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Archive for August, 2010

Local Man Pleads Guilty To Sending ‘Threatening’ Emails To Jim Bunning For Blocking Unemployment

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

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Ex-Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning is the outgoing Senator from Kentucky who fiercely filibustered a bill to extend unemployment benefits to the jobless because it would add to the deficit. This from the man who voted fund two wars on the back of the Bush tax cuts for the super-rich. His message to the hundreds of thousands that would lose benefits? Too fuckin’ bad, freeloaders!

INQUIRER: A Philadelphia man has agreed to plead guilty to sending threatening e-mail to U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, the Hall-of-Fame Phillies pitcher. Bruce Shore, 51, signed a document on Aug. 6 expressing his wish to plead guilty to the federal charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of two years and a maximum fine of $250,000. The indictment accused him of sending interstate communication “with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, and harrass any person who received the communication.” In a May interview with the Huffington Post, Shore, said he sent several e-mails to Bunning’s office after the Republican senator blocked legislation to extend unemployment benefits. Shore said he was unemployed and “livid” with Bunning. MORE

WASHINGTON POST: In his 17 years pitching in the big leagues, Jim Bunning was known for his graceful curveball, his rising slider and his sidearm fastball. Now 78 years old and about to retire from the Senate, the Republican of Kentucky is apparently down to only one pitch: the screwball. For four days, he has been on a one-man campaign to cut off unemployment benefits, kick the unemployed off of health insurance, cut Medicare payments to doctors, deny satellite TV to rural Americans, shut down federal flood insurance and highway projects, and furlough thousands of federal workers. Democrats can hardly believe the gift Bunning has given them by single-handedly shutting down these popular programs. Bunning’s fellow Republicans are aghast. If this were bunningsk004.jpgbaseball, the Hall of Famer would be on his way down to triple-A. But this is the Senate, where any one of the 100 members has the ability to bring proceedings to a halt, and Bunning continues to hurl his wild pitches. The ornery Kentuckian said he was merely insisting that Congress find a way to pay for the $10 billion, 30-day extension, but that was difficult to square with his recent votes against attempts to rein in debt and spending. This left people puzzling over Bunning’s motives. Was he taking revenge on his senior colleague from Kentucky, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who helped to push Bunning into retirement? Or was he just being, well, crazy? This second possibility cannot be dismissed out of hand. With the Phillies and the Tigers, he had enviable accuracy, boasting one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios. But since his reelection campaign, in 2004, Bunning has had some serious control problems. He said his opponent looked like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons. He suggested that he and his wife had been roughed up by “little green doctors” at a political picnic. He refused to debate in person, instead doing so by teleconference from Republican National Committee offices in Washington, where he used a teleprompter. Just over a year ago, Bunning resumed his erratic form when he predicted in public that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would probably be dead from pancreatic cancer within nine months. MORE

LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER: As long as Republicans were in charge, Sen. Jim Bunning was OK with trading a surplus for a deficit. He voted to put two wars, tax cuts and a Medicare drug benefit on the nation’s credit card. Now that Republicans are no longer in charge, Bunning is drawing the line on deficit spending. He’s doing it in a way that shows callous contempt for the more than one in 10 working Kentuckians whose jobs disappeared in the economic meltdown. We’ve become accustomed to bizarre, egocentric behavior from Bunning. So it wasn’t all that surprising when he single-handedly blocked an unemployment benefits extension for a million people, including 119,230 in Kentucky, whose benefits run out this year. About 14,000 Kentuckians will exhaust their benefits in two weeks without the extension. Bunning’s filibuster also denies newly laid-off workers help paying for health insurance. It halts road and bridge projects around the country by furloughing 2,000 federal transportation employees, stops reimbursements to state highway programs and cuts Medicare payments to doctors. To those who know him, it’s not surprising that Bunning answered a Democratic colleague’s complaint with a crude profanity. Or that he joked about missing a basketball game while pushing some unemployed Kentuckians into homelessness or bankruptcy. MORE

[Illustration by JAY BEVENOUR]

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COMING SOON: City Of Brotherly Bike Sharing?

