Sunday, October 14, 2007


I can't wait 'til the NAAFA nutjobs get ahold of this story:

Unattractive need not apply
By Tim Barker

Wanted: Smart, outgoing and energetic men and women to serve drinks and food at a new downtown St. Louis casino.

All the better if you have modeling, acting, dancing, singing or cheerleading experience.

Oh, and one other thing: It never hurts to be pretty.

Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. is in the midst of a massive hiring spree to fill some 1,200 jobs needed to run its $495 million Lumière Place when it opens in December. But none of the jobs will attract as much attention as the so-called Ladies and Gents of Lumière.

These will be the revealingly attired women and men serving as cocktail waitresses, bartenders and food servers throughout the complex. They will also promote the casino at special events, parties, football games and the like. They'll appear in print and broadcast spots. Maybe even a calendar.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the company is being picky — only a dozen or so of the 120 Ladies and Gents have been hired so far — as it searches for what essentially will be the face and personality of the casino.

"They'll be fun to be around. They'll be fun to look at as well," said April Amos, Lumière's talent manager.

And Pinnacle seems intent on keeping it that way, counting a height-weight ratio among the job's requirements. The company won't share the ratio publicly, though Amos called it "very generous."

"It's not something where it will knock out a ton of people," she said.

At 5 feet 8 inches tall, and weighing 135 pounds, that was not something Dana Wolf, 25, had to worry about before being hired as one of the first Ladies. Wolf, who recently moved to St. Louis from Decatur, Ill., doesn't see a problem, noting that her co-workers come in a wide range of sizes.

"There are girls that are taller and skinnier, but there are others that are more voluptuous and curvy," Wolf said. "It's not like you have to have a super-toned body."


Lumière Place is not the first casino to put an emphasis on beauty when hiring cocktail waitresses and bartenders. It's not even the first Pinnacle-owned casino to do it.

The Ladies and Gents program was born in 2005 at Pinnacle's L'Auberge Du Lac Hotel & Casino in Lake Charles, La., as a way to gain an edge in a crowded marketplace.

"We really wanted to stand out in a different way," said Jackie St. Romain, senior director of human resources.

The program, assisted by a modeling agency, started with casting calls in six cities, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La. Since then, the casino has spiced up its mix, with recruiting trips to Eastern Europe and South America to bring men and women in for four-month stints during the summer.

It is a job that comes with a wide range of perks, including free or discounted tuition, health club memberships, tanning, makeup and spa treatments. Someone comes in with a bad hair day? They're sent to the hairdresser on property. Uniforms are sent off each night for cleaning.

In return, however, the Ladies and Gents have to stay within 5 percent of their hiring weight, though there is an opportunity at each anniversary to adjust that official weight. Violating the 5 percent rule earns a counseling session.

"We've had to, very rarely, talk to someone about gaining or losing too much weight. But I've never had to terminate anyone because of it," St. Romain said. "They're wearing a uniform every day that's pretty sexy. You aren't going to want to gain weight or look bad in it."

But that's not necessarily good for the health of those workers, said Edith Benay, a San Francisco-based attorney considered an authority on obesity case law. In the 1990s, Benay won a $36 million settlement against United Airlines, which had significantly different weight standards for men and women. The lawsuit was won as a gender issue, not on the basis of weight discrimination.

But even if the weight rules are applied equally, Benay said, they can foster eating disorders.

"It's completely unreasonable," Benay said. "You start starving yourself, throwing up and taking laxatives in order to meet the weight guidelines."

The use of sex to sell gambling is hardly a novel idea, with casinos around the world using it to varying degrees throughout the years. The Ladies and Gents program actually draws its inspiration from the controversial Borgata Babes in Atlantic City.

In the summer of 2005, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa sparked an uproar when it started random weigh-ins to keep watch on its cocktail waitresses, who wear bustiers and miniskirts. It was part of the casino's push for an identity in a crowded market, said Joseph Weinert, senior vice president of gambling industry consulting firm Spectrum Gaming Group.

"They are trying to let people know that they are younger, hipper and more fashionable than their competitors," Weinert said. "The Babes are a big part of that."

It matters little, he said, that the Borgata's actions have also spawned a lawsuit, a union grievance and at least two complaints to the state's civil rights division.

"Any publicity — good or seemingly bad — sends out the message: We've got hot cocktail waitresses. Come look at them," he said.


And while it might raise the ire of critics, there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with using attractiveness as a job qualification.

It isn't the same thing as discrimination based on race, gender, age or disability, said David Kaplan, a management professor at St. Louis University who teaches employment law.

In a nutshell, it's not illegal to turn away an applicant because they're ugly.

"Congress has not passed a law to protect people on the basis of beauty," Kaplan said.

It could, however, get tricky if the company isn't careful when deciding who is and isn't attractive. Ending up with a roster full of white, blond-haired women, for example, could create trouble.

"You have to make sure your definition of beauty is not code for racial or ethnic discrimination," Kaplan said.

Casino managers insist that won't be a problem, saying they subscribe to the belief that beauty comes in many forms. They say attitude will be just as important as appearance.

"You look at the attractiveness of a person, it's everything. The personality. The smile," said Todd George, Lumière's general manager. "It's not just looks. It's like any other skill position."

His comments are echoed by members of the inaugural class of Ladies and Gents.

Chris Herbert, 22, of O'Fallon, Ill., has done a bit of modeling and is looking for an agent, with hopes that his job as a Gent will provide better exposure and opportunity.

But Herbert plays down the role his appearance played in getting the Lumière job: "I don't really think it had anything to do with it."

Neither does Mandy Sullivan, 26, of Ballwin. The former bartender, with no modeling background, says her co-workers are more about personality than beauty.

"They're not ugly by any means. They're all pretty people," Sullivan said. "But there's a lot more to them. They're all very smart and easy to talk to."

The Rehabilitation of Jacques de Molay

Amazing stuff here:

Knights Templar win heresy reprieve after 700 years

By Philip Pullella Fri Oct 12, 4:10 AM ET

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Knights Templar, the medieval Christian military order accused of heresy and sexual misconduct, will soon be partly rehabilitated when the Vatican publishes trial documents it had closely guarded for 700 years.

A reproduction of the minutes of trials against the Templars, "'Processus Contra Templarios -- Papal Inquiry into the Trial of the Templars"' is a massive work and much more than a book -- with a 5,900 euros ($8,333) price tag.

"This is a milestone because it is the first time that these documents are being released by the Vatican, which gives a stamp of authority to the entire project," said Professor Barbara Frale, a medievalist at the Vatican's Secret Archives.

"Nothing before this offered scholars original documents of the trials of the Templars," she told Reuters in a telephone interview ahead of the official presentation of the work on October 25.

The epic comes in a soft leather case that includes a large-format book including scholarly commentary, reproductions of original parchments in Latin, and -- to tantalize Templar buffs -- replicas of the wax seals used by 14th-century inquisitors.

Reuters was given an advance preview of the work, of which only 799 numbered copies have been made.

One parchment measuring about half a meter wide by some two meters long is so detailed that it includes reproductions of stains and imperfections seen on the originals.

Pope Benedict will be given the first set of the work, published by the Vatican Secret Archives in collaboration with Italy's Scrinium cultural foundation, which acted as curator and will have exclusive world distribution rights.

The Templars, whose full name was "Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon," were founded in 1119 by knights sworn to protecting Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land after the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099.

They amassed enormous wealth and helped finance wars of some European monarchs. Legends of their hidden treasures, secret rituals and power have figured over the years in films and bestsellers such as "The Da Vinci Code."

The Knights have also been portrayed as guardians of the legendary Holy Grail, the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper before his crucifixion.

The Vatican expects most copies of the work to be bought up by specialized libraries at top universities and by leading medieval scholars.


The Templars went into decline after Muslims re-conquered the Holy Land at the end of the 13th century and were accused of heresy by King Philip IV of France, their foremost persecutor. Their alleged offences included denying Christ and secretly worshipping idols.

The most titillating part of the documents is the so-called Chinon Parchment, which contains phrases in which Pope Clement V absolves the Templars of charges of heresy, which had been the backbone of King Philip's attempts to eliminate them.

Templars were burned at the stake for heresy by King Philip's agents after they made confessions that most historians believe were given under duress.

The parchment, also known as the Chinon Chart, was "misplaced" in the Vatican archives until 2001, when Frale stumbled across it.

"The parchment was catalogued incorrectly at some point in history. At first I couldn't believe my eyes. I was incredulous," she said.

"This was the document that a lot of historians were looking for," the 37-year-old scholar said.

Philip was heavily indebted to the Templars, who had helped him finance his wars, and getting rid of them was a convenient way of cancelling his debts, some historians say.

Frale said Pope Clement was convinced that while the Templars had committed some grave sins, they were not heretics.


Their initiation ceremony is believed to have included spitting on the cross, but Frale said they justified this as a ritual of obedience in preparation for possible capture by Muslims. They were also said to have practiced sodomy.

"Simply put, the pope recognized that they were not heretics but guilty of many other minor crimes -- such as abuses, violence and sinful acts within the order," she said. "But that is not the same as heresy."

Despite his conviction that the Templars were not guilty of heresy, in 1312 Pope Clement ordered the Templars disbanded for what Frale called "the good of the Church" following his repeated clashes with the French king.

Frale depicted the trials against the Templars between 1307 and 1312 as a battle of political wills between Clement and Philip, and said the document means Clement's position has to be reappraised by historians.

"This will allow anyone to see what is actually in documents like these and deflate legends that are in vogue these days," she said.

Rosi Fontana, who has helped the Vatican coordinate the project, said: "The most incredible thing is that 700 years have passed and people are still fascinated by all of this."

"The precise reproduction of the parchments will allow scholars to study them, touch them, admire them as if they were dealing with the real thing," Fontana said.

"But even better, it means the originals will not deteriorate as fast as they would if they were constantly being viewed," she said.

The persecution of the Templars was a witch hunt; it was also an exercise in greed. Philip (known by some gruesome irony as 'the Fair') wanted the order's treasure, which was considerable (the Templars practically invented the checking account). The Pope's involvement was equally political. Still, the assertions made by the inquisitors runs the gamut of midieval paranoia, and is interesting because of it. Templars were accused of tattooing crucifixes on their heels (so they could tread on Christ, a most ostentatious blasphemy), of worshiping Baphomet, of homosexual orgies, of bestiality, of cannibalism (infants, of course), you name it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

War Is The Force That Gives Meaning


[F]rom the moment the "global war on terror" was christened, there's been a breed of intellectual who has glommed onto it for a kind of energizing world-historical play-acting. May you live in interesting times, the Chinese curse has it. But for some of us, it seems, our times are not sufficiently interesting. Orwell couldn't have been Orwell if he hadn't had around Fascism and Communism and fellow-traveling intellectuals -- things that were quite a bummer to live through but did generate a lot of good writing. So without those big ticket isms, how will we be able to compare? And thus the constant effort to puff up the times we live in, because if they're great then we can be too.

This applies to most Liberal Hawks and neocons, but especially Christopher Hitchens.