someone we know poorly, or we disagree with their politics, there is at least one store where we won't shop.

For me, it's Wal-Mart. Just can't do it. They've destroyed American ideals and replaced them with corporate ideals. Ideals of success and hard work have been replaced by Wal-Mart with ideals of cost-cutting and profiteering, using no moral compass.

Most American companies have followed the Wal-Mart paradigm. From retailers and restaurants to banks and law firms, the plan is to undermine the security of the workers at the bottom to maximize the security of the executives and shareholders at the top.

In companies all across America, even companies already hugely profitable, benefits are slashed and long-time employees are terminated to make way for lesser-paid new employees.

The short-term benefits to those at the top are immediate -- profits soar. The long-term impact, however, is that you no longer have a knowledgeable workforce and your organic knowledge base disappears. Nobody on the bottom remembers how the place became successful.

Circuit City, the chain of electronics retailers, has been well-known for its service, which was far superior to its competitors like Wal-Mart and Best Buy. I preferred Circuit City over Best Buy (and I never shop at Wal-Mart), because the people who worked there were knowledgeable and familiar.

Well, Circuit City has decided that more profits are more important than more loyalty and have laid off all their long-term employees. They determined that these people were earning too much, so they fired them all and are replacing them with lower-paid newcomers. New staff who know nothing about the products they sell and less about what made Circuit City a better store.

This makes Circuit City just like Wal-Mart.

So, I will not be shopping there anymore!

Here's an article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, followed by some additional links:
Circuit City laying off 3,400 store workers
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Thursday, March 29, 2007


NEW YORK -- A new plan for layoffs at Circuit City is openly targeting better-paid workers, risking a public backlash by implying that its wages are as subject to discounts as its flat-screen TVs.

The electronics retailer, facing larger competitors and falling sales, said Wednesday that it would lay off about 3,400 store workers immediately and replace them with lower-paid new hires as soon as possible.

The laid-off workers, about 8 percent of the company's total work force, would get a severance package and a chance to reapply for their former jobs, at lower pay, after a 10-week delay, the company said.

Analysts and economists said the move is an uncertain experiment that could backfire for the chain. The risks: Morale could sink and customers could avoid the stores. Also, knowledgeable customer service is one of the few ways Circuit City can tackle competitors that include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., they say.

"This strategy strikes me as being quite cold," said Bernard Baumohl, executive director of The Economic Outlook Group. "I don't think it's in the best interest of Circuit City as a whole."

While other companies, such as Caterpillar Inc., have introduced two-tiered wage systems, where newer workers make less, firing workers and offering to rehire them at a lower wage is very rare.

"I don't think you're going to find too many examples," of this, said Ken Goldstein, labor economist for the Conference Board, a business research group. "That certainly has not been a trend we've seen."

Circuit City, the nation's No. 2 consumer electronics retailer behind Best Buy Co. Inc., says the workers being laid off were earning "well above the market-based salary range for their role." They will be replaced with employees who will be paid at the current market range, the company said in a news release.

"We haven't done something called (a) wage management initiative before," company spokesman Jim Babb said. "All companies at one time or another need to go through and make sure their cost structure works with market conditions."

Customers at the store questioned the move.

"I don't think it's fair," said Hamilton Smith, an 88-year-old retired federal worker who had just bought some batteries at Circuit City. "You need to give people a living, working wage."

He said he would think twice before shopping at the company's stores again.

Circuit City's cuts come at a time when other retailers are trying to put more knowledgeable workers on store floors. Home Depot Inc., whose new chief executive is struggling to reignite sales growth at its stores, said it has raised pay to attract skilled tradespeople, such as carpenters and electricians.

The Home Depot is adding 15,000 jobs this year, spokesman Jerry Shields said.

Circuit City's move, by contrast, "shows they're positioning for another tough year," said Timothy Allen, a Jefferies & Company Inc. retail analyst. Not only will service levels at the store suffer, he said, but "you've lost 3,400 customers/employees."