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

bike-share1.jpgBIKE SHARE PHILADELPHIA: Bike Share Philadelphia is sponsoring bike-sharing demonstrations: Thursday, August 26th at 36th & Walnut Streets, 10 am to 6 pm, in front of the Penn Bookstore in University City in cooperation with the University of Pennsylvania. Friday August 27th at Love Park (JFK Plaza) – 15th & JFK Blvd, 10 am to 6 pm, in cooperation with the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities. Saturday, August 28th at Penn’s Landing on the Walnut Plaza, 10 am to 6 pm, in cooperation with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation. The bikes and solar powered kiosk station will be available to try out. It is the same bike-sharing equipment currently being used in the Denver, Colorado B-cycle system and in this summer’s Chicago, Illinois pilot program. According to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who recently rode the bike-sharing system in Denver, said its B-cycle system is, “a model for America.”By placing bicycles at stations throughout the urban area, people easily can use them to commute to work, to run errands, to socialize or just to enjoy a healthier life style. In Philadelphia, bicycles would be placed in secure stations throughout the city. To use these bikes, individuals would sign up online in advance, or at a station kiosk. For a nominal access fee, either on a daily, weekly or yearly basis the bikes are available for the first 30 minutes of use at no extra charge. There would be a small fee for each additional ½ hour. The bikes could be returned to any station in the city, making it true point-to-point transportation. With stations located no more than about three blocks from each other, bike sharing gives new meaning to convenience. MORE

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Pennsyltucky’s ‘Incredible Edible Eggs’ Are The Safest; Goodnight, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let The Bed Bugs Bite

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

egg-safety-2.jpgINQUIRER: It’s not clear yet how the recent recalls of more than half a billion eggs from two Iowa producers might influence Americans’ habits. Eggs from the two farms are believed to be linked to an estimated 1,250 illnesses, and may have caused tens of thousands more. But the story of what has happened since the 1980s to what the American Egg Board likes to call “the incredible edible egg” is also a story of turf disputes and inaction in Washington that were countered in parts of the country by frustrated state officials and farmers. In Pennsylvania , a coalition of egg producers, state agriculture officials and academic researchers created a risk-reduction system two decades ago that is just now being replicated nationally by the Food and Drug Administration, according to food-safety experts such as Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. MORE

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Bloodsucking bedbugs are biting in New York, and Philadelphia, and all over Ohio. The pest control company Terminix released Tuesday a list of the 15 most bedbug-infested cities, based on an analysis of call volume reporting bedbug infestations and of confirmed bedbug cases reported by sales professionals in 350 of the company’s service centers. The Big Apple topped the list, followed by Philly and Detroit. Ohio has four cities in the top 15 , Cincinnati is fourth, Columbus is seventh, Dayton is eighth and Cleveland is 14th. Bedbugs can be found in mattresses, furniture and clothing, and they feed off animal and human blood. Insect scientists say bedbugs are showing up on a scale not seen since before World War II, due to the rise in international travel and the elimination of certain chemicals once used to fight them. MORE

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MUST READ: How The Second Largest Company In America Is Spending Bazillions To Brainwash The American People Into Voting Against Themselves

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

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SOURCEWATCH: Koch Industries, (pronounced “coke”), is the largest privately owned company in the United States with 70,000 employees and annual sales of $100 billion in the fiscal year ending December of 2008. [1] Cargill comes in second for privately owned companies. Operations include refining, chemicals, process and pollution control equipment, technologies, fibers and polymers, commodity and financial trading and consumer products. The company operates crude gathering systems and pipelines across North America. One subsidiary processes 800,000 barrels of crude oil daily in its three refineries. Koch also owns ranches with a total of 15,000 head of cattle in Kansas, Montana and Texas. Though diversified, the company amassed most of its fortune in oil trading and refining.[2] The company was started in 1927 by Fred Koch, a charter member of the John Birch Society, with an oil delivery business in Texas. […] The company is owned by two of the richest men in America, David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch (described as ‘reclusive billionaires’), who have a combined personal fortune estimated at more than $3 billion and who have emerged as major Republican contributors in recent years. MORE

NEW YORKER: The Kochs’ subsidization of a pro-corporate movement fulfills, in many ways, the vision laid out in a secret 1971 memo that Lewis Powell, then a Virginia attorney, wrote two months before he was nominated to the Supreme Court. The antiwar koch_climate_crimes.pngmovement had turned its anger on defense contractors, such as Dow Chemical, and Ralph Nader was leading a public-interest crusade against corporations. Powell, writing a report for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urged American companies to fight back. The greatest threat to free enterprise, he warned, was not Communism or the New Left but, rather, “respectable elements of society”—intellectuals, journalists, and scientists. To defeat them, he wrote, business leaders needed to wage a long-term, unified campaign to change public opinion. Charles Koch seems to have approached both business and politics with the deliberation of an engineer. “To bring about social change,” he told Doherty, requires “a strategy” that is “vertically and horizontally integrated,” spanning “from idea creation to policy development to education to grassroots organizations to lobbying to litigation to political action.” [...] An environmental lawyer who has clashed with the [Koch-funded] Mercatus Center called it “a means of laundering economic aims.” The lawyer explained the strategy: “You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank,” which “hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders.” MORE

RELATED: The Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation is one of Koch Family Foundations. Several of the organizations in the list below were founded by one of two Koch brothers, and one or the other sits on the boards, so in essence these organizations do the will of Charles G. Koch or David H. Koch. Below is a list of recipients listing the cumulative amount, unadjusted for inflation, granted by the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation:

