"What's black and white and read all over?"

Saturday, August 12, 2006
Posted 9:09 PM by

Death by metrosexual

The not-so-friendly skies are about to get a whole lot uglier and smellier.

The new face of American terrorism is finally ready to be revealed, raising the alert status to chartreuse with a hint of mauve.Thanks to the British foiling of a terrorist plot to blow up international flights from England with liquid explosives last week, Americans are now being forced to leave some of their favorite fluids behind before they board.

Who knew hair gel and cologne could kill?

Given how badly some folks in coach stink already despite tons of Right Guard Extreme and Tag Body Shots, I'd almost be willing to take my chances. We can't even roll down the window to get some air back there.

However, Americans can no longer sit back and allow terrorist infiltration, terrorist indoctrination, terrorist subversion, and the international terrorist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

So just like when we were all forced to start taking off our footwear because shoe bomber Richard Reid failed to close the book before striking, we can now thank Group Captain Lionel Mandrake for doing General Jack D. Ripper proud. That is, if they weren't both fictional characters from the movie "Dr. Strangelove."

There isn't even a complete list of banned items. Here's the best I could find on the Transportation (In)Security Administration Web site: All beverages (excluding formula/breast milk - I'll take mine from the hot blonde in seat 4D), Camelbaks and similar backpacks must be empty (What, no strip searches for camel toes?), Gel based sports supplements (Barry Bonds better ride a bus), Jellos and Puddings (Bill Cosby will be joining Barry because there's no more room for Jello.), Yogurts (or gel like substances. I'm assuming that means no Spam.), Baby teethers (with gel or liquid inside. Should be like taking candy from a baby.), Children's toys with gel inside, Gel candles, Gel shoe inserts (Or else you really will be gellin' like a felon), Body creams and lotions, Bubble baths (Don Ho included), Bubble bath balls (gels), Eye drops/gels, Gel caps, Gel deodorants, Hair detangler, Hair sprays/aerosol bottles, Hair styling gels, Hand sanitizers, Lip gels (Carmex in tubes, etc), Lip glosses/liquids (solid lip glosses and blushes are allowed), Liquid foundations, Liquid medications (non-essential), Liquid Soaps, Make up removers/facial cleansers, Mascaras, Mosquito sprays (There goes that night on the town in the Everglades I had planned), Mouthwashes, Nail polish and removers, Neosporin-like cremes, Ointments, Perfumes/colognes, Saline Solutions (Sing after me, "Blinded by the flight"), Shampoos and conditioners, Shaving creams and gels, Toothpastes, Topical creams.

This isn't a way to prevent terrorism. It's a secret airline plot to save on gas costs by lightening the load. It was bad enough when they just lost our luggage, now we're being told to leave half of it at home.

If you want to dress like this when you reach your destination better be prepared to bend over like Beckham before boarding can commence.Without many of those items, business travellers on red-eyes are soon going to look far worse than usual and will probably be scratching in some pretty interesting places too. Frequent fliers will quickly resemble the newscasters in "Batman" when the Joker started poisoning cosmetics.

Now I ask you, is earning miles toward free flights a reward or simply punishment for the rest of us?

And although it's not specifically listed, I'm pretty sure that also means no more KY jelly for the mile-high club. Too bad really, since the next step is we all have to step on the plane nude. Who knows, it might even lead to a resurgence of Hooters airlines?

Forget about jet lag. It's jet hags that pose the biggest public health risk now. Thankfully, barf bags are still free.

I understand many Europeans can go without their toiletries for days, but this new confiscation order is inherently biased by prejudging American metrosexual men as possible terrorists.

That's profiling and it's wrong. Most are just pansies.

Can anyone see them marching on Washington soon shouting, "Give me hair mousse or give me death"? (Yeah, I know, if we're really lucky, they can get both.)

The only good news out of all this - other than the fact that nobody died this time - is that Pennsylvania's state government won't be making any additional profit off these confiscated items.

State officials were considering pulling some discarded items for a state program that resells on eBay any items of value relinquished at airport security checkpoints, General Services Department spokesman Ed Myslewicz told the Associated Press. However, officials at the state's main airports in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh said they were discarding all the liquids and gels.