© 1998-2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Peter Cohan, who blogs about "money & finance" at AOL, posted these two articles:

Circuit City layoffs set a scary precedent for workers

Layoffs expose Circuit City's crossed wires

Thanks to Pat for sending this along.

Dick Mac Recommends:

Tony Visconti

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Humor - Drunk

While a man and his wife are dining at a table in a posh restaurant, the husband keeps staring at an old lady sitting alone at a nearby table swigging gin.

Eventually the wife asks, "Do you know her?"

"Yes," sighs the husband, "that's my ex-wife. She started drinking right after we divorced 10 years ago, and I hear she hasn't been sober since."

"My God!" says the wife, "Who'd think a person could celebrate that long?"

Dick Mac Recommends:

Desmond Dekker

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

iTunes Begins to Unlock Their Files

On April 2, 2007, Apple announced that in an agreement with EMI it would distribute electronic music without the evil DRM security coding!

Almost three years ago, I stopped purchasing music from iTunes because they started locking MY files -- the files I paid for. I wrote an article on this blog titled Fair Use? Fair To Whom? in which I bemoaned the unfairness of this.

Yesterday, I learned that the European Union is considering action against Apple for price-fixing, proprietary file structure, and the unfair practice of encoding (locking) the files it sells!

Hooray! There are thinking people involved in running some small part of Western Civilization. Of crourse, they are in Europe. You wouldn't expect post-Reagan America to be fair or sensible. Would you? Of course not!

So, the upshot is that iTunes will begin to sell unencoded EMI music for $1.29 per cut in the United States! This is good.

As soon as they drop all encoding from all of their files and return to a universal file format, I will consider shopping there again. Until that time, however, I encourage all people to boycott iTunes.

Here are a couple of articles out on the web that I reprint, in the spirit of fair use, for your enjoyment.

iTunes to offer DRM-free music from EMI

At the special event in London on Monday, EMI Music announced that it is launching new premium downloads for retail on a global basis, making all of its digital music available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions and that Apple iTunes Store will be the first retailer to offer the higher quality, DRM-free music. The Cupertino-based company will make individual AAC format tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads and without any digital right management (DRM technology). Pricing will be $1.29/€1.29/£0.99; however, iTunes will continue to offer consumers the ability to pay $0.99/€0.99/£0.79 for standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Complete albums from EMI Music artists purchased on the iTunes Store will automatically be sold at the higher sound quality and DRM-free, with no change in the price. The new higher-quality, DRM-free songs will be available in May.

Consumers who have already purchased standard tracks or albums with DRM will be able to upgrade their digital music for $0.30/€0.30/£0.20 per track. All EMI music videos will also be available on the iTunes Store DRM-free with no change in price.

The new higher quality DRM-free music will complement EMI's existing range of standard DRM-protected downloads already available. Starting today, EMI's retailers will be offered downloads of tracks and albums in the DRM-free audio format of their choice in a variety of bit rates up to CD quality, the company said. "EMI is releasing the premium downloads in response to consumer demand for high fidelity digital music for use on home music systems, mobile phones and digital music players," the company said. "EMI's new DRM-free products will enable full interoperability of digital music across all devices and platforms."

"Our goal is to give consumers the best possible digital music experience. By providing DRM-free downloads, we aim to address the lack of interoperability which is frustrating for many music fans," said Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group. "We believe that offering consumers the opportunity to buy higher quality tracks and listen to them on the device or platform of their choice will boost sales of digital music.

"Apple have been a true pioneer in digital music, and we are delighted that they share our vision of an interoperable market that provides consumers with greater choice, quality, convenience and value for money."

"Selling digital music DRM-free is the right step forward for the music industry," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "EMI has been a great partner for iTunes and is once again leading the industry as the first major music company to offer its entire digital catalogue DRM-free."

EMI also announced that is introducing a new wholesale price for premium single track downloads, while maintaining the existing wholesale price for complete albums. EMI expects that consumers will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free downloads from a variety of digital music stores within the coming weeks, with each retailer choosing whether to sell downloads in AAC, WMA, MP3 or other unprotected formats of their choice. Music fans will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free digital music for personal use, and listen to it on a wide range of digital music players and music-enabled phones.