1) Cato Institute $8,450,000
2) Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation $6,025,375
3) George Mason University $2,311,149
4) George Mason University Foundation, Inc. $2,074,893
6) Heritage Foundation, The $1,004,000
7) Institute for Justice $1,000,000
8) Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment $810,000koch_climate_crimes.png
9) Reason Foundation, The $642,000
10) Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, The $504,000
12) Institute for Humane Studies $455,000
13) Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy $385,000
14) Washington Legal Foundation $350,000
15) Capital Research Center $340,000
16) Competitive Enterprise Institute $254,460
20) Ethics and Public Policy Center, Inc. $190,000
22) National Center for Policy Analysis $175,000
23) Citizens for Congressional Reform Foundation $175,000
24) Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Inc. $125,000
25) American Legislative Exchange Council $120,000
26) Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty $115,000
28) Political Economy Research Center, Inc. $80,000
29) Media Institute $60,000
30) National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship $60,000
31) University of Chicago $59,000
32) Defenders of Property Rights $55,000
33) University of Kansas Endowment Assocation $50,000
36) Texas Public Policy Foundation $44,500
37) Center for Individual Rights, The $40,000
38) Heartland Institute $40,000
39) Texas Justice Foundation $40,000
40) Institute for Policy Innovation $35,000
42) Center of the American Experiment $31,500
43) Atlas Economic Research Foundation $28,500koch_climate_crimes.png
44) Young America’s Foundation $25,000
45) Henry Hazlitt Foundation $25,000
47) Atlantic Legal Foundation $20,000
48) National Taxpayers Union Foundation $20,000
49) Families Against Mandatory Minimums $20,000
50) Philanthropy Roundtable $19,200
51) Free Enterprise Institute $15,000
52) John Locke Foundation $15,000
53) Hudson Institute, Inc. $12,650
54) Alexis de Tocqueville Institution $12,500
55) National Environmental Policy Institute $12,500
56) Washington University $11,500
57) Pacific Legal Foundation $10,000
58) American Council for Capital Formation $10,000
60) Institute for Political Economy $8,000
62) State Policy Network $6,500
64) Fraser Institute, The $5,000
65) Mackinac Center, The $5,000
66) Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation $5,000
68) Institute for Objectivist Studies $5,000 MORE

THE NEW YORKER: The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, is a koch_climate_crimes.pngmultimedia exploration of the theory that mankind evolved in response to climate change. At the main entrance, viewers are confronted with a giant graph charting the Earth’s temperature over the past ten million years, which notes that it is far cooler now than it was ten thousand years ago. Overhead, the text reads, “HUMANS EVOLVED IN RESPONSE TO A CHANGING WORLD.” The message, as amplified by the exhibit’s Web site, is that “key human adaptations evolved in response to environmental instability.” Only at the end of the exhibit, under the headline “OUR SURVIVAL CHALLENGE,” is it noted that levels of carbon dioxide are higher now than they have ever been, and that they are projected to increase dramatically in the next century. No cause is given for this development; no mention is made of any possible role played by fossil fuels. The exhibit makes it seem part of a natural continuum. The accompanying text says, “During the period in which humans evolved, Earth’s temperature and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere fluctuated together.” An interactive game in the exhibit suggests that humans will continue to adapt to climate change in the future. People may build “underground cities,” developing “short, compact bodies” or “curved spines,” so that “moving around in tight spaces will be no problem.”  MORE

IN DENIAL: Koch Industries Has Spent Nearly $50 Million To Refute Climate Change Science

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GREENPEACE: Billionaire oilman David Koch likes to joke that Koch Industries is “the biggest company you’ve never heard of.” But the nearly $50 million that David Koch and his brother Charles have quietly funneled to climate-denial front groups that are working to delay policies and regulations aimed at stopping global warming is no joking matter. Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch have a vested interest in delaying climate action: they’ve made billions from their ownership and control of Koch Industries, an oil corporation that is the second largest privately-held company in America (which also happens to have an especially poor environmental record). It’s time more people were aware of Charles and David Koch and just what they’re up to. Greenpeace has released the report “Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine” to expose the connections between these climate denial front groups and the secretive billionaires who are funding their efforts. The Koch brothers, their family members, and their employees direct a web of financing that supports conservative special interest groups and think-tanks, with a strong focus on fighting environmental regulation, opposing clean energy legislation, and easing limits on industrial pollution. This money is typically funneled through one of three “charitable” foundations the Kochs have set up: the Claude R. Lambe Foundation; the Charles G. Koch Foundation; and the David H. Koch Foundation. MORE

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[Click image to activate interactive chart]

COMPLETE GREENPEACE REPORT: Download PDF

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KITCHEN BITCH: Sweet Corn Soup

