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  • Mitt Romney Amazed by Convenience Store Technology

    mitt romneyWhile Republicans have coalesced around Mitt Romney as their nominee, he still faces an "enthusiasm gap," with many parts of the Republican base — evangelicals, Tea Party adherents — volunteering their support as merely a means to defeat Barack Obama. A successful candidate needs more personally committed supporters to bring him victory.

    Finally, after months of searching, Romney has found his base in the most unlikely of places: a convenience store in Cornwall, Pennsylvania

    What inspired him: A computer at Wawa that allows customers to type in what they want on a sandwich, as opposed to ordering it through a human cashier. It was a technology, he said, that had been fostered by competition — competition he said the federal government lacks in delivering its services to Americans. He said the government's lack of competition and bureaucracy was hurting the United States in keeping jobs that are moving to other countries.

    But more than anything, Romney seemed blown away by the Wawa computers, which he raved about.

    "You press a little touchtone key pad… You touch this, touch this, touch this, go pay the cashier, and there's your sandwich," Romney said. "It's amazing!"

    Get a room, you guys!

    It's somewhat disconcerting to watch a man who stands a good chance of assuming responsibility for advanced spy satellites and killer robot drones being so impressed by somewhat dated grocery store technology — an incident reminiscent of George H. W. Bush's allegedly revelatory encounter with a supermarket scanner.

    But you can't fault Romney for finding common ground with a Wawa sandwich computer. They were both built to make it easier to part middle-class people with their money, live in service to large corporations and are programmed to give their customers whatever bullshit they wish to swallow.

    Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Food, Mitt Romney, Pennsylvania, Science & Technology
  • Union Workers Prevail in Stunning Victory

    It's been a difficult few weeks for unions and the workers they represent. Really, it's been a difficult few decades.

    In 1964 nearly 1 in 3 American workers was unionized. Today, the figure stands at less than 12 percent, with a paltry 7 percent of the private sector workforce belonging to labor organizations. Nearly half the states operate with "right to work" laws, which mainly grant employers the right to make employees work more hours for less pay.

    Last month, a federal judge ruled that a pro-labor proposal by the National Labor Relations Board to speed up union certification elections was "invalid." Last week in Wisconsin, most voters couldn't recall what it is that public employee unions were good for, and so refused to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

    But it's always darkest before everything goes completely fucking black. I mean, the dawn! Always darkest before the dawn, as proven by the efforts of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in the Sharpsville Area School District cafeteria in Pennsylvania.

    Years from now, we may speak of AFSCME's victory in the same breath as the Flint sit down strikes that birthed the modern United Auto Workers. We will remember them as we do the martyrs of Ludlow and Homestead and Pullman. We will sing songs about their successful grievance procedure, just as we mythologize in song the brave women of Lawrence's mills and the coal miners of Harlan County…

    The grievance was based on the allegation that the school district "violated established past practice" in charging cafeteria workers for food or drinks that couldn't be sold or consumed by students. These items would include food or drinks with expired dates or foods that had been reheated, none of which can be served to students according to safe food regulations.

    But according to the settlement, cafeteria employees indeed can eat and drink those expired or reheated items — at their own risk. And they don't have to pay for them… AFSCME members working in the cafeteria however must pay for any other a la carte items they consume.

    Things are really looking up for labor! Sure, collective bargaining agreements are soon to become ineffective tools to settle beefs between workers and employers, but at least the exploited laborers of the future will have all the expired beef they can eat.

    Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Education, Food, Pennsylvania, Unions
  • Pennsylvania Lawmakers Caucus in Shared Prison Cell

    For years, centrist observers of American politics have bemoaned the decline in civility in Washington and in our state capitols.

    Where once lawmakers from both parties would never place their devotion to partisan principles above their commitment to alcoholism and  would wile away their afternoons in bipartisan drinking sessions, today's elected officials are much less likely to interact socially with their political opponents. The time pressures of fundraising, the need to please partisan activist bases and the decline of Georgetown salon culture has reduced the spaces in which Democrats and Republicans can come together.

    Luckily, there's still one taxpayer-funded locale with bipartisan accommodations – prison…

    John Perzel, a Republican from Philadelphia and Bill Deweese, a Democrat from Greene, share the distinction of both having served as Speaker of the Pennsylvania State House.