Workers taking any of the items would face discipline, airport officials said.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, duty manager Lily Wang said passengers who picked up bottles of Napa Valley wine as souvenirs were left with no choice but to drink them in line or throw them away.

Which picture of Unabomber(sexual) Theodore 'Ted' Kaczynski will frequent fliers most resemble? He wasn't just a crazy cabin-in-the-woods Luddite with a manifesto, he was a fashion trend-setter too.Sure beats paying $10 for a tiny bottle of booze on board the plane. I expect those will be going by the boards soon too. After all, terrorists could make mini-Molotov cocktails.


Friday, August 11, 2006
Posted 9:19 PM by

Kermit was right: It's not easy being Green

Was it a deal with the devil, a.k.a. Tricky Ricky Santorum, or simply a lack of green that cost the Pennsylvania Green Party's candidates for governor and lieutenant governor spots on the Nov. 7 ballot?

Did poorly spent cash from Republicans cost two Green Party candidates a spot on Pennsylvania's Nov. 7 ballot?Green Party gubernatorial candidate Marakay Rogers and her running mate, Christina Valente, are withdrawing their nominating petitions because they don't have enough money to fight a court challenge brought by Democrats.

Neither candidate has filed a campaign finance report with the state, indicating they've done no fundraising on their own and the Green Party's political action committee only had $976 on June 5.

Yet, Rogers and Valente say they still plan to keep running, despite long odds as write-in candidates.

Rogers said she hopes that a federal appeals court will rule favorably in a lawsuit filed by minor parties seeking to overturn the state's signature requirement for their candidates.

Minor-party and independent candidates for statewide office had to collect an extraordinarily high number of signatures - 67,070 - to qualify this year for the November ballot. It represents 2 percent of the ballots cast for the top vote-getter in the last statewide election. This year's threshold was based on a record 3.4 million votes Casey received when he was elected to his first term as state treasurer in 2004.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Russ Diamond was unable to gather the necessary signatures and withdrew from the race recently.

Rogers and Valente filed their petitions jointly with Carl Romanelli, the Green Party's U.S. Senate candidate. Democrats challenged Romanelli's signatures on Tuesday, in part because they were gathered by a political firm with a questionable past.

The Democrats asked a court to remove all three candidates from the fall ballot, alleging that more than 69,000 of the signatures they collected included fake names, names of unregistered voters and illegible signatures.

Much of the $100,000 Romanelli spent gathering signatures came from Republican donors, who see his candidacy as a way to siphon votes away from the Democratic Senatorial candidate, Bob Casey Jr. Romanelli is pro-choice. Casey and Republican incumbent Rick Santorum are pro-life.

Santorum's staffers even helped gather some of the signatures.

What role did tricky Ricky Santorum, his staffers and fellow Republicans play in helping Pennsylvania's Green Party self-destruct this year?Democratic Party Chairman T.J. Rooney issued a statement Friday urging Romanelli to withdraw from the ballot, saying, "To continue with this charade is a colossal waste of time for the court and does nothing to inspire confidence in voters."

Romanelli isn't backing down, however, and said, "I have confidence in our (signature) submission ... and I still submit we will prevail."


Thursday, August 10, 2006
Posted 10:53 PM by

An imperial governorship?

Does George Lucas now run Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell introduces his new campaign consultant and legislative liaison, who said he found lawmakers' lack of faith in their governor disturbing.We all know that President George Bush thinks of himself as an imperial president, able with a wave of his magic pen and a signing statement to ignore Congressional demands and federal law.

After all, we're at war, aren't we?

But how many of us knew that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell wields even more power than Bush? His pen can magically make red ink and bad legislation disappear, with the help of a force more powerful than metachlorions - a line-item veto.

Not since Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin in "Star Wars" has a sitting governor held so much power. (Of course it didn't end too well for him. Must be a downside to going over to the dark side, where all lobbyists come from.)

And just like Tarkin, Rendell is finding it difficult to reign in those rebellious outlying areas not near any metropolis. (The Death Star is clear to fire - at Centralia. Like anyone would notice.)

While passing the 2005-06 state budget, Rendell exercised his Jedi-like line-item powers by removing a Republican-inserted measure that would have prevented his administration from pursuing additional federal dollars for abortion-related services.