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

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Kitchen Bitch2_1.jpgBY MAVIS LINNNEMANN The most delicious sweet corn in the world is sold right off the two-lane road to my parents’ house in Northern Kentucky. The farmer sets up shop in the parking lot of the local Elk Lodge a few times a week, tempting passersby with the towering mound of freshly picked corn sitting in the back of his red pickup truck. This farmer’s corn is the stuff summer is made of. It’s round, plump, juicy and ridiculously sweet. Just the thought of it makes me wish I was back home with my family, shucking corn for what I know would be a great Sunday summer dinner and enjoying what my dad lovingly calls “cocktail hour.” Sweet corn straight from the cob is a reminder of why we wait for summer to begin the other nine months of the year—because it’s a time we can let loose, slow down (or not), get outside and share the sun with those we love the most. And the end of the summer, like corn and tomatoes from the garden in August, is always the sweetest. While I couldn’t get my hands on the corn from my parents’ local farmer, I did find a great 10-cobs-for-$1 deal at my favorite local produce shop, Stanley’s. With fall coming up, I’d been yearning for soup, and a sweet corn soup was the perfect vehicle to use up all that corn. I’m also growing four different kinds of peppers, so I decided to add those to the mix and make a Sweet and Spicy Corn Soup. A quick puree of half the soup adds a nice creaminess to this dish. It’s mildly spicy, and the corn gives it a sweet crunch and a little texture. A splash of cream adds richness and helps to enhance its color. A dollop of crema suprema or sour cream gives this soup a slight tanginess, while the fresh cilantro brightens the flavors. The sweeter the corn, the sweeter and more delicious the soup. This Sweet and Spicy Corn Soup is truly summer in a bowl. MORE

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REVIEW: Kanzulu Full-Time Work, Part-Time Pay

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

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urban-hip-hop-skull-head.thumbnail.jpgBY MATTHEW HENGEVELD Once upon a time hip-hop’s only requirements for beatmaking were a fresh set of drums, a hypnotic bass line and an original sample. Those days are over. Today, the hip-hop industry is diluted with chain-dangling, sunglasses-wearing, pastel-rocking cocky tight-jeaned amateurs with a bass-fetish bordering on a Napoleonic complex. Everything has become so fake— where have all the beatmakers gone? The answer: Oxnard, California.

Kan Kick, the Oxnard-based beatmaker, lurks in the shadows of fellow Oxnardians Madlib and DJ Babu. Kan Kick splashed into the scene as a late addition to Madlib’s group, Lootpack. He learned beatmaking as a high school sophomore alongside Madlib, and has acquired a similar laid-back style. In the last decade, he released a slew of instrumental collections that have solidified him as part of the hip-hop underground. It’s hard to find an artist that can be experimental yet entirely commonplace, but Kan Kick fits that bill. He uses a standard boom-bap production style that sounds akin to the great ‘90s beatmakers (Pete Rock, Buckshot, Lord Finesse, Large Professor). But Kan Kick is not a “throwback” artist that emulates the greats— he builds along with the music.

Kan Kick’s newest album, Full-Time Work, Part-Time Pay, in which he goes under the moniker “Kanzulu,” is a psychedelic mix of kankick.jpgtraditional boom-bap that uses a range of eclectic samples— from India to Brazil— as well as limit-pushing repetitious looping techniques. Kan Kick strays far away from complexity, giving the listener time to just chill out and let the beat ride. The head nodding effect of his music hypnotizes, but never bores. It reminds me of a Scientist dub album. The marijuana-tinged tracks seldom last longer than two minutes, providing an always-changing display of honed technique and obscurity. Vocal samples vary from the mindless babbling of a cockney rock-star, an old man’s heavy breathing, anxious ramblings of an acid-head, Busta Rhyme’s kirkin-out “yoyoyahyoyo” and hundreds of other weird vocals that fit well into Kan Kick’s concept. “You Go, Uno” uses a strange chopped-up singing sample that sounds like an otherworldly chant. “Korea” is a bouncing track that reminds me of a twisted jack-in-the-box, with the strange yell of “KOREE” popping out at you randomly throughout. “Mugu Rock Solace” is the best of the bunch, featuring Kan Kick’s characteristic crunchy drums and a dusty soul loop.

Full-Time Work, Part-Time Pay features several great vocal tracks. “Tranquility pt. 3” sees Dex and Kan Kick skillfully trading verses. Kan Kick raps well, despite his voice being a mix of Cee-Lo and Winnie The Pooh. Blunted lyrics from Cornbread on “Pass It” humorously talk about passing a joint to former President Clinton— who subsequently passes out. D. Voo and God’s Gift split a verse on “The Future pt. 3,” which sort of resembles a Clipse song. Perhaps most gratifying is “When Will I Learn” featuring songstress Nonameko… no lie, this sounds like a Kate Bush song. As I said before, Kan Kick lurks in the shadows and is notoriously slept-on, even by the most knowledgeable of hip-hop aficionados. That’s probably because, for Kan Kick, music is not about the dynamics— it’s about the tradition of making bangin-ass beats. This is some bona fide raw shit. Don’t let it pass you up.

