Romney Candidacy Becomes A Political Abstraction

Let me see if I can get this all straight. A week and a half ago, presidential candidate Mitt Romney chose Congressman Paul Ryan, famous for coming up with the Ryan Plan, a highly touted vision for a federal budget that could warm Ebenezer Scrooge’s heart, as his vice presidential running mate – and then promptly announced that he was going to announce, at some future date, the Romney Plan, a proposed federal budget that would utilize some elements of the Ryan Plan but be different.

Then the Romney campaign admitted that it had – surprise!- reviewed multiple years, as in more than two, of Congressman Ryan’s personal income tax returns, after which the newly chosen vice presidential nominee released to the press 2 years worth of tax returns, presumably so as to not draw attention to the fact that his running mate, the guy who actually wants to be elected the president of the United States, has released one partially, mostly, sorta kinda almost but not quite everything that’s supposed to be in there tax return.

The political press corps, to their credit, when they were not getting their “he said” comments and “she said” rebuttals all mixed up with the talking points from the campaigns, remembered to remind us that Paul Ryan’s budget plan fundamentally altered the way the government would fund and manage Medicare, that good old European socialist style health care plan for America’s senior citizens that is nevertheless still near and dear to the hearts of the most ardent free market, small government disciples in the country.  

In retrospect – or is that retroactively? – it seemed patently obvious that at this juncture the current Vice President Joe Biden decided to give the Romney campaign a breather by telling a predominately black audience during a campaign speech that the GOP was going to “put y’all back in chains”, although it would have been much, much more accurate for Biden to say the GOP is “bringing back the Reconstruction Era, one suppressed black voter at a time.”

The rest of the week was a blur – Candidate Romney introduced us to a whiteboard to explain his Medicare plan (the one that is different from the plan his vp running mate Paul Ryan has), where we saw his impression of a teacher who has boiled everything you need to know about their subject to three words, Candidate Ryan introduced us to his mom, where he succeeded in reminding us that he looks like Opie with muscles, and Candidate Romney announced that he was going to release his 2011 tax return on October 15, just as soon as they get them done, even though his returns from 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006…are just laying around, already done and everything.

Now, just a week before Republicans from all over the country descend on Tampa Florida to witness a same sex marriage of convenience between a serious conservative and a severely conservative (you thought I forgot about that, didn’t you, Candidate Romney), this other conservative guy Todd Akin in Missouri decides in the middle of an interview that he is making his Senate race against Claire McCaskill look too easy, so he GIVES A GRAPHIC, DETAILED, TOTALLY UNINFORMED ANSWER TO A QUESTION ABOUT RAPE 77 days before the election.

In the space of a week and a half, Paul Ryan has had to acknowledge two of the biggest problems he has when it comes to appealing to the mythical voters in the middle who are supposed to be deciding the next election – his draconian Medicare plan and his support for/authorship of several draconian bills to redefine the definition of rape. With only four days left until the Republican National Convention, presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney is probably wondering right about now whether it would have made more sense to just outsource his entire campaign.

For political reporters who have been waiting for some exciting news to report, the premature announcement of Paul Ryan as the vice-presidential nominee has removed most of the potential drama from the story arcs they are beginning to craft to describe the Republican National Convention, especially since the general consensus about the Democratic National Convention narrative is “Yes We Can…If We Have Just A Little More Time.” For professional political handicappers, there’s not a lot of mystery left in this year’s presidential campaign. Mitt Romney has thus far failed to show any sustained positive polling momentum in most of the seven or eight states he needs to win in order to amass 270 electoral college votes.

At this point in the presidential race, many of the Republicans inside the Beltway see Mitt Romney the candidate as an abstraction, as a mere cipher whose real job is to stand in front of the cameras and smile so they can continue to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and commissions from running their SuperPAC’s and booking the campaign's TV ads.

Maria Dryfhout /

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Would you have to tip robots? You might be answering that question sooner than you think as Domino's is about to start using robots for delivering pizza. Later this year a fleet of self-driving robotic vehicles will be spreading the joy of pizza throughout the Houston area for the famous pizza manufacturer, using delivery cars made by the Silicon Valley startup Nuro.

The startup, founded by Google veterans, raised $940 million in February and has already been delivering groceries for Kroger around Houston. Partnering with the pizza juggernaut Domino's, which delivers close to 3 million pizzas a day, is another logical step for the expanding drone car business.

Kevin Vasconi of Domino's explained in a press release that they see these specially-designed robots as "a valuable partner in our autonomous vehicle journey," adding "The opportunity to bring our customers the choice of an unmanned delivery experience, and our operators an additional delivery solution during a busy store rush, is an important part of our autonomous vehicle testing."

How will they work exactly? Nuro explained in its own press release that this "opportunity to use Nuro's autonomous delivery" will be available for some of the customers who order online. Once they opt in, they'll be able to track the car via an app. When the vehicle gets to them, the customers will use a special PIN code to unlock the pizza compartment.

Nuro and its competitors Udelv and Robomart have been focusing specifically on developing such "last-mile product delivery" machines, reports Arstechnica. Their specially-made R1 vehicle is about half the size of a regular passenger car and doesn't offer any room for a driver. This makes it safer and lighter too, with less potential to cause harm in case of an accident. It also sticks to a fairly low speed of under 25 miles an hour and slams on the breaks at the first sign of trouble.

What also helps such robot cars is "geofencing" technology which confines them to a limited area surrounding the store.

For now, the cars are still tracked around the neighborhoods by human-driven vehicles, with monitors to make sure nothing goes haywire. But these "chase cars" should be phased out eventually, an important milestone in the evolution of your robot pizza drivers.

Check out how Nuro's vehicles work: