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Month: September 2011

Captain Sean Doe of Throw Rag Sails his Band across the Salton Sea

Captain Sean Doe of Throw Rag Sails his Band across the Salton Sea

Captain Sean Doe, aka Sean Wheeler, aka The Captain, begins Throw Rag shows dressed in his captain uniform…

Throw-Rag Captain Sean Doe of Throw Rag Sails his Band across the Salton Sea

…and ends the shows wearing only his tattoos and underwear, or maybe nuthin’. 

The band is from the Salton Sea in Southern California.  I’d never heard of the place until I saw the band and wondered just where are the Desert Shores?.   So here’s a short video about the Salton Sea for all you curious Throw Rag fans.

Oh what the hell, you might as well watch this one too.

America’s Dead Sea from Jim Lo Scalzo on Vimeo.

Herman Cain’s 999 Tax Plan is for the Rich and Against the Rest of Us

Herman Cain’s 999 Tax Plan is for the Rich and Against the Rest of Us

Herman Cain has a simple plan to fix the federal tax code.  He calls it “999” because it it would tax individual income at 9%, corporate income at 9%, and adds a national sales tax at 9%. His plan would also eliminate most tax deductions for individuals and corporations, and it would eliminate the capital gains tax and the inheritance tax.  I’ll give him “simple,” but I sure as hell won’t give him “fair.” 

It’s not fair because it’s terribly regressive. The effect of a flat tax like this is to make the middle class take on a bigger portion of the federal tax burden even though, as a group, the middle class has seen close to zero gains in real income in the past 20 years while the very wealthy have seen their already astronomical incomes more than quadruple. As their incomes quadrupled their income-tax rate dropped by 4.9% to 35%, and the tax on capital gains and dividends, of which the top 5% earners take 80% of all capital gains, dropped to 20% during Clinton’s term and then again to 15% under Bush.

The wealthy are seriously undertaxed. They should be paying way, way more in federal income taxes. A 9% flat tax plus a 9% tax on whatever portion of the billions they have sitting in cash they decide to leak out into the economy is a huge tax cut for them. If Cain’s plan was adopted, who do you think would be making up the lost federal revenue previously paid by the rich? The rest of us, that’s who. And without any provision to exclude the working poor from paying the federal income tax