How a Willow Grove Business Made Trump Look Very Smart About Immigration

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File photo of Asplundh workers cleaning up after a 2016 snowstorm. | Photo by Frank Eltman/AP

“We accept responsibility for the charges as outlined, and we apologize to our customers, associates and all other stakeholders for what has occurred.”

Those words were said by Scott Asplundh, chairman and CEO of the Asplundh Tree Company, after the company was fined a whopping $95 million last week for violating immigration rules. It’s the largest-ever fine for an immigration violation. Thanks Scott. Donald Trump is applauding you. You’ve made him look very smart, which is in and of itself quite an accomplishment. Read more »

Dear Philly: Stop Patting Yourself On the Back for the Octavius Catto Statue

Photo by Helen Armstrong.

In case you missed it, the Octavius Catto statue was finally unveiled at City Hall on Tuesday. There were lots of Very Important People. There was a gospel choir. There was musket fire. That’s all well and good. Octavius Catto was a great man. But let this sink in for a minute: It’s 2017 and the Octavius Catto statue is the first statue on Philadelphia public property honoring a Black individual. Read more »

Stop Using the Poor to Justify Your Hatred of the Soda Tax

Sodas for sale in a refrigerated case

Photo by Marlith (license)

For reasons that I’ll get into later in this column, I don’t eat a lot of pie. But over the Fourth of July weekend, I had a slice of sweet potato pie from ShopRite, and it was pretty decent.

Grocery store entrepreneur Jeff Brown owns a chain of ShopRite and Fresh Grocer stores in places throughout Philly mostly populated by people of color — places that were once designated as “food deserts.”

He’s also one of the leaders in the movement to repeal the city’s sweetened beverage tax. When you walk into any of his stores, a section filled with drinks not covered by the tax — complete with the largest sign in the world hanging overhead announcing their levy-free status — practically grabs you by the throat.

When I talked with him about it on a mutual friend’s Facebook page, Brown told me the tax needed to be abolished because it was costing jobs. My response was that it needed to stay because, as a former teacher for the School District of Philadelphia, I saw how badly kids in our city need pre-K.

Then Brown broke out the “this tax hurts poor people” talking point that tax opponents have been using, and I got angry. Read more »

Dear Fitness Studios: You’re Doing Too Much

For some folks, the 60 or so minutes spent in a workout is the sole hour of the day that is completely theirs — free of technology and the distractions that seem to fill all the other hours of the day. But is it really? It seems to be a growing trend for studios to fit in as much technology as possible: Screens allllll up in your face, tracking and quantifying your every move, while huge speakers blast crazy-loud (and slightly aggressive) music meant to get you pumped up. Suddenly workout studios, maybe the one place where you could escape the tech-filled world, have become tech-filled themselves.

When did working out become so … much? Read more »

OPINION: It’s Time to Ban “No Fats, No Fems”

Marek+Richard’s controversial tank.

Marek+Richard’s controversial tank.

I couldn’t help but find myself annoyed this week to find out that a term I thought was going to fade out eventually just went viral.

Thanks to the gay clothing brand Marek+Richard, members of our community can now rip the runway wearing “No Fats, No Fems” tanks in broad daylight. There has been plenty of backlash about the now-sold-out apparel, and the company tried to clean up after the debacle by saying it was all in the name of “satire,” but no one was buying it. Read more »

What Everyone Is Avoiding Saying About Hillary Clinton’s Email Scandal

Like everybody else, I’ve been reading way too much about Hillary Clinton’s emails. I’ve read that her use of a private in-house server violated federal law. I’ve read that her use of the server didn’t violate federal law. I’ve read that her using that server is a big-ass scandal. I’ve read that it wasn’t a big-ass scandal. I’ve read that she had information in those emails that was classified, and that she didn’t have information in those emails that was classified — at the time. Frankly, the whole mess makes my head spin.

Why does it make my head spin? Because I’m a Technically Challenged Person (TCP), and technology perplexes me.