That's one for the good guys, I think. Kind of like watching Anakin Skywalker slaughter Sandpeople. You know it's not right, but you feel no real remorse about it.

But proving he knows the power of the dark side as well, Rendell also deleted a requirement that the state police hold hearings and give public notice of barracks closings, and cut a $1.5 million pilot program to widen some highway markings from 4 to 6 inches.

Instead of trying to override his vetoes, Republican legislatives leaders turned to an even more powerful force in this state - trial lawyers. They sued Rendell in Commonwealth Court at taxpayer expense.

Today, they got an answer - just not the one they were looking for. Must have gone over as well as finding out your paternity can be traced to an embodiment of evil with a deviated septum.

A five-judge panel voted unanimously against House Speaker John M. Perzel and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert C. Jubelirer.

"The governor's powers of disapproval are no less extensive than, and are entirely coexistent with, the General Assembly's power to enact legislation in the first place," wrote President Judge James Gardner Colins. "In other words, if the General Assembly can put it in, the governor can take it out."

That would make it a legislative game of hokey-pokey, with the lawmakers' only option being a vote to override - about as treacherous as having Wedge cover your back on an attack run.

Kate Philips, Rendell's spokeswoman, told the Associated Press the court ruling demonstrated "how frivolous these lawsuits have become, when one political party isn't getting its way."

Gov. Rendell's use of the line-item veto makes me wonder how he'll react when the Legislature sends him a new telecommunications bill.And they're the ones in the majority.

Bodes well for the Republic, doesn't it? Rendell's stormtroopers can close up shop whenever they want, but the Legislature gets to keep spending their Walking Around Money. Nice.


To read the full opinion of the Commonwealth Court in pdf format, click here.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Posted 9:09 PM by

Slots, beer battles in Pa. demand attention

The battle for a stand-alone slot machine license - and the quarters that it will bring - has pitted two of Pennsylvania's tourist areas against each other.Competition for one of two stand-alone slot machine parlor licenses has gotten so heated that folks in Gettysburg and the Poconos have begun trash-talking each other, the Sunbury Daily Item reports today.

Crossroads Gaming Resort and Spa in Gettysburg sent memos to reporters suggesting it has more potential to attract gamblers and generate state revenues for property tax cuts than two of its competitors in the Category 2 standalone licensing sweepstakes - Mount Airy Lodge and Pocono Manor, both located in Monroe County.

The memos arrived after Mohegan Sun announced it may withdraw its application for a racetrack slots license at Pocono Downs in the Wilkes-Barre area because the state's demand for 52 percent of the rake will hurt its profitability in a "small market."

Crossroads spokesman David La Torre said Mohegan Sun's concerns are the "clearest indication yet" that the Poconos can't sustain a racetrack slots casino and a standalone slots casino.

Meanwhile, Robert Uguccioni, director of the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau claimed the memo was "an act of desperation" because the Gettysburg slots proposal has no public support.

"We are the largest resort area in the Pennsylvania," said Uguccioni. "We have the closest proximity to New York and New Jersey markets than any other resort area."

Meanwhile, Nima Hadian has been extolling the virtues of the Belgian ale Hoegaarden to anyone who would listen since he signed a deal with the world's largest beer distributor, InBev USA, in ,1998 according to the Allentown Morning Call.

But now that the beer has name-recognition here, Hadian and his family-run business, Shangy's in Emmaus, are suing the distributor in federal court. They claim InBev is breaching the contract which made them the sole wholesaler of Hoegaarden in a 17-county region that includes the Lehigh Valley, the Poconos and Philadelphia.

Would you miss Hoegaarden if it's gone? Not me, but I'd probably drive to another state just to have a Chimay.Under arcane Pennsylvania law, wholesalers sell to local distributors, bars and restaurants, and only one wholesaler can sell a particular beer in a given market.

The battle could ultimately reduce the number of specialty beers available to Pennsylvania consumers, Hadian said.

If this is the way Pennsylvania regulates alcohol, I can't wait to see what happens with slot machines and casino gambling.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Posted 7:59 PM by

PaCleanSweep falls to dust

PaCleanSweep, a group which helped oust 17 incumbent lawmakers for passing last year's now-repealed pay raise, faded into history today and will be dissolved.It's official: PaCleanSweep, a Pennsylvania citizens group that helped force the repeal of last year's legislative pay raise and and oust 17 incumbent lawmakers in the May primary, is no more.