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THE PEOPLE’S LIBERATION ARMY: Beat It

Monday, August 23rd, 2010
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CONCERT REVIEW: I Went To The Philadelphia Folk Festival And All I Got Was A Crunchy Good Time

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

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[Photo by GOOB712]

Arthur_Shkolnik.jpgBY ARTHUR SHKOLNIK Tucked away on a tranquil farm amidst fields of sweet corn in quaint, semi-rural Schwenksville, PA is the cultural tradition and phenomenon known as the Philadelphia Folk Festival, which began in 1962, and celebrated its 49th year this weekend. Campers came out in droves and quickly filled the reserved 40 acres of space for the three day festival, forcing shuttle buses to make constant trips to and from a field sanctioned for overflow parking. Early intermittent rain and dampened grounds did little to muddy the spirits of performers and festival goers, who managed to stay comfortably dry under large tarps erected as a temporary expedient in case of inclement weather, as was the case during last year’s festival, when an explosive bout of last minute rain caused parking and traffic problems moments before the campgrounds were opened.

The spirit of free love was juxtaposed with peripheral events intended for children and families. The Give and Take Jugglers, who have a proud, decades-long commitment with the folk fest, brought their vaudevillian theater act and juggling expertise once again, in a performance which emphasizes humor and audience participation. Other planned activities included metalwork and glass-blowing demonstrations, candle-making, crafting with clay, and face painting. Seen alongside planned entertainment were multiple hackeysack circles, flying Frisbees, and hula-hoopers. Rows of vendors sold everything from eco-friendly clothing to handmade instruments and cigar box amps.

This year’s programming has been unarguably revamped, choosing to expand folk horizons beyond the traditional in hopes of drawing in younger audiences and infusing the festival with fresh blood. The three day festivities boasted over 40 artists, including a Philadelphia Music Co-op, which brought together emerging local talents, both traditional and contemporary, with an appreciative and supportive fan base of new listeners.

If the Kinks and Cream had an illegitimate child who was later adopted by My Morning Jacket, you might end up with a sound similar to the Philly-based psychedelic folk rockers known as Cheers Elephant, who offered a notably tight, versatile performance bursting with resounding harmonies. Festival goers bounced around with the booming, sweat-drenched band, which closed off their contagious, high energy set with some wicked slide guitar. All the while Oklahoma’s Rockin’ Acoustic Circus, a fiddle fiddlin’, banjo strummin’, mandolin pickin’ six piece led by seasoned musician and ringleader Rick Morton, conjured up a surprisingly mature and refreshing sound that managed to stay true to bluegrass standards without compromising the bands unique, integration of blues and rock.

Opening for Richard Thompson, and offering a full-flavored musical gumbo of folk, funk, swamp rock, blues, country, soul, and the kitchen sink, were The Subdudes, a sincere, unorthodox and uncompromising five-piece with its roots firmly planted in New Orleans’ mojo. The band’s unique stage setup and confident presence undoubtedly warrants a double-take and a listen. Performers ran the gamut from traditional to unconventional to just plain weird. Leading the bazaar of the bizarre was That 1 Guy, an offbeat eccentric who performs using an electric cord plugged into a cowboy boot and other homemade instruments. Another detour through the land of the weird was a singer performing in perfect Klingon, not to mention the band Sonos singing an a capella rendition of “Toxic” by Britney Spears.

Jesse McReynolds, bluegrass legend and member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1964, pleasantly surprised festival-goers with an unscheduled mando-picking performance Saturday night. McReynolds remains prolifically unconventional – a wild card reinventing bluegrass by straying from the traditionally implemented musical progressions and themes inherent to the style.

Jeff Tweedy, lead member of the rock legends known as Wilco, brought his acoustic guitar and harmonica to perform a rare solo set. Also performing a solo acoustic set was former member of Fairport Convention Iain Matthews, who was later joined on stage for a memorable surprise finale with Richard Thompson, also a former member of Fairport Convention and incontestable Guitar Legend. Thompson played his first Philly Folk Fest four decades ago and appropriately closed out this year’s festival with a rich, layered solo acoustic set, employing striking rhythms and his own brand of seamless finger picking. If you were to visit the Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville any other time of year, you’d be hard-pressed to envision a bustling folk village once stood amidst the calm, peaceful setting, and will once again, for next year’s 50th anniversary.

