business news in context, analysis with attitude

Give me a break.

Here’s the first paragraph of a story from Advertising Age.

“Dunkin' Donuts has pulled an online ad starring Rachael Ray after conservative bloggers suggested the scarf she wore in the ad looked like a keffiyeh, a traditional headdress worn by Arab men that some associate with jihad.”

You gotta be kidding.

Some people clearly have too much time on their hands. And too little common sense between their ears. Shame on them, and shame on Dunkin’ Donuts for not telling these people to stick it in said ears.

Apparently the driving force behind the uproar was some woman named Michelle Malkin, who blogged about it, saying “it was with some dismay that I learned last week that Dunkin' Donuts' spokeswoman Rachael Ray, the ubiquitous TV hostess, posed for one of the company's ads in what appeared to be a black-and-white keffiyeh,” and then went on to describe the garment as “the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad.” And she noted that the scarf had been “mainstreamed by ignorant and not-so-ignorant fashion designers, celebrities and left wing icons."

(Note how she implies that at least some fashion designers are promoting “murderous Palestinian jihad” deliberately. My guess is that the only word in her statement that she has any passing familiarity with is this one: “ignorant.”)

I’d be willing to bet serious dollars that the vast majority of Americans have no idea what a keffiyeh is. Or had no idea – they probably do now, because some people decided to make an issue out of something that clearly was not one. But what they were really interested in was getting ink for themselves, not awakening Americans to the possibility that Dunkin’ Donuts and Rachael Ray are imminent threats to national security, sending coded messages to terrorist cells.

If there is a message being sent by Dunkin’ Donuts and Rachael Ray, it is this:

Shop here, not at Starbucks.

That’s it.

Dunkin- Donuts released the following statement: “In a recent online ad, Rachael Ray is wearing a black-and-white silk scarf with a paisley design … It was selected by a stylist for the advertising shoot. Absolutely no symbolism was intended.”

I would point out, though, that the symbolism of Dunkin’ Donuts knuckling under to this pressure is a lot more illustrative than the symbolism of the scarf.

It is stories like this that convince me that America really has gone nuts and lost all sense of humor, context and perspective.

It is the same sorts of people who questioned whether Starbucks was engaging in some sort of insidious and improper behavior when it changed the logo on its coffee cups earlier this month. And who suggest that a certain CPG company supports Satanic cults. And on and on and on.

Sometimes, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, a logo is just a logo, and a scarf is just a scarf.

Forget “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” If you want to see some of Harrison Ford’s best work, go check out a short public service announcement he did for urging the preservation of the rainforests.

Let’s just put it this way. By equating the destruction of the rainforests with chest hair axing, he makes the issue really personal. And painful.

It certainly made me pay attention. And say “ouch.”

Chalk up another casualty of high fuel prices.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that this Father’s Day, consumers plan to spend an average of $94.54, compared to last year’s $98.34. Why the decrease?

Well, according to NRF President/CEO Tracy Mullin, “When it comes to dad, a simple greeting card and family dinner really goes a long way … Unfortunately, consumers are torn between their love for dad and their need for gas this year.”

I’m not sure that every dad would agree with me, but as far as I’m concerned, if my kids want to get me a Father’s Day present, a couple of hours peace and quiet that afternoon would be nice. I’d like to stretch out on the couch or the hammock, put on the ballgame, and take a nap with no interruptions. (If they’d like to put a tank of gasoline in the Miata, that’d be appreciated, too…)

That’s be perfect.

There have been a number of stories out there about how young people are having trouble finding jobs this summer. Lots of reasons for why this is the case, but almost every major newspaper that I’ve seen has carried at story along this line.

I do know why at least two young people can't find jobs, however.

It is because my second son, Brian – who turns 19 tomorrow – has three. He’s working as a delivery boy/stock boy for our local wine store, doing some work as a camp counselor, and continuing to work as a barista at Starbucks. No grass growing under his feet, and I’m immensely proud of him.

He’s already looking into internship options for next summer, even as he thinks about where abroad he wants to spend at least part of his junior year.

Right now, I think Ireland, London and Australia are at the top of his list.

If you live in one of those places and would like a highly motivated intern with a great work ethic, let me know.

Jimmy Buffett has a new book out, entitled “Swine Not?” Unlike his previous books, this one doesn’t take place on a boat or a beach, but rather mostly is set in a posh New York City hotel as two children attempt to keep the fact that their pet is a pig secret from management, which doesn’t approve of so-called exotic pets.

It ain’t Faulkner, but it is perfect to take to the beach, and you can pretty much hear Buffett’s voice spinning a tall tale.

Which he’d almost certainly think is high praise.

No matter what side of the political aisle you’re on, one thing seems pretty evident this morning.

Scott McClellan better have a dog. Because he doesn’t have many friends left.

And what friends he does have may be thinking, “Is he going to write a book about me?”

Great piece on National Public Radio this week reporting that in Portugal, there is a cork maker who not only has figured out how to make a better cork so that it is far less likely that wine will be tainted – thereby eliminating one of the advantages of screw top wine bottles – but who also is making the point that cork is an environmentally friendly alternative.

So if we are to believe him – and I’m leaping into his camp wholeheartedly – wine corks are green and effective…and, I would add, have the added advantage of maintaining wine’s essential romance.

That’s what I call a win-win-win scenario.

I sense a trend here. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a Larkspur man runs an organization called ReCork America, which was created by a Portuguese company that manufacturers more than four billion wine corks a year (about a quarter of the total). This company is trying to find ways to recycle corks…though at the moment it has more than 300,000 of them and not a hell of a lot of options.

I’m doing my best to keep corks out of landfills. We have a big glass container in which we keep all the corks from bottles we’ve emptied. It is sort of like a trophy…though I think one of these days we’re going to need a larger container.

Speaking of wines…

It isn’t exotic, but last night with a dish of scrambled eggs and salsa verde, we had a crisp, cold 2005 Kendall Jackson Chardonnay…which was excellent and perfect.

We’ve also enjoyed a couple of excellent Spanish wines lately – the 2002 Vina Mayor Crianza, and the 2003 Vall de Calas Montsant. Both terrific with grilled meats of almost any kind.

Speaking of grilled meats, I tried something new this week that I really liked – Aidells makes these great chicken patties with roasted vegetables and parmesan cheese. You can keep them in the freezer and put them on the grill and have a nice lunch in about five minutes…which is my definition of convenience. Good stuff.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

KC's View: