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CAT POWER: Woman (Feat. Lana Del Rey)

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

From Wanderer, due out October 5th on Domino Recordings. She plays the Mann w/ The National on September 27th.

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INCOMING: Eight Miles High

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

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EXCERPT: Stephen Miller’s Uncle Is NOT Having It

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

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THE CUT: As White House adviser Stephen Miller continues to push forward brutal “zero-tolerance” immigration policies, the apparent napper’s uncle is now calling him out for hypocrisy in a blistering op-ed. Writing for Politico, he points out that their own family benefitted from the very immigration policies that the Trump administration is reportedly trying to reverse. Neuropsychologist David S. Glosser — whose sister is Miller’s mother — reveals that years ago, members of their family were able to immigrate to the U.S. because of “chain migration,” which allowed a relative to sponsor their entry into the country. MORE

POLITICO: Let me tell you a story about Stephen Miller and chain migration. It begins at the turn of the 20th century, in a dirt-floor shack in the village of Antopol, a shtetl of subsistence farmers in what is now Belarus. Beset by violent anti-Jewish pogroms and forced childhood conscription in the Czar’s army, the patriarch of the shack, Wolf-Leib Glosser, fled a village where his forebears had lived for centuries and took his chances in America.

He set foot on Ellis Island on January 7, 1903, with $8 to his name. Though fluent in Polish, Russian and Yiddish, he understood no English. An elder son, Nathan, soon followed. By street corner peddling and sweatshop toil, Wolf-Leib and Nathan sent enough money home to pay off debts and buy the immediate family’s passage to America in 1906. That group included young Sam Glosser, who with his family settled in the western Pennsylvania city of Johnstown, a booming coal and steel town that was a magnet for other hardworking immigrants. The Glosser family quickly progressed from selling goods from a horse and wagon to owning a haberdashery in Johnstown run by Nathan and Wolf-Leib to a chain of supermarkets and discount department stores run by my grandfather, Sam, and the next generation of Glossers, including my dad, Izzy. It was big enough to be listed on the AMEX stock exchange and employed thousands of people over time. In the span of some 80 years and five decades, this family emerged from poverty in a hostile country to become a prosperous, educated clan of merchants, scholars, professionals, and, most important, American citizens.

What does this classically American tale have to do with Stephen Miller? Well, Izzy Glosser is his maternal grandfather, and Stephen’s mother, Miriam, is my sister. I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, an educated man who is well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.

I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses— the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants — been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom. The Glossers came to the U.S. just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the “America first” nativists of the day closed U.S. borders to Jewish refugees. Had Wolf-Leib waited, his family likely would have been murdered by the Nazis along with all but seven of the 2,000 Jews who remained in Antopol. I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him. MORE

VANITY FAIR: Meanwhile, as the border crisis spirals, the absence of a coordinated policy process has allowed the most extreme administration voices to fill the vacuum. White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller has all but become the face of the issue, a development that even supporters of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” position say is damaging the White House. “Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,” an outside White House adviser said. “He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.” MORE

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SOURCE: Five Habits Of Questionably Effective Racists

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

Monday, August 13th, 2018

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AMAZON: Siren Song is the autobiography of legendary music biz talent scout/label executive Seymour Stein, the founder of Sire Records and spotter of rock talent from the Ramones to Madonna. Since the late fifties, he’s been wherever it’s happening: Billboard, Tin Pan Alley, The British Invasion, CBGB, Studio 54, Danceteria, the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, the CD crash. Along that winding path, he discovered and broke out a skyline full of stars: Madonna, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Madonna, The Smiths, The Cure, Ice-T, Lou Reed, Seal, and many others. Brimming with hilarious scenes and character portraits, Siren Song’s wider narrative is about modernity in motion, and the slow acceptance of diversity in America – thanks largely to daring pop music. Including both the high and low points in his life, Siren Song touches on everything from his discovery of Madonna to his wife Linda Stein’s violent death. MORE

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WORTH REPEATING: The Paradox Of Tolerance

Monday, August 13th, 2018

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RELATED: Who Is Karl Popper?

RELATED: The Pardox Of Tolerance

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CINEMA: This Is America

Friday, August 10th, 2018

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BLACKKKLANSMAN (Directed by Spike Lee, 135 minutes, USA, 2018)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC BlacKkKlansman is the real-life story of how the first African American police officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department infiltrated the Klu Klux Klan. Starring John David Washington (son of Denzel) as Ron and Adam Driver as his partner, BlacKkKlansman proves to be one of Spike Lee’ most ferocious social commentaries to date cleverly disguised as a hilarious buddy cop movie. Lee uses the very relevant narrative to comment both on the backsliding of race relations in America and how it wasn’t exactly an accident that we got back here in the first place.

Set in the early ‘70s, at the tail end of the Civil Rights movement, the film introduces us to Ron (Washington), an ambitious young rookie who is first tasked with infiltrating the Black Power movement. When he realizes the movement isn’t peopled with the kind of violent radicals his superiors sent him to find and instead encounters a group of embattled minorities struggling for equality he cold calls the Klu Klux Klan after seeing an ad in the paper recruiting new members. Using a phone demeanor that would impress the bosses of the call center in Sorry To Bother You, Ron sets up a meeting with the local chapter of the KKK and uses seasoned Detective Flip Zimmerman (Driver) as the real-life incarnation of his racist caricature. Thanks to Ron’s gift of gab on the phone with David Duke, he quickly moves up the ranks in the KKK and in no time is nominated as chapter president. The investigation begins to attract some unwanted attention when they uncover not only the Klan’s ties to the military, but their plan to impress Duke on his visit to Colorado Springs.

Due in no small part to the daily horrors of the Trump presidency, Lee seems to have recaptured that spark that gave us the kind of scathingly frank commentary coupled with an intimate African American perspective invocative of Do the Right Thing. The director pulls no punches as the film ends with a grim montage illustrating how the KKK’s cycle of racism continues even to this day, ending with the Tiki torch-wielding Nazis descending on Charlottesville. This is the serious message Lee wants to impress on an audience in search of a light buddy cop comedy. Still, BlacKkKlansman is not simply a political statement, it is a funny and thought-provoking film that captures both the ugliness of hate and dogged beauty of the struggle for equality.

SPIKE LEE’S BLACKKKLANSMAN NOW PLAYING IN AREA THEATERS

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Q&A: Talking Funny w/ SNL’s Melissa Villasenor

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

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Photo by ROBYN VON SWANK

mecroppedsharp_1BY JONATHAN VALANIA Comedian/actress/impressionist extraordinaire Melissa Villasenor was born 30 years ago in Whittier, California. By the age of 12 she was doing impressions of famous people. At the tender age of 15 she did her first stand-up routine at the storied Laugh Factory in Hollywood. By the age of 18 she was a regular at comedy open mic nights around town, often hiding under a hoodie to pass for a dude to get her jokes taken seriously in this sexist world we currently reside in. After years of working the comedy circuit, and an appearance on America’s Got Talent, she landed a job as a performer on SNL in 2016. She has a remarkable gift for impersonating the likes of Owen Wilson, Barbara Walters, Jennifer Lopez, Zooey Deschanel, Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, to name but a few [see the video at the bottom of this Q&A]. She has applied this skill to voiceover work on Family Guy and Adventure Time. She played a waitress on Barry, SNL alum Bill Hader’s new show about a hitman-turned-actor on HBO, and played herself on Judd Apatow’s Crashing. She will be performing at Punchline Philly August 9th-11th, which is why we got her on the horn last week.

DISCUSSED: Tough Latinon moms, Whittier, California, the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp, Britney Speark, NSYNC, Mandy Moore, tattoos, her drawings, Freud, anxiety dreams, seeing Nickelback 56 times, SNL, being bad at talking dirty and the secret to channeling the voicings, body language and facial tics of famous people.

PHAWKER: You grew up in Whittier, California? What can you tell me about that? You have brothers and sisters or are you an only child?

MELISSA VILLASENOR: I have an older brother and a younger brother and sister who are Villasenor_Gwentwins. I’m the middle child. We’re close in age, they’re my best buds. I come from a Mexican family, we’re very close. Sometimes too close? My parents are very funny, they’re opposites. My mom is a really tough Latino mom. My dad is very sensitive, very jolly and my mom is just brutally honest. Polar opposites, but very fun.

PHAWKER: Is anyone else in your family a performer or comedian?

MELISSA VILLASENOR: Nope, no entertainment folks.

PHAWKER: I was reading you started doing stand-up at age 15, is that correct? Like in clubs?

MELISSA VILLASENOR: Yes. I did the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp summer of my sophomore year. I mostly did impressions. I found that online and thought it was cool because most open mics, you can start at any age really but it’s hard when you’re not 18 yet and you can’t be in the club because they’re serving drinks. I started doing open mics at 18, 19. I was starting to do shows in Hollywood.

PHAWKER: I also read you started doing impersonations and impressions when you were twelve?

MELISSA VILLASENOR: Yeah, that’s when I started doing a lot of singing impressions.

PHAWKER: What spurred that? You were just mimicking people on the radio or videos or TV or whatever?

MELISSA VILLASENOR: Yeah I was so obsessed with Britney Spears and NSYNC and Mandy Moore and I think that’s the age when you’re just soaking up a lot. I always loved singing, it comes from loving choir and singing and I think just hearing your voice over and over and realizing, ‘oh man I could change my voice.’
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CINEMA: We Are Young

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

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BY MARIAH HALL Bo Burnham didn’t intend to write and direct a movie about eighth graders, it just worked out that way. In the New Yorker, he confessed, “I wanted to talk about anxiety…Anxiety makes me feel like a terrified thirteen year old.” Burnham started out as a YouTube star in 2006 and managed to flip viral video fame into a comedy career. Now he has written and directed his first film, Eighth Grade, about a middle-school girl named Kayla (Elsie Fisher). She makes YouTube videos that no one watches, aside from her endearing father, played by Josh Hamilton, signing off with the catchphrase, “Gucci!” The beeping Photobooth countdown becomes a repeated motif signaling moments of self-reflection, as the videos she makes are largely life-coaching tidbits delivered in a stuttering, self-conscious voice that feels improvised. That the actress playing a fourteen-year-old is truly fourteen, and her syntax is halting and littered with pauses in the form of “uh” and “like,” adds to the film’s authenticity.

Eighth Grade captures the reality of the collectively hellish middle school experience without falling into indie film coming-of-age narcissism or functioning as an anti-Internet cautionary tale. Most scenes left me cringing with second hand embarrassment, my breath held through painfully awkward moments. From pining after a popular boy to throwing a half-eaten banana at her hovering single parent, it was the perfect blend of melodrama and relatability. Twenty-first century adolescents are hooked on the glow of their iPhones, headphones rarely unplugged. Social media magnifies every insecurity and savages self-esteem. Kids perform their lives rather than living them, hiding behind a glass screen, striving for the validity of likes and followers. In Kayla’s absence of friends, the scroll of Tumblr posts, refreshed Twitter feed, gifs, Snapchat filters and Buzzfeed quizzes, act as emotionally vacant entertainment to distract her from real life.
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BEING THERE: Rise Against @ Festival Pier

Monday, August 6th, 2018

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Photo by PETE TROSHAK

Ben Franklin, in his infinite wisdom, once suggested “Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.” Chicago veteran punk rockers Rise Against brought their Mourning in Amerika tour to Philadelphia on Saturday night determined to spread Franklin’s sage advice. On tour in support of their new and altogether excellent Wolves album, Rise Against are now in their 19th year of melding Thin Lizzy guitar heroics to Bruce Springsteen-ian heartland earnestness.

Saturday night at the Festival Pier, the band performed in front of a gigantic tarp with an vertical blood red and off-white striped flag bookended by silhouettes of a desperate looking man who appears to be about to jump to uncertainty or possibly certain death. Singer Tim McIlrath anchored the middle of the stage clad in all black a la Johnny Cash, slashing out riffs on his bright white Gibson guitar while lead guitarist Zach Blair and tattooed bassist Joe Principe bounded right to left behind him. Only the tippy top of drummer Brandon Barnes head was visible behind his drum kit but he was easily heard keeping time with great vengeance and furious anger at the back of the stage. Throughout their set, the band was strafed by white laser beams of light and stuttering strobe lights.
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WORTH REPEATING: How ICE Went Rogue

Monday, August 6th, 2018

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THE ATLANTIC: Settling into a sense of safety is hard when your life’s catalog of memories teaches you the opposite lesson. Imagine: You fled from a government militia intent on murdering you; swam across a river with the uncertain hope of sanctuary on the far bank; had the dawning realization that you could never return to your village, because it had been torched; and heard pervasive rumors of former neighbors being raped and enslaved. Imagine that, following all this, you then found yourself in New York City, with travel documents that were unreliable at best.

This is the shared narrative of thousands of emigrants from the West African nation of Mauritania. The country is ruled by Arabs, but these refugees were members of a black subpopulation that speaks its own languages. In 1989, in a fit of nationalism, the Mauritanian government came to consider these differences capital offenses. It arrested, tortured, and violently expelled many black citizens. The country forcibly displaced more than 70,000 of them and rescinded their citizenship. Those who remained behind fared no better. Approximately 43,000 black Mauritanians are now enslaved—by percentage, one of the largest enslaved populations in the world.

After years of rootless wandering—through makeshift camps, through the villages and cities of Senegal—some of the Mauritanian emigrants slowly began arriving in the United States in the late 1990s. They were not yet adept in English, and were unworldly in almost every respect. But serendipity—and the prospect of jobs—soon transplanted their community of roughly 3,000 to Columbus, Ohio, where they clustered mostly in neighborhoods near a long boulevard that bore a fateful name: Refugee Road. It commemorated a moment at the start of the 19th century, when Ohio had extended its arms to accept another influx of strangers, providing tracts of land to Canadians who had expressed sympathy for the American Revolution.

Refugee Road wasn’t paved with gold, but in the early years of this century, it fulfilled the promise of its name. The Mauritanians converted an old grocery store into a cavernous, blue-carpeted mosque. They opened restaurants that served familiar fish and rice dishes, and stores that sold CDs and sodas imported from across Africa.

Over time, as the new arrivals gave birth to American citizens and became fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cleveland Cavaliers, they mentally buried the fact that their presence in America had never been fully sanctioned. When they had arrived in New York, many of them had paid an English-speaking compatriot to fill out their application for asylum. But instead of recording their individual stories in specific detail, the man simply cut and pasted together generic narratives. (It is not uncommon for new arrivals to the United States, desperate and naive, to fall prey to such scams.) A year or two after the refugees arrived in the country, judges reviewed their cases and, noticing the suspicious repetitions, accused a number of them of fraud and ordered them deported.

But those deportation orders never amounted to more than paper pronouncements. Where would Immigration and Customs Enforcement even send them? The Mauritanian government had erased the refugees from its databases and refused to issue them travel documents. It had no interest in taking back the villagers it had so violently removed. So ice let their cases slide. They were required to regularly report to the agency’s local office and to maintain a record of letter-perfect compliance with the law. But as the years passed, the threat of deportation seemed ever less ominous.

Then came the election of Donald Trump. MORE

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LORD OF THE STRINGS: Q&A With Dick Dale

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally posted on July 16th, 2012

BY JONATHAN VALANIA Surf music? Dick Dale invented the stuff. Pure mainlined adrenaline, it is. Like a pocketful of white lightning. Nitroglycerin on hot wax. Surely you’ve seen the opening moments of Pulp Fiction. Easily the most thrilling marriage of profanity, felony and surf music in the history of American cinema. Rock guitar? He re-invented it. He is more or less the bridge between Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. He worked closely with Leo Fender — godfather creator of the essential machinery of rock, the Fender guitar and the Fender amp — to advance the power and the scope of the electric guitar. He pioneered the idea of guitar as nitro-burning funny car. He made it a fast machine and louder than it had ever been before. When you are packing out the ballrooms of Southern California with 4,000 kids a night, as Dale routinely did in the early 60s, you’re gonna need a lot of firepower. Before Dick, guitar amps didn’t go to 11. After Dick, they did. Now 81-years-old, Dick’s been rocking’ and rolling for more than 50 years. Nothing — not cancer, not diabetes, not renal failure — can stop him. Long may he rock. Dick Dale plays the Ardmore Music Hall on August 16th, which is why we got him on the horn. Discussed: How to surf, Quentin Tarantino, Gene Krupa, surfing, beating cancer, Leo Fender, John Travolta, surfing, going blind, Egyptian medicine, and the angels of mercy.

PHAWKER: Unlike, say, The Beach Boys, you actually used to surf correct?

DICK DALE: Sun up to sun down.

PHAWKER: What advice would you offer to non-surfers?

DICK DALE: Well, you should certainly get someone who has been surfing a long time to give you tips on what not to do with your board as you’re walking out into the ocean. Many times, some people will put the board down horizontal to their body on the water and the water will come real, real slow, you won’t even see it happen when it happens, and it will push the board upward right into your face. So you should always have the board pointing out towards the ocean, the nose of the board, and you should stand beside it with your hands on the board. When you go out in the water and you’re paddling out, I used to always start out paddling fish style on my stomach and when I was tiring I’d get up on my knees and paddle then go back down on my stomach. You’ve got to be careful sometimes when you’re grabbing the rails of the board when your hands are wet, a lot of the times a person put wax on the board and on the rails there was the wax, and your hands will slip off out into the water and you’ll just smash your face into the board and you could break your cheek or get injured that way. Another thing, I don’t want to take up all your time …

PHAWKER: No. Go ahead.

DICK DALE: When you’re paddling out to the water and the waves are coming at you, one’s going to come over you. Well what I used to do was to lean forward, grab the nose of my board with both hands so that I’m laying on it and I’d roll over and pull the nose down towards my head so that the waves would go right over the top of me and continue rolling as I went through the wave. Some people, they’ll sit forward and they’ll kind of duck their head down and push the nose up but I don’t advise that. I advise them to, if they’re laying down or just kneeling paddling, just grab the nose with both hands, like 10 or 12 inches down from the tip of the nose on each side of the rail, and then just spin over upside down in the water and pull that nose down so that the waves go over you. You don’t want that wave to break on you and slam the board up into your head.

PHAWKER: It sounds like a good way to get knocked unconscious.
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The 10 Thoughts I Had During Radiohead Last Night

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

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Photo by MATT SHAVER

1. As the shadowy members of Radiohead took their places on the darkened stage, the PA played a live recording of some drone-y, vaguely Eastern-sounding trance music that may or may not have been the Master Musicians of Joujouka. The recording ends with a sound bite of local-girl-made-good Nina Simone telling an interviewer: “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear.” That, in two words, is the definition of white privilege: no fear. No fear of being beaten, bullied, abused, blackballed or murdered in cold blood live on Facebook by the police for the unspeakable crime of not being white. OK, I will get down from my soapbox now and on with the jokes.

2. When you are guitarist Ed O’Brien, sometimes being in Radiohead means just standing there with your teeth in your mouth watching Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood push buttons and twirl knobs. As with jazz, being in Radiohead is about know what not to play and when not to play it.

3. Their light show is way better than War On Drugs’ light show. To put it another way, if Radiohead’s light show and War On Drugs’ light show ever gets into a West Side Story-style back alley rumble there will be blood. Because when you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dyin’ day. Look it up.

4. In addition to the balletic shafts of pure white light of said light show, there was a giant moon-shaped-pool-looking screen behind the band upon which a flickering cubist montage of band member close-ups danced subliminally, handily solving the eternal riddle of how to make pasty middle-aged Brits pushing buttons and turning knobs visually exciting. Can’t speak for the other 21,000 or so people in attendance last night, but over in Section 113, we were impressed.

5. ‘Idioteque’ is the word that comes to mind when Thom Yorke does his man-bunned dance-like-nobody’s-watching thing even though everybody is watching. On a related note — and I say all this with unconditional love and all due respect for the band’s art and legacy — Yorke is really lucky this Radiohead thing took off because while he may be a genius-level singer/songwriter, as a tambourine player I am sorry to say he couldn’t even get hired by Josie and the Pussy Cats.

6. Jonny Greenwood is like a brunette Brian Jones with better cheekbones in that he has that same mystical ability to pick up just about any instrument and conjure some magic out of it. Which is why he is allowed to comb his hair any way he bloody well pleases.

7. Speaking of which, there is an old Jonny Greenwood joke that goes: When Jonny Greenwood goes to the barber he says, in the Borscht Belt voice of Triumph The Insult Dog, ‘Just a little off the bottom…OF MY NOSE!’ and then they both break into howling laughter that, unnervingly, lasts a few seconds longer than “Stairway To Heaven” start to finish. In the ensuing silence, Jonny and the barber exchange knowing nods and then he exits wordlessly stage left. Hilarity ensues.

8. Phil Selway is a motherfucker on the drums. There is no higher compliment. Then there’s that mysterious nameless second bald guy on percussion who just showed up a couple years ago and never left. Lucky for them, because best I can tell the double-bald headed drummer thing is completely unprecedented in the entire recorded history of rock n’ roll.

9. Colin Greenwood has the roundest eyes in rock n’ roll. Look, I don’t want to get into an argument about this.

10. There is an unconfirmed rumor going around that Paul Thomas Anderson was in town filming both Philly nights of Radiohead’s tour for his next movie. Even though I have this on good authority, I saw no evidence of this from my vantage point in section 113. However, I so very badly want this to be true I am willingly suspending my disbelief for this one. – JONATHAN VALANIA

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FEEDBACK: State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe Responds

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

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PREVIOUSLY: Fear & Loathing In Pennsyltucky

 

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Cost of the War in Iraq
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