A Lebanon County judge approved a motion by five PACleanSweep board members to dissolve the group today, but founder Russ Diamond vowed to continue its Web site and the fight to help make state government more transparent.

"This is not the end of the movement," Diamond said in a statement. "Rather this is simply an adjustment in the way the group operates."

Diamond abandoned his independent run for governor last week when he ws only able to gather 38,322 of the 67,070 signatures he would need to get on the Nov. 7 ballot.


Pennsylvania Democrats filed objections today to the nominating petitions filed by Carl Romanelli, the Green Party's nominee for U.S. Senate.

Romanelli, a Wilkes-Barre resident, was able to obtain at least 90,000 signatures to get his name on the ballot - but only by paying staffers to gather them with the help of $100,000 in campaign contributions, largely from Republican donors, and a few staffers from Republican Sen. Rick Santorum's office.

Carl Romanell of Wilkes-Barre will be the Green Party's nominee for U.S. Senate if his nominating petitions can withstand court scrutiny.Santorum and the GOP are blatantly hoping Romanelli, who is pro-choice on abortion, is able to siphon enough votes from Democrat candidate Bob Casey Jr., who is pro-life, to let the incumbent win reelection.

Democrats are crying foul, but not because of the GOP influence in the third party candidacy. Instead, they're complaining that three-quarters of the signatures on Romanelli's nominating petitions are invalid because of fake names, names of unregistered voters, and illegible signatures.

Records on file with the Federal Election Commission show the Luzerne County Green Party received $66,000 in June from 20 contributors who gave between $1,000 and $5,000 apiece.

The Luzerne County Green Party in turn reported paying $66,000 in June to a company called JSM Inc., even though the Florida-based petition-gathering firm has had a checkered past.

And to think I once liked the Green Party better than the Democrats.


Lobbyist Leonard N. Ross, Philadelphia Mayor John Street's friend and former law partner, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail and a $25,000 fine for pay-to-play politics.

Leonard Ross, Philly Mayor John Street's friend and former law partner, will be spending the next 2 1/2 year in jail for misuing his public position as head of a city redevelopment effort for Penn's Landing.Ross was named chairman of a city committee to choose a developer for Penn's Landing in 2003. He pleaded guilty in December to using his position to get developers to donate money to Street's re-election campaign; provided a lobbyist for one bidder with inside information in exchange for help with a $150,000 bank loan; and sought a job for his wife with another bidder.

"I'm deeply ashamed and embarrassed by what I did," said Ross, 58.

He should be, according to U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson, who imposed the maximum jail sentence. "Corruption is a cancer, and unless it is excised and dealt with and killed it can just spread and do terrible damage," the judge said.

Ross is the second city official in as many days to be heading to the slammer. Former City Councilman Rick Mariano started his 6 1/2-year jail sentence on Monday for taking bribes to pay off his credit card debts.


Monday, August 07, 2006
Posted 8:20 PM by

Slots to be desired in PGC disclosure

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is more interested in protecting the privacy of slots parlor applicants than in disclosing who stands to gain from receiving a license forever.If a state agency was embroiled in political scandal even before it was formed, it might be called to fully account publicly.

If a state agency disregarded the law establishing it by letting a license applicant ignore a state ban on campaign contributions, its legitimacy might be called into question.

If a state agency failed to fully release public documents BEFORE holding a series of public hearings statewide on a controversial issue - only to disclose redacted and incomplete records months later, it might wind up in court.

But the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board isn't most state agencies.

For one thing it's unclear whether it's covered by the state's Sunshine Law ans Open Records Act, which means board members can potentially make decisions affecting billions of dollars in secret.

And there may be no appeal.

Take for instance today's "release" of race-track applications for seven slots parlor licenses.

"Citizens throughout the Commonwealth should have access to information pertaining to applicants for slot machine licenses," Executive Director Anne LaCour Neeb said in a press release. "As we approach the next phase of the licensing process, the Gaming Control Board is committed to providing as much information as possible."