EMI's move follows a series of experiments it conducted recently. Norah Jones's "Thinking About You", Relient K's "Must've Done Something Right", and Lily Allen's "Littlest Things" were all made available for sale in the MP3 format in trials held at the end of last year.

EMI Music will continue to employ DRM as appropriate to enable innovative digital models such as subscription services (where users pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to music), super-distribution (allowing fans to share music with their friends) and time-limited downloads (such as those offered by ad-supported services).

"Protecting the intellectual property of EMI and our artists is as important as ever, and we will continue to work to fight piracy in all its forms and to educate consumers," Nicoli added. "We believe that fans will be excited by the flexibility that DRM-free formats provide, and will see this as an incentive to purchase more of our artists' music."

EU competition watchdog bites Apple over iTunes prices
by Dorothee Moisan
April 3, 2007

After launching action against Microsoft and Intel, the European Union's competition watchdog has taken aim at another US computer giant, Apple, over the price of songs on its online music store.

The watchdog, the European Commission, alleges that Apple has broken EU competition laws by charging different prices for music on its iTunes websites depending on which country they are downloaded from.

The action, notified to Apple in a "statement of objections" two years after the problem was first raised, was welcomed Tuesday by consumer groups, many of which have already complained about the US giant's practices in Europe.

European online shoppers are only able to download music from iTunes in their country of residence -- or where their credit card is registered -- and prices differ in the European Union's member countries.

The Commission claims that distribution arrangements between Apple and major record companies impose "territorial restrictions" on music sales.

"The very fact that you are unable to buy the same tunes at the same price, or you are unable in some cases to even buy the same tune at all, is a problem for us," said competition affairs spokesman Jonathan Todd.

Apple, which the Commission says has online stores in 15 of the EU's 27 member countries, denies breaking the rules.

"We don't believe Apple did anything to violate EU law," it said in a statement, and suggested it was under pressure to set prices from the major record labels it deals with.

"Apple has always wanted to operate a single, pan-European iTunes store accessible by anyone from any member state, but we were advised by the music labels and publishers that there were certain legal limits to the rights they could grant us," the company said.

Todd conceded that the record majors, which he refused to name but are probably EMI, Warner, Universal and Sony BMG, did have an influence but he said that Apple only has itself to blame.

"They are the ones that have entered into these agreements," he said.

The statement of objections -- a first formal step in the Commission's anti-trust procedures -- sent Friday was a nice surprise for consumer groups, some of whom thought their complaints had fallen on deaf ears.

"It is definitely something that we welcome," said a spokeswoman for the European consumers organisation BEUC, which unites around 40 national consumer groups in Europe. "For consumers, the market remains segmented."

The case arose two years ago when British organisation Which? lodged a complaint against iTunes alleged "territorial price discrimination," claiming it had isolated Britain's downloadable music market and caused overcharging.

Which? said again late last year that a song cost a British online shopper 1.17 euros, compared to 0.99 euros -- an 18 percent difference -- for a shopper in the eurozone, the 13 countries sharing the single currency.

The spokeswoman said BEUC feared the Commission had "buried" the problem.

The EU regulator has hotly pursued Microsoft for abuse of market dominant position since 2004 with its near-ubiquitous Windows software system, and has been investigating chipmaker Intel for similar reasons.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.

Copyright © 2007 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Dick Mac Recommends:

Murdered By the Music
Yukihiro Takahashi

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Happy Birthday, Tony Orlando!

Sixty-three and still rockin' the house at venues around the world!

Or see it at

Dick Mac Recommends:

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Gil Scott-Heron

Monday, April 02, 2007

More iProducts from Apple

Apple Computers announced today that it has developed a computer chip that can store and play music in women's breast implants.

The iBreast will cost $599 and at 90GB will have capacity to store, organize & play 22,500 songs.

This is considered to be a major breakthrough, because women have always complained about men staring at their breasts and not listening to them.

Thanks to Apple, everyone is now happy.

Thanks to Pat for sending this along!

Dick Mac Recommends:

Toys in the Attic