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NONTROVERSEY DU JOUR: The Blog Tax

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

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TIME: Comparing the move to an Orwellian plot, NBC reports that the city of Philadelphia is set to require bloggers to purchase something called a business privilege license. Not really making money from your blog? Doesn’t matter, says NBC, you still have to pay for the license. MORE

CITY PAPER: For the past three years, Marilyn Bess has operated MS Philly Organic, a small, low-traffic blog that features blog_tax_rap.jpgoccasional posts about green living, out of her Manayunk home. Between her blog and infrequent contributions to ehow.com, over the last few years she says she’s made about $50. To Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it’s a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut. In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license. MORE

NEW YORK MAGAZINE: All the bloggers holed up in basements in the City of Brotherly Love and trying to survive off of Google AdSense revenue may be out of luck. The Philadelphia City Paper printed an article last week that revealed the sob stories of part-time freelance writers and bloggers who, despite making minuscule amounts per year through advertising, are still being forced to pay an annual $50 “privilege license” in accordance with the Business Privilege Tax. MORE

INQUIRER: Philadelphia was once again the subject of head-scratching and ridicule on Monday, this time with the “blog tax” controversy. On BuzzFeed, a popular website for stories, photos, and video competing to go viral, “Philadelphia Blogger’s License: $300″ was in the running, in between videos of a bored cat having a birthday party and Lady Gaga dancing at a Kiss concert. New York blog_tax_rap.jpgmagazine’s website weighed in, as did the Washington Post’s. The New York Daily News had a story about “Cash-strapped Philly” resorting to a blog “tax.” So does Philadelphia have a blog tax? The city says no. It has a business-privilege license that is required of any business operating in the city. The license costs $50 a year or $300 for a lifetime license. Well, some bloggers who barely make a few dollars from Web ads were informed recently that they had to obtain a license. Not because they were bloggers, the city says. But because they made money. MORE

FIREDOGLAKE: I know everyone has seen this story already. It’s being touted as though Philadelphia is requiring a blogging license – which is not true. Philadelphia is requiring bloggers who make money off of their sites (in the cited examples, pitifully little money) to set them up as businesses. City Paper notes that they have the same requirements for freelance writers in Philadelphia. Bloggers aren’t being unfairly targeted – anyone conducting any form of financial transaction is being targeted. MORE

WASHINGTON POST: Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve never supported the kind of municipal tax policy that takes bread off the table of artists, writers, freelancers and other small business owners who can least afford it. [...] But, like every issue, there’s another side to the blog tax story. Since the recession hit two years ago, cities and states have been hurt by corporate layoffs that have caused payroll tax revenue to shrink. At the same time, local governments have been saddled with the burden of paying out unemployment benefits to millions of local residents who still haven’t found jobs. In the meantime, many laid-off employees are now freelancers and blog_tax_rap.jpgindependent contractors who are still living and working in the same cities and states that provide them with roads, schools and other essential services. That’s why I think it’s only reasonable to ask small business owners who can afford it to pay their fair share. I like the proposal introduced by Philadelphia City Council members Bill Green and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez in June to reform the city’s business privilege tax to make the city a friendlier place for small business. If the bill passes, bloggers will still have to pay to get a license if their sites are designed to make money but would no longer have to pay taxes on their first $100,000 in profits. MORE 

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BUSH TAX CUTS: Let Them Eat Cake

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

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PAUL KRUGMAN: The Obama administration wants to preserve those parts of the original tax cuts that mainly benefit the middle class — which is an expensive proposition in its own right — but to let those provisions benefiting only people with very high incomes expire on schedule. Republicans, with support from some conservative Democrats, want to keep the whole thing. And there’s a real chance that Republicans will get what they want. That’s a demonstration, if anyone needed one, that our political culture has become not just dysfunctional but deeply corrupt. What’s at stake here? According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments. And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that’s the least of it: the policy center’s estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he’s going to get the majority of that group’s tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few — the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year — would be $3 million over the course of the next decade. How can this kind of giveaway be justified at a time when politicians claim to care about budget deficits? Well, history is repeating itself. The original campaign for the Bush tax cuts relied on deception and dishonesty. In fact, my first suspicions that we were being misled into invading Iraq were based on the resemblance between the campaign for war and the campaign for tax cuts the previous year. And sure enough, that same trademark deception and dishonesty is being deployed on behalf of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. MORE

excellent-mr-burns.gifRELATED: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday renewed his calls to exempt [the Bush] tax cuts from efforts to reduce the federal deficit while mostly sidestepping questions about offsetting the lost revenue. Appearing on Meet the Press, the Kentucky Republican worked to separate his opposition to Democrats’ plans to rescind the tax breaks for top income brackets from his criticism of budget deficits under President Obama. Ahead of the November midterm election, McConnell and other senior Republicans in public remarks have worked to balance their efforts to harness public concerns about growing federal debt and deficits with traditional GOP support for tax cuts by denying tension between those goals. That effort was on display Sunday. Pressed on the cost of renewing the so-called Bush tax cuts, McConnell reiterated his assertion, supported by few independent economists, that rescinding tax cuts for top earners would not generate revenue. MORE