I’m the person you don’t want to ask to take a picture of your family with your iPhone, because I’m the person who keeps seeing pictures of my own face on the screen of my iPhone when I’m trying to take pictures of my son’s football game. And I’m not alone. There’s a substantial subset of Americans who get very, very flustered when they can’t get the remote control to make the TV set come on. It’s been my experience that the children and spouses of people with this condition will rush to their aid and perform the necessary technical operations themselves, rather than patiently walking the TCP through it, because a) it stops the screaming so much sooner; and b) trying to walk a TCP through it is a waste of time. Read more »

Dear Le Bok Fin Haters: Quit Your Whining

The view from Le Bok Fin. | Photo by Michelle Gustafson

The view from Le Bok Fin. | Photo by Michelle Gustafson

Did you hear about the latest scourge of Philadelphia? No, it’s not the violence in the streets or the corruption and incompetence in public office or even the PPA parking nazis. It is [cue sinister music] … Le Bok Fin. Read more »

How Did I Go This Long Without UberX in My Life?

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As is the case with most things that involve my phone, I was late to the UberX game.

It’s not that I didn’t have a use for the popular ride-share service. Since moving to Queen Village, I’ve taken to calling a cab for everything that doesn’t warrant giving up my parking space — which is to say, well, everything. And although I’ve always found Philly’s cab drivers to be somewhere between pleasant-enough and unlikely-to-wear-my-face, I don’t necessarily have an attachment to them, either.

It’s just that when you’re working with a rusty iPhone 4 that has bravely decided to stay by your side, you think twice before downloading new apps. Or running risky updates. Or removing the duct tape.

But last Thursday, Uber was delivering adoptable puppies as a fundraiser for the PSPCA. The time to hesitate was through.  Read more »

Here’s What’s Missing From the #BlackLivesMatter Discussion

NEW YORK CITY - AUGUST 23 2014: Thousands rallied in Staten Island demanding justice & accountability in the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown & other victims of alleged police brutality a katz / Shutterstock.com

NEW YORK CITY – AUGUST 23 2014: Thousands rallied in Staten Island demanding justice & accountability in the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown & other victims of alleged police brutality a katz / Shutterstock.com

There are missing pieces in the coverage of Black Lives Matter.

Yes, putting an end to abuse of force by the police is a primary goal. But there are other systemic things that impede the quality of black life: Bad schools. Poor nutrition. Bad health. These things matter, too, but they’re not getting the attention of tragedy-porn dashcam video and police confrontations with protesters.

It’s time that we broaden our understanding of Black Lives Matter to include how the movement affects black lives that are still being lived, to address the issues that impact quality of life for blacks living in America.

The deaths of black youths have galvanized protesters and the children have become the barometer of the movement and how much work is left to be done. The legacy of redlining and its uneven distribution of resources impacts their access to basic needs, ranging from quality public education to quality produce.

So let’s talk about the rest of the agenda: Read more »

How Did Dîner en Blanc Become Philadelphia’s Most Polarizing Event?

It’s not that I hate Diner en Blanc.

It’s more that I really, really hate Diner en Blanc.

That is, if Diner en Blanc actually exists. My working theory is that it doesn’t, that the organizers of Thursday night’s dinner party accessed my subconscious and designed an elaborate hoax based on my wildest nightmares and most visceral fears. Think Freddie Krueger, but with more seersucker and entitlement, less clawed gloves and face melt.

Far-fetched? Perhaps. But the alternative is believing that thousands of my fellow Philadelphians entered a lottery for a chance to buy $39 tickets to a dinner party that doesn’t serve dinner. That they’re seriously going to dress in head-to-toe white and drag their own tables, chairs, dishware and food into Center City during a heat wave. That — per the world’s most eye-stabby slide show — “once all the guests are settled in, [they’ll] spontaneously lift their white linen napkins to indicate the beginning of the dinner.” Read more »

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