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Archive for September, 2010

HAPPY BANNED BOOK WEEK: Pentagon Destroys All 9,500 Copies Of Book, Pays Publisher $50,000

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

RT: The Pentagon burned 9,500 copies of a book it deemed a threat to national security. The US government paid the publisher nearly $50,000 dollars in printing costs, had the books pulled and destroyed. A government approved censored version of US Army Lt. Col Anthony Shaffer’s “Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan” was then released. Shaffer said he worked with the Army to ensure the information in the book was in line with the required procedures. He said he was careful to ensure the information in the book would not endanger US troops. During the process over the past two years he did remove items from the book when asked by the Army. Shaffer described the whole process as “collaborative”. After that the manuscript was passed to the publisher in January 2010, and the whole time there was public awareness of the book and what it entailed. In fact, Shaffer appeared on a number of media outlets discussing the book and what it would reveal. The Pentagon was fully aware of the book and what was contained within it. “Two major events happened which changed the atmosphere regarding my book,” said Shaffer. First, WikiLeaks. Shaffer said the WikiLeaks issues lead to a leak of information that confirmed a lot of the things that had been in the press previously. The second impactful event was the firing of General Stanley McChrystal. “Those two events changed the very fabric of the Pentagon and their concerns, and their attitude towards me,” said Shaffer. MORE

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CONTEST: Win Tix To See The xx At The Merriam

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

We have a pair of tix to giveaway for Mercury Prize winners The xx at the Merriam Theater next Tuesday! First reader to email us at FEED@PHAWKER.COM with the name of the school where the band met wins. Good luck and godspeed!

UPDATE: We have a winner! Sepideh Etminan-Rad was the first person to email us with the correct answer to our xx trivia question: The band members met at The Elliot School. Thanks to all for playing and stay tuned for more groovy giveaways.

RELATED: There’s a singular bleakness to their debut album, which sounds like it’s been made by moonlight by a grim team of introverts, half-drunk and lonely. Listening to it with the level of attention it demands gives you a sickly jealous feeling at the intimacy, like reading other people’s love letters. It’s a waste of time looking for big hooks or moments of release, but absorbed properly this becomes quietly transcendent. Somehow, its songs are welcoming despite their insularity. There are four people in the band but this is a couple’s album. The twin vocals of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim trade understated rich vowels, their dialogue the rope that binds 11 malnourished songs together. Romy carries all the drama with her tiny tics and unavoidably Great Voice. Oliver’s gentle croon is dangerously close to the vegan sex therapist vibe of Fujiya & Miyagi, but mostly agreeable. They are insanely well-matched, complementing and answering one another as they saunter around the bare minimum backing of their band. MORE

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THE WAGES OF HIP: Forbes Ranks Urban Outfitters Founder As One Of The Richest Men In America

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

INQUIRER: The super-rich got richer, but not so much in the Philadelphia area, according to Forbes’ new list of the wealthiest Americans. No new local names joined the four from last year, and the quartet’s estimated collective worth was up less than 3 percent. Nationwide, however, the Forbes 400 Richest Americans saw their portfolios bulge by 8 percent, as the cutoff to join the club rose to $1 billion from $950 million. The Philadelphia-area members are: Richard Hayne, 63, the Urban Outfitters founder who lives in the city, ranked 308 with $1.3 billion, about the same as a year ago. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: The irony of Richard Hayne–the undisputed king of under-30 retail cool–is that there’s nothing remotely hip about him. Nothing at all. With his loosely knotted yellow silk power tie and boardroom-blue dress shirt, he looks like a typical $1,000-a-plate Republican fundraiser attendee. An eyeglass case bulges nerdily in his breast pocket, his teeth are slightly crooked and a few thin strands of hair arc over a small constellation of moles mapping the northward advance of his forehead.

He is even-toned, courteous and articulate. Although he rarely makes direct eye contact when talking, Hayne projects a Dick Cheney-esque aura of no-nonsense gray flannel gravitas. Like all niche retailers, Hayne’s relationship with his customers is a sort of reverse Dorian Gray: He gets older and they stay the same age, eternally 18 to 26. He long ago gave up on trying to figure out what young people want to buy, turning over purchasing decisions to a cadre of hip, plugged-in twenty- and thirtysomethings who routinely crisscross the capitals of cool–New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo–in search of the new new thing.

“If you are fiftysome years old, as I am, and your job is to figure out what a 21-year-old woman wants to wear to attract a male, there is probably something wrong,” he says. “She certainly doesn’t want me to know what that is.”