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WORTH REPEATING: I Of Newt, Tongue Of Toad

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

newt.jpgESQUIRE: In the twelve years since he resigned in defeat and disgrace, he has been carefully plotting his return to power. As 2012 approaches, he has raised as much money as all of his potential rivals combined and sits atop the polls for the Republican presidential nomination. But just who is Newton Leroy Gingrich, really? An epic and bizarre story of American power in an unsettled age. [...] Back in the 1990s, she told a reporter she could end her husband’s career with a single interview. She held her tongue all through the affair and the divorce and even through the annulment Gingrich requested from the Catholic Church two years later, trying to erase their shared past. Now she sits quietly for a moment, ignoring her eggs, trying to decide how far she wants to go. MORE

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Gingrich showed up on a Fox morning show and talked about why the “radical Islamists” who want to build the cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, who want to show they can “build a mosque next to a place where 3,000 Americans were killed by Islamists,” must be stopped. “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington,” Gingrich said. He wasn’t done yet, because the guy never seems to run out of saliva: “We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor.” So somehow Gingrich, who is obsessed with what he calls the “secular socialism” of Barack Obama, was now good and geeked up, high on religion and what he believes is his higher calling to lead the whole country. MORE

RELATED: Newt Gingrich & The Nazis

RELATED: No, what bothers me the most is when even those on the left who ardently support the Cordoba House project defend it wtc-shoop.jpgonly by pointing out that the “Ground Zero mosque” is neither a mosque nor actually at Ground Zero. Or when they tell the crazies to cool it because there are already several other mosques near Ground Zero. That’s what really breaks my heart. Because it tells me that even so many well-meaning people who are on my side just don’t get it. This isn’t about whether we’re building a mosque or a community center, and it’s not about whether the mosque is built on Ground Zero or two blocks away. It’s about the fact that there are people out there who think it is offensive for anything Muslim to go anywhere near Ground Zero because they have deemed Muslims collectively guilty of perpetrating the attacks on 9/11. They think that the Cordoba House would “defile Ground Zero” or be a “real affront” to those who died there because they think it would signal submission to the very people who brought down the World Trade Center. Or, as Newt put it, they think it would be like putting up a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum. And the way I see it, anyone who tries to parse the facts by saying, “Well, it’s not like they’re building the mosque right at Ground Zero,” or “Well it’s not really a mosque,” is tacitly accepting that line of reasoning. The reason why the Cordoba House should be built is not because it’s a safe two blocks away from Ground Zero or because it’s not really a mosque. It’s because Islam did not hijack four planes and fly two of them into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. MORE

RELATED: The second largest shareholder in News Corp. — the parent company of Fox News — has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to causes linked to the imam planning to build a Muslim community center and mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan, says a report from Yahoo!News. According to the report from Yahoo!’s John Cook, Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who owns seven percent of News Corp., “has directly funded [Imam Feisal Abdul] Rauf’s projects to the tune of more than $300,000.” MORE

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“A man walks through the crowd at the Ground Zero protest and is mistaken as a Muslim. The crowd turns on him and confronts him. The man in the blue hard hat calls him a coward and tries to fight him. The tall man who I think was one of the organizers tried to get between the two men. Later I caught up with the man who’s name is Kenny. He is a Union carpenter who works at Ground Zero.”

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DISS INFORMATION: Rape Charges Filed Against Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, And Then Withdrawn

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

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THE TELEGRAPH: Hail Julian Assange, international man of mystery, brave anti-war crusader, ultimate cyber-hero and now, according to his cultish followers, victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by the CIA, the Pentagon and other dark, oppressive forces. On Friday, Assange, who recently posted 90,000 unexpurgated United States military reports from Afghanistan on his Wikileaks.org website, was revealed by the Stockholm newspaper Expressen to be the subject of a Swedish arrest warrant on suspicion of rape. Less than 24 hours after the rape allegation emerged, Swedish prosecutors withdrew the warrant, citing a lack of evidence, while maintaining that Assange, an Australian, remained accused of sexual molestation after separate complaints from two women.  Confused? Concerned you may be reading a synopsis of a Stieg Larsson novel? You don’t need to be. According to Assange’s myriad supporters, he is clearly the target of a conspiracy orchestrated by an American government through agents within the Swedish legal system. Assange has flatly denied the allegations, stating that he had never had non-consensual sex with anyone anywhere. He is, of course, entitled to be regarded as innocent unless and until he is convicted in court of a crime. Judging how the Swedish authorities have handled matters thus far, a large dollop of scepticism is justified. Interestingly, however, Assange and his loyal band are using this strange episode to fuel the myth that envelopes him. Wikileaks has broadcast seven messages about the story on Twitter, beginning with: “We were warned to expect ‘dirty tricks’. Now we have the first one.” MORE

