A memo making the e-rounds asks some of Los Angeles County's 20,000 contractors to "review, identify and remove/change" any words or labeling on equipment or parts that "could be interpreted as discriminatory or offensive in nature" before selling it to the county.
The offensive words? "Master" and "slave," used for years to describe the relationship of computer and electronic parts to one another, and also for brake and clutch cylinders in cars.
Dennis Tafoya, who heads the county's affirmative action compliance office, said a black employee of the probation department had filed an employment discrimination complaint because he had to work with videotape recording equipment with functions labeled "master" and "slave."
The employee perceived the wording to be offensive, Tafoya said, and the prescribed drill for such a complaint was underway.
In the end, he said, "We didn't find there was employee discrimination of any type, but did recognize here was a situation where this employee and maybe other employees had concerns as regards to this language."
Purchasing and contract services division manager Joe Sandoval, who wrote the memo, said, "It's kind of mushroomed out of control in terms of folks thinking I'm dictating industrial standards, and I'm not." His e-mail has been running from supportive to "you should all be fired." The county is about halfway through surveying its electronic equipment for similar language.
To date, no one has evidently been offended by designations of "male/female" components.
As for the offending words on the videotape machine, Tafoya said, "We simply put tape over it and renamed it primary/secondary or something like that."
Scholars Consider Governor's Memories
This space told you last week that some scholars and World War II buffs had been puzzled about Arnold Schwarzenegger's declaration in at least two speeches that he "saw Soviet tanks" in Austrian streets.
This was because Schwarzenegger's home was in the heart of the British zone of Austrian occupation from 1945, before Schwarzenegger was born. The British, like the Soviet, U.S. and French occupation forces, left Austria when Schwarzenegger was about 8 years old.
Scholars said the only way he could have seen Soviet tanks in the streets was by traveling into the Soviet-occupied zone in northern Austria, or around Vienna, a trip that scholars say would have been difficult, given British and Soviet antipathies during the occupation.
When this space asked the governor's office about that earlier, Schwarzenegger's schedule was too full to address the question, but now a spokesman for the governor says that when he traveled "to the Soviet-occupied province as a child to visit relatives, they would pass through Soviet checkpoints where the car was searched, and on those family visits he saw Soviet tanks and other manifestations of Soviet occupation."
The spokesman didn't say where this was, but added that Schwarzenegger remembered that, "as a child he was always afraid when they'd go through the Soviet checkpoint because they searched the car and there was always a concern that the Soviets would take men away for the slave labor."
USC professor Cornelius Schnauber is a Schwarzenegger acquaintance who grew up in the Soviet zone. He suggested that, if Schwarzenegger had seen tanks, he must have had to travel some distance from his home to do so, and checkpoints were unquestionably in force.
But as for fears of slave labor, he said, "as much as I was in opposition to Soviet occupation, they wouldn't have taken visitors away unless they found something illegal or these visitors were in opposition to the communist system."
Rohrabacher Has Taste
for Political Lemonade
Dana Rohrabacher, the Republican congressman from Huntington Beach, says he was just "trying to make lemonade" out of being pressed like a lemon -- pressured by the White House to vote for the administration's Medicare prescription drug bill.
He had supported the plan twice before, but this time around, when someone stuck in a provision that he said would lay out federal cash for health care for illegal immigrants, he backed off.
But the courtship was renewed after Rohrabacher said the GOP leadership had promised him a future bill requiring hospitals that treat illegal immigrants to report the activity to the Border Patrol within hours ... and then the Border Patrol would have to put the hospitalized illegal immigrants on a deportation wait list.
"They needed my vote," Rohrabacher said, "so they took the deal." And then, so did he.
* Remember, only four filing days until the Dec. 5 deadline to get in that paperwork to run for local, state and federal offices!