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This Modern World: 2015 In Review

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This Modern World: The Bad Intelligence

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This Modern World: Highlights of the Next Two Years

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Tax Cuts For Thee, Tax Cuts For Me

There is an impasse brewing in Washington over the Bush-era, post-9/11 stimulus made up entirely of income tax cuts. 

This is the same stimulus plan that has been in effect throughout the current economic uncertainty, and the recent global economic meltdown that took place, and has done little to make sure wealth trickles down, or to create jobs. 

It’s becoming part of the NY-27 race, in particular. Republican Chris Collins paints himself as the small business everyman, and called on Representative Kathy Hochul (D) to vote to extend tax cuts even to the wealthiest Americans.  Collins claims millions of small businesses, who aren’t hiring now, would be forced to not hire people (what, like even worser?!) if the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy aren’t extended. Essentially all of the $1 million+ earners in the country are not “small business owners”;  only about 2.5% of small businesses would be affected.  It would also expend the deficit by another trillion dollars, so it’s what we call “fiscally not particularly conservative”.

In fact, since Reaganomics and trickle down/supply-side economics became de rigeur,  wages haven’t stagnated for average Americans – they’e “plummeted”. Wealth hasn’t trickled down to anyone, unless maybe you own a Bentley or yacht dealership. 

No, we shouldn’t begrudge the rich their wealth. However they got it, they’re quite entitled to it. By the same token, we need to stop the hagiography about them being “job creators” without whom our civilization would crumble. Ayn Rand isn’t the treasury secretary. 

President Obama and the Democrats would like to put an end to the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. What does that mean? 

What it means is that everyone gets to keep the Bush-era tax cut up to the first $250,000 of annual income – even notable job creators like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian.  Here’s the average annual tax savings if the middle-income cuts are maintained, but the high-income cuts are abolished: 

Still a pretty good deal, right? Anyone else getting the idea that Collins’ argument is more about self-interest than policy?  The problem is that many genuine small businesses rely on the middle class to buy their goods and services – directly or indirectly. The best way for that to happen is for people to have money in their pockets and the confidence to spend it. Millionaires never, ever have a problem with either of those factors. As we see above, extending the middle-class tax cuts provide a significant benefit across the income spectrum.


Album Review: Bush – The Sea Of Memories

Album Review: Bush – The Sea Of Memories

It’s hard to believe it’s actually been a full decade since British post-grungers Bush dropped their last album. The band’s string of 1990s singles still get regular radio play, and frontman Gavin Rossdale’s marriage to Gwen Stefani keeps him in the tabloids on a consistent basis. So, it’s not like there’s been some grand void.

Still, in terms of new music they’ve pretty much been AWOL. All we’ve gotten from Rossdale in the interim is his dull 2008 solo album Wanderlust, and one decent-but-inconsequential album from the short lived group Institute. If the other members of the group put out anything worthwhile, I didn’t hear about it, and you probably didn’t either.

Taking all this into consideration, it’s surprising just how strong Bush’s comeback album is. The Sea Of Memories is probably the best album they’ve ever made (which, considering the amount of strong singles on Sixteen Stone, is hardly an empty statement). While this album contains some of their post-grunge roots, they also step out of their comfort zone a bit. What we end up with is a mixture of crunchy guitar rock, a surprising bit of glam influences, and some Britpop stylings that will remind listeners more of Blur or Oasis than of Silverchair, Live, or any of other post-grunge bands Bush is typically lumped in with. It’s a new sound for the band, and it suits them nicely.

One remnant of Bush’s sound that remains on this album is their knack for catchy melodies. Nearly every song here has an instantly hummable chorus, with “Baby Come Home”, and “The Afterlife” being the strongest examples. Bush have been knocked for their perceived lack of originality over the years, but no one can deny their ability to write a catchy tune. That skill is in full force here.

Bush’s secret weapon on The Sea Of Memories is guitarist Chris Traynor, a former session musician who has previously worked with such groups as Helmet, Blur, and oddly enough, Katy Perry. He provides a clean, crisp, guitar tone that gives the songs a sleek sound, without taking away any of their hard rock edge. This is especially true on lead single “The Sound Of Winter,” where Traynor’s riffage puts the tune somewhere in between straight up 1990s hard rock, and old-fashioned-fun 1970s glam. When Rossdale repeats the phrase “hang on to yourself,” it’s unknown if he’s alluding to the Bowie song of the same name, but it’s certainly a possibility.

While there are plenty of rockers, the band is not afraid to go into ballad territory. 1994’s “Glycerine” was one of their biggest hits, and The Sea Of Memories has its share of worthy successors. The first is “All Night Doctors”, a lament bemoaning the desire for quick fixes to all of our modern problems. It’s the sort of thing that wouldn’t have been out of place on Blur’s early albums, but is a bit surprising on a Bush record. The song ends up working quite well, as does the message. Modern life is still rubbish, no matter who happens to be pointing it out.

The second is the album’s closer, “Be Still My Love,” which may be the one true love song on the album. After hearing the cynicism of the early songs, this could be seen as the point where Rossdale realizes that he’s better looking than most 45-year-olds and he’s married to Gwen Stefani, so perhaps he should cheer up a bit. Good to know the guy has some perspective.

This is a much stronger album than most would’ve expected from a band who has been gone for so long. Bush never got credit for their strong songwriting in the 1990s, always been derided for being derivative, much in the same way Stone Temple Pilots were. Perhaps this new album will put their career in a new light. Put it this way: Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne once said Stefani’s marriage to Rossdale was the only uncool thing about her. Maybe after hearing The Sea Of Memories, he’ll take it back. —john hugar


This Modern World: Then and Now

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The Maltese Falcon

Local Republican fundraiser extraordinaire Anthony Gioia has been nominated by President Bush to represent the United States in the upcoming 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Recently, Gioia opened his house for a fundraiser for John McCain. Over 100 people paid at least $10,000 each to have their picture taken with the presidential candidate at the event. I meant to attend, but I had misplaced my checkbook for the entire three-and-a-half hours McCain was in town. I was relieved to hear he made out with $1.5 million during his visit. Still, I really should have done something. I guess I could have donated my Rolex collection to the cause.

Gioia has been an enthusiastic supporter of Bush-Cheney since the beginning, an allegiance that was rewarded with an appointment as US ambassador to the tiny Mediterranean island nation of Malta, where he served from 2001 until 2004—the same year Malta was finally admitted into the European Union.

If his UN nomination is approved by the Senate, as is expected, Gioia will be in the exciting position of mending the widespread damage our country has suffered on the world stage as a result of the belligerent policies of the Bush-Cheney era. He should be up to the task. Check out his business card.