 

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Meet Jesse McReynolds, Iron Man Of Bluegrass

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

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BY BRENDAN SKWIRE When I tell people I’ve never been to the Philly Folk Festival and never plan to, I invariably hear “but you’re a bluegrass fan, and there’s always at least one bluegrass band at the Philly Folk Fest.” This is true… but I’m picky about my music, and generally not willing to pony up the bucks to sit through a bunch of bands I don’t care for just to hear 45 minutes of music I like. But this year, I may have to make an exception, because bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds is making his first appearance in Schwenksville for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Until his brother died in 2002, Jesse was the mandolin playing foil for his high-singing brother and fellow bandleader in the groundbreaking bluegrass band Jim and Jesse and the Virginia Boys [pictured, below right]. While the band played traditional music with the best of them, the two brothers were deeply influenced by rock and roll, country, and other pop music: old radio shows feature surprising selections by Buck Owens and Hank Williams, and the band later put out albums like “Berry Pickin’ in the Country”, a tribute to Chuck Berry. Today, Jesse’s 81 years old, and carrying on the traditional bluegrass music he and his brother made famous, while continuing to leave his own mark on the music. I got a chance to catch up with Jesse this week.

“I got called into the Folk Festival about two weeks ago,” Jesse told me, “but the last time I played the Philly Folk Festival was about 20 years ago. I’ve been doing a lot more folk fests lately though, played up in Maine and Connecticut last year. I’ll tell you, they’re a lot bigger in terms of the variety of music.

That variety is what drives McReynolds. “I listen to all kinds of music really, I respect all of it,” he said. “Chuck Berry was a big influence on me, and Jim and I did an entire tribute to his music in the bluegrass style. It got me interested in doing more stuff like that, because it was totally different from bluegrass.”

“Drive” is a particularly apt word to describe Jesse McReynolds, who I’ve seen perform almost every year: he may be 81, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he literally sprints out onto the stage, jumping around and moving like a man at least 30 years his junior. “For the last 25 years, I’ve been drinking BarleyLife, a mixture of barley juice, kelp, and other stuff. It keeps me very energetic, so I stick with it. The fact is, the people who put the stuff out did a story on me when I was 80 years old. Called me “the Iron Man of bluegrass”.

This weekend at the Festival, listeners can expect to hear a lot of Jesse’s unique style of mandolin crosspicking, a style he developed by studying the way bluegrass approach to the banjo. It’s a style practiced by very few others. “When David Grisman started his mandolin style, he got a lot of people into it. And young kids’ playing is so great, I hear some start out at 14 or 15, and a few years later they’re waaaay further out than me. But you know, one thing I told Ronnie McCoury [mandolin player for the Del McCoury Band], I told him I heard that whole Blugrass Mandolin Extravaganza CD and not one McReynolds lick.” Not that McReynolds is looking for imitators. “Yeah, people like me and Frank Wakefield have a lot in common, we do our own thing. But I advise new players to create what they can, to do something new. There are lots of great mandolin players. Write a lot of tunes.”

Jesse’s still got that spirit of innovation, and hopes to bring some advance copies of his new CD, Songs of the jandjpr.jpgGrateful Dead, a tribute to Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. “This new project of the Grateful Dead’s music is going to be put out by Woodstock. The official release is October 5, but I’ll have some for the festival. We’re doing 12 songs by the Dead, and then one I wrote with Robert Hunter. I’m playing with David Nelson from New Riders of the Purple Sage and Sandy Rothman from the Jerry Garcia Band. It puts me in another field, and I hope to be touring with some of those bands soon.”

With a set list that spans nearly 50 years, the Folk Festival audience can expect some old and new. “We still do some of those 50s songs sometimes. That was when our band had been together longer than other group we’d had before, doing radio and four TV shows every week. We taped them once a month, just go in and tape about five or six 15 minute shows. I’ve still got lots of those radio shows, too, transferred to cd. Jim and I ended up with most of the tapes, radio station after station, and it came back to us as reel-to-reel tapes. One project with 24 songs, one problem I had was that when it came to commercials they were left out of the series. I’m still in the process of putting out a cd of that great stuff.”

On this particular folk fest tour, McReynolds will be backed by the Horst Brothers. “My grandchildren, who are in the current band, are branching out themselves with the McReynolds Tradition. They’re booked for Kentucky this weekend, so I’m bringing the Horst brothers in, I’m just going to fly up there.” Jesse’s looking forward to his first visit to the Festival in two decades, and with a guarantee of some of the hottest bluegrass around, folk and bluegrass fans are eager to see him too.

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