    They also became convicted felons within a month of each other after separate convictions on corruption charges. Now they’re both at Camp Hill state prison, and according to the website PoliticsPA, they're sharing the same cell…

    Democratic Rep. Ronald Waters, who serves in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and worked with both Perzel and Deweese prior to their convictions, commented that "to the best of our knowledge, it seems to be true."

    The unusual housing arrangement allegedly came about after Deweese, a Democrat convicted of using state funds to pay his campaign staff, was uncomfortable bunking with his original cellmate — his own former chief of staff Mike Manzo. Understandable, as Manzo testified against him.

    Luckily, both are facing relatively short sentences. Deweese was sentenced to 30 to 60 months in prison while Perzel will serve 2 to 5 years, barring a successful appeal. It will probably be the first time politicians express gratitude for the existence of "term limits."

    Photo by Federal Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

    Tags: Corruption, Pennsylvania, Prison
  • GOP Rep. Joe Pitts Believes Zombie Yassir Arafat Is Middle East's Only Hope

    Imagine it's 2011 and you write a letter to your congressman expressing concern over House Resolution 268, a  measure that reaffirms U.S. commitment "to a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." If you're a constituent of Pennsylvania Republican Joe Pitts, who has served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Human Rights Commission, you may have to wait a whole year for a reply.

    But it will be totally worth it, because the response will feature this gem

    With the global war against terrorism, it is now incumbent on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasir Arafat to clamp down on Palestinian extremists that have perpetuated violence and to restart a peace process that has collapsed.

    Contrary to popular belief, and also contrary to occasional strikes against Israeli civilians and associated reprisals against Palestinians,  the two sides have been making great strides. It's just the progress has been difficult to discern because the lead negotiators have either been dead since 2004, in the case of Arafat, or in a coma since 2006, in the case of Sharon.

    Pitts staffers blamed the error on an errant form letter rather than a new frontier in the GOP's pro-life agenda, where even the dead Palestinian leaders are granted living personhood…

    "This is particularly embarrassing," said Gabe Neville, Pitts' chief of staff in Washington. He said the contents and postage of the letter amount to a "double mistake": an outdated form letter that was pulled it from the mail pile a year ago, but sometime since then, added back into outgoing mail.

    It would be edifying to get the Middle East perspective on this, but the Times of Israel had some sad news: "Neither Arafat nor Sharon were available for comment."

    Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Israel, Joe Pitts, Middle East, Palestine, Pennsylvania
  • Ron Paul Scares GOP With Novel Strategy of Knowing Election Rules

    Ron PaulMitt Romney swept the East Coast primaries last night, leaving us with the crushing realization that we're going to be stuck with seven months worth of retreaded jokes about Romney's lack of human touch, like dogs stuck a top Mitt's car. At this point, the last interesting subplot in the Republican primary involves the potential  influence America's most intelligent and ideologically consistent lawn gnome, Ron Paul, may exert on the convention in Tampa.

    Judging by his performance in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, where he finished ahead of Newt Gingrich and is likely to garner several delegates, it will be some time before Paul is forced to return to his former profession of yelling at squirrels while handing out poorly mimeographed newsletters at the local park. Paul's relative success — he's generally improved on his 2008 performance — is a result of a novel strategy known as "study the fucking delegates selection rules and follow through after each caucus."

    Not everyone in the GOP is happy with the Paul campaign's organizational strength. At a county caucus in Washington State, a Republican official tried to shut down a meeting after a Paul supporter had been elected to chair the gathering.

    It's such nefarious rule-learning and organization that will allow Paul to control the Minnesota delegation to the Republican National Convention…

    Paul took home 20 of the 24 possible delegates and nearly all the alternative delegates Saturday during the Minnesota congressional district conventions….

    Thirteen more at-large delegates will be chosen at the Minnesota state convention, but the delegation demographics there will be very similar to those in the congressional districts, and Paul appears poised to come away with even more delegates after the May 4 convention.

    Similarly, Paul is on track to win a majority of Iowa's delegates, despite coming in third place in the unofficial statewide tally. This means the Iowa Caucuses have now had three winners over the past few months, which begs the question — who do these indecisive Iowa voters think they are, Mitt Romney?

    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Primaries, Republican National Convention, Republicans, Rhode Island, Ron Paul