So long as anyone interested is willing to drive to Harrisburg and wade through the mess of papers at the board's office.

Lord knows that Internet thing isn't good for anything and nobody in the far corners of the state knows how to use a computer.

Since I won't be making the 120-mile trek there from Bucks County any time soon, I'll take the Associated Press' word that the trip isn't worth making.

"Much of what the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released consisted of documents that the public companies involved with the slots applications have filed previously with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. Many other original documents were heavily redacted or missing, such as the criminal histories of directors, owners and top managers involved in the applications.

"The documents also revealed little about the privately held companies involved in the applications, and do not always make it clear which investors will own what portion of a proposed slots parlor."

And that's entirely on purpose.

"The Board must balance its obligations under Act 71 with the public's right to know," Neeb said.

No, it doesn't.

One month away from deciding who gets a slots license forever in this state, the board should have posted everything it knew about the applicants online - with the only exceptions being for anything that would have made it criminally or civilly liable.

And there should have been a list made of what was left out/redacted as well as an explanation as to why.

The board has had these applications since Dec. 28 - a more than adequate amount of time to get all of that accomplished and still carry out its mission.

Is it any wonder now why legislators are in such a hurry to rewrite the board's rules BEFORE it decides who gets a license, that they might actually call their summer vacations short?


Although Pennsylvania Senate leaders Bob Jubelirer and David Brightbill insist the state's slots parlors should let gamblers smoke in violation of local bans, Atlantic City may soon be headed in the opposite direction.

New Jersey banned smoking in almost all public places in April, but the state excluded the shore gambling halls after casino executives railed against it.

A move is now on to include Atlantic City's casinos in New Jersey's smoking ban.N.J. Senate President Pro Tempore Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, wants to reverse that and is pushing Senate bill 1089, which would eliminate that exclusion and Gov. Jon Corzine has vowed to sign it if it makes his desk.

"I'm in favor of an overall smoking ban," Corzine told

Corzine also favors placing slot machines in the state's race tracks in order to compete with Pennsylvania and New York.

If that happens, most of the quarters to be pumped into Pennsylvania's machines will more than likely come from Pennsylvanians.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006
Posted 11:10 PM by

Lame duck Pa. leaders have slots of ideas

Although they're on their way out the door, Pennsylvania Senate leaders David Brightbill (left) and Bob Jubelirer issued Gov. Ed Rendell an ultimatum about reforming the state slots law last week.As I wrote on Saturday, the success or failure to reform Pennsylvania's slots gambling law hinges on two legislative leaders who lost in the May primary.

Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Jubelirer and Senate majority leader David "Chip" Brightbill remain large and in charge, despite their lame-duck status.

As if to affirm it, the pair sent Gov. Ed Rendell a letter that more of an ultimatum last week, telling him they favor passing Senate Bill 862 along with an amendment.

The pair of quakers had 17 points the amendment addresses included in any legislation that is moved forward, according to a copy of an Aug. 2 letter posted on the Web site. Among them:

  • Requiring the state Gaming Control Board to adopt a code of conduct and require a conflict of interest review prior to its approval of any of the 14 slots parlor licenses.

  • Subject the board to the state budget process. (It's currently running on money borrowed from other departments.)

  • Require the board to be subject to the state's Sunshine Law, Open Records act and other laws, require it to hold public input hearings and classify any state gaming official to be listed as a "public official" in those laws and prevent them from receiving complimentary services or discounts.

  • Stripping Philadelphia of the right to zone where a slots parlor go and requiring it to give $5 million of its annual local share of slots winning to the city's school district. (I can't say I agree with that one.)

  • All slots parlors would be exempt from local smoking ordinances. (I can't disagree with this one more. It's bad enough the state is running roughshod over local zoning ordinances, but this creates a double-standard.)

  • Prohibit public officials and their immediate families from owning any interest in gaming entities including facilities, manufacturers, and suppliers. (Your Executive Order did not limit investments by family members of Executive Branch personnel.)
"If you are agreeable to these reforms and can provide the specific language you will support and approve to correct the deficiencies, the legislative process can then move forward in developing final consensus and scheduling expeditious action," Brightbill and Jubelirer wrote.

Based on all of that, this could get very interesting.


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