To maintain the company’s fashion- forward edge, buyers are encouraged to fail. “If everything a buyer is putting in the store is selling, then they are not taking enough risks, they are not experimenting enough,” says Hayne. “It’s not rocket science. We just try to give our customers what they want: something to wear on a Friday night that will make the boys look at them–or the girls look at them. We have two rules: ‘It’s okay to fail’ and ‘Never look in the rearview mirror.'”

When Hayne says “we,” he is essentially saying “I.” He is the company president, after all. He’s never had much reason to fear failure. The day he started what would become a $700 million retail colossus with just $4,500, a few high-minded ideals and a lot of hard work, Hayne stared failure in the eye, and failure blinked and moved on in search of easier prey. He’s never had much use for looking in the rearview mirror, either.

Still, when PW was forcing him to march down memory lane, he recalled how seeing Dylan and Joan Baez perform in 1964 was a transformational experience. It opened his eyes to everything that was phony and uptight and unjust in the world–and made him want to change the world. And there is a part of him that believes he has done just that in his own small way. But as the hippie party of the ’60s devolved into the post-Vietnam hangover of the ’70s, it must have occurred to him that idealism–like the length of your hair or the cut of your clothes or rebellion itself–was nothing more than fashion. And fashion is a commodity to be bought and sold for a profit. MORE

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BOOKS: Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
[Illustration by ALEX FINE] PAUL MAHER JR. The dystopian satire of Gary Shteyngart’s splendid affecting novel Super Sad True Love Story is anchored deep into the neuroses of an America that no longer is able to distinguish its objectives from its agendas.  The novel’s landscape is less the chaotic sensory overload of Blade Runner than it is the bleak rain-soaked miasma of Taxi Driver, a Gotham sprawl seen from within a tortoise shell.

The novel’s protagonist, Lenny Abramov, is no Travis Bickle however. Likening him to Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man is a more accurate comparison. Like the Dostoyevsky, Shteyngart richly layers his novel with dark humor and forceful depictions of the rudderless populace of an empire in steep decline. Here we find Lenny hatching an escape plan:

I will need to re-grow my melting liver, replace the entire circulatory system with “smart blood,” and find someplace safe and warm (but not too warm) to while away the angry seasons and the holocausts. And when the Earth expires, as it surely must, I will leave it for a new Earth, greener still but with fewer allergens …

Lenny is not fooled by the media-powered mirage of American exceptionalism, instead he sees a flaming downward spiral of economic crisis engulfing a populace of lost in misery, anger, fear and division.  Yet the title of the novel promises a love story, and a love story it is — sort of.  His unlikely tryst with Eunice Park a recent graduate of Elderbird College brings a new spark of redemption and hope to an individual by all appearances hopelessly incapable of living in the society he is often so critical of.

Corporate America never looked so bleak. Shteyngart invents acronyms and concepts that cater to the privileged and deny the less-privileged something as basic as health care. “Life extension” is only available to HNWIs (High Net-Worth Individuals), of which Lenny, who is constantly beset by a plethora of ailments, is unable to take advantage. Yet, the advantages created by these leaps in technology are also sources of anxiety, having portable devices that can gauge your cholesterol count for example, or your credit rating makes everyday living a strategy of beating the odds. One is also able to detect the social/professional/personal standing of anybody in their immediate vicinity. Shteyngart bombards the reader with endlessly hilarious detail, such as the corporate clothing designers that co-opt adolescent jargon to hawk a line of clothing dubbed “JuicyPussy” line. American Apparel I am looking at you.

Shteyngart has given us a disturbingly hilarious vision of the American Dream as seen through an Orwellian kaleidoscope — all of which would be a lot funnier if it weren’t so close to the sad truth. By turns compassionate, antagonistic, tender and pessimistic, it will either raise your hopes for the future, or doom them. Either way, the “super sad true love story” stripped of its futuristic inventions so ably presented here is in fact a funhouse mirror of circa now.

Gary Shteyngart will give a reading at the Free Library Thursday, September 30, at 7:30PM. No tickets required.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Maher Jr. is the writer of two biographies of Jack Kerouac, the editor of two volumes of interviews with Kerouac and Miles Davis and another with Tom Waits due out in fall 2010. He is also a photographer. Maher is working on two screenplays about the captivity of Mary Rowlandson and the prison years of Dostoevsky.

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CHANGE: How David Axelrod Lost His Mojo

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

THE NEW REPUBLIC: If the Obama landslide dragged Axelrod to Washington against his better judgment (his wife said he’d never forgive himself for staying put), the one judgment he never set aside was the inanity of D.C. custom. Even before Obama arrived at the White House, Axelrod had grand plans for scrambling protocol. Recent presidents had materialized at the Capitol like patriotic bunting. Axelrod imagined Obama traveling by train from Springfield, Illinois, gathering up ordinary folks along the way. “We wouldn’t just bring their concerns to Washington, we’d bring them to Washington,” says one inauguration official. Compared to the feats Team Obama had pulled off during the campaign, this one hardly rated as revolutionary. But you had to appreciate the symbolism. Lincoln took a similar journey to his first swearing-in. Besides, why give the Oval Room set its run of the inauguration? They could share it with the country.

At which point things got complicated. Logistics aides pointed out that there was no direct route from Springfield to Washington—the train would have to make long detours through Chicago and Pittsburgh. The Secret Service worried it might not be up to the task of securing nearly 1,000 miles of track, to say nothing of the frequent stops. When Axelrod and his colleagues realized the trip could take a week, even they discouraged. “We couldn’t hold the media’s attention that long,” says the inauguration official. “CNN on the fourth day of the whistle-stop would be like, seriously?” Reluctantly, they abandoned the idea, settling on a day trip from Philadelphia instead.

It was the sort of annoyance that seemed to greet Axelrod regularly in his new hometown. His relations with Senate Democrats got off to a shaky start last year when he tried to move a weekly Senate luncheon that he was scheduled to address, prompting grumbling over breached etiquette. Since then, he’s faced off with congressional Democrats over everything from health care (Al Franken once demanded Axelrod tell him when the president would “apologize for his stupid idea” of airing negotiations on C-SPAN) to general political strategy (House Democrats complained this spring that Obama’s stump speech was killing them). There have been public spats with the business community and differences of opinion with the Obama economic team. (Axelrod once e-mailed White House economic adviser Larry Summers wondering if he’d be more comfortable in the “cafeteria at Goldman Sachs,” though several administration officials say the ribbing is good-natured—Axelrod refers to Summers as his “brother in dishevelment”—and runs in both directions.) Axelrod rents a spare, two-bedroom apartment in the Logan Circle neighborhood and sees his family in Chicago once a month. Friends routinely describe him as homesick and bone-weary. MORE

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DELUCA: M.I.A. Just Meh At The Factory

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

DAN DELUCA: From its title, Maya, you might think M.I.A.’s confrontational (and disappointing) new album would be her most personal to date. Instead, its wall of digital noise, which aims to offer insight into the wired-yet-alienated way we live, loses her human voice amid the clutter. M.I.A., who was accompanied by a DJ, several dancers, and three burka-clad backup singers who remained in a dimly lit corner of the stage, did connect with her fans physically. She crowd-surfed stylishly in her long-sleeved buttoned-up black-and-white ensemble during a ruggedly rhythmic “Bamboo Banga” and the closing, cathartic “Paper Planes.” She sat atop speakers stacked four high during her “Born Free,” a single that samples the 1970s electro-punk band Suicide, and brought a couple of dozen enthusiastic audience members on stage while she rapped, “I got something to say.” (The song’s controversial video features red-headed youths being rounded up by U.S. paramilitary forces and executed.) M.I.A. has assembled an avid audience eager to embrace club music of a higher intelligence. That audience seems to be getting smaller, though. Last time she came through town, in 2008, she sold out the Factory; this time it was but two-thirds full. The reason for the shrinkage was made obvious by her performance. MORE

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PENNSYLTUCKY: New Poll Has Toomey Over Sestak by 8 Points And Corbett Over Onorato By 12 Points

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

MAGELLAN STRATEGIES: Today Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies released survey results in the state of Pennsylvania of likely general electon voters.  The survey of 1,430 respondents finds:

- Congressional generic ballot, Republican candidate with 47%, Democrat candidate 37%.

– Republican Tom Corbett leads Democrat Dan Onorat0 by 12 points, 50% to 38% respectively.

– Republican Pat Toomey leads Democrat Joes Sestak by 8 points, 49% to 41% respectively. MORE

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Monday, September 27th, 2010

INQUIRER: The shutout win not only guaranteed Philadelphia another division title, but also the best record in the NL, meaning they will have home-field advantage in next week’s NL division series – and beyond, should they advance. “It’s just amazing what this bunch has accomplished,” said Jayson Werth, who homered, doubled and had four RBIs, but may not be back if there’s a fifth straight next season. “And we’re not satisfied yet. Not done yet.” This fourth division crown marked the most this franchise has won in succession. The Mike Schmidt-Steve Carlton Phils had won three straight from 1976 through 1978. “It’s been a long year,” said Manuel, who stayed out of spray’s way in his office. “And this is just the first step.” Halladay, who fulfilled his dream in his first season as a Phillie, seemed unconcerned about the threatening weather and not troubled much by a Washington lineup that was without Ryan Zimmerman. He sped through the Nats’ lineup as if he were tossing batting practice, yielding singles to Wilson Ramos in the third and Adam Dunn in the eighth. It was just the latest chapter in the 21st-century transformation of what once was baseball’s sorriest franchise. After sporadic postseason appearances in their first 110 years of existence, the Phillies now will be there for an unprecedented fourth straight October. MORE

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WEASELS RIPPED MY INTERNET: Cowardly House Dems Cave On Net Neutrality, Cut FCC Off At The Balls

Monday, September 27th, 2010

TECH CRUNCH: The FCC will not have rulemaking authority under a network neutrality bill that key House Democrats plan to introduce soon, according to a recent draft obtained by Tech Daily Dose. Instead, the commission will deal with enforcement on a case-by-case basis. Broadband providers who violate the law will face a maximum penalty of $2 million by the FCC, under the bill. The absence of the rulemaking authority, along with other provisions of the bill, is consistent with information reported by Tech Daily Dose last week. The bill is a last-minute effort by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman to shepherd net neutrality legislation through the lower chamber before recess. Waxman hopes to advance the measure through the Senate during the lame-duck session after the November elections, according to an industry source. Under the proposed legislation, the FCC would be prohibited from reclassifying broadband under Title II of the Communications Act, a change FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has proposed in order to allow the government to impose rules designed to preserve the Internet’s openness. Although he has sought to protect broadband from more onerous regulatory requirements under Title II, such as price regulation, the industry regards the reclassification approach as the “nuclear option.” MORE

RELATED: If Net Neutrality is ended, the Internet as you know it is gone forever, split into a fast lane for companies with money and a slow lane for small businesses, individuals, clubs and societies – in fact, anyone who can’t afford to pay ISPs to have their site in the fast lane. ISPs may even completely block access to sites who aren’t able to pay them. MORE

SENATOR AL FRANKEN: “Net neutrality” sounds arcane, but it’s fundamental to free speech. The internet today is an open marketplace. If you have a product, you can sell it. If you have an opinion, you can blog about it. If you have an idea, you can share it with the world. And no matter who you are — a corporation selling a new widget, a senator making a political argument or just a Minnesotan sharing a funny cat video — you have equal access to that marketplace. An e-mail from your mom comes in just as fast as a bill notification from your bank. You’re reading this op-ed online; it’ll load just as fast as a blog post criticizing it. That’s what we mean by net neutrality. But telecommunications companies want to be able to set up a special high-speed lane just for the corporations that can pay for it. You won’t know why the internet retail behemoth loads faster than the mom-and-pop shop, but after a while you may get frustrated and do all of your shopping at the faster site. Maybe the gatekeepers will discriminate based on who pays them more. Maybe they will discriminate based on whose political point of view conforms to their bottom line. MORE

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SIDEWALKING: Rainy Days & Mondays

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Belmont Plateau 1:05 PM by JEFF FUSCO

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GIL SCOT-HERON: New York Is Killing Me

Monday, September 27th, 2010

MALCOLM GLADWELL:  Gil Scott-Heron is frequently called the “godfather of rap,” which is an epithet he doesn’t really care for. In 1968, when he was nineteen, he wrote a satirical, spoken-word piece called “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” It was released on a very small label in 1970. It is the species of classic that sounds as subversive and intelligent now as it did when it was new. Scott-Heron calls himself a bluesologist. He is sixty-one, tall and scrawny. Writer visits Scott-Heron at his apartment where he was watching a tape of the Rumble in the Jungle fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. “I like to see unbelievable odds because that’s what I’ve been facing all these years. When I feel like giving up, I like to watch this,” Scott-Heron said. Some of the people the writer spoke with said they preferred to remember Scott-Heron as he had been before he had begun avidly smoking crack. MORE

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WORTH REPEATING: ‘A Cold-Hearted Fat Slob’

Monday, September 27th, 2010

ED SCHULTZ: “Here’s the bottom line: what we’re seeing out of this governor of New Jersey is just go to the money, cut whoever you have to cut, there is no ramification for any of this because he’s a cold-hearted fat slob anyway,” Schultz said. “The bottom line is, when he doesn’t like what he hears he accuses the other side of shouting. It’s a typical, typical right-wing approach to the competition. And that’s how they view their constituents when they don’t agree with them.” MORE

RELATED: Reefer Sadness

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CHRISTINE O’DONNELL: ‘Evolution Is A Myth’

Monday, September 27th, 2010

PREVIOUSLY: ‘I Dabbled In Witchcraft’

PREVIOUSLY: ‘I Will Stop The Whole Nation From Having Sex’

PREVIOUSLY: Witchcraft Is Least Of Troubles With O’Donnell

PREVIOUSLY: The Thirteen Dumbest Things Delaware Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell Said

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Via BuzzFeed

Cost of the War in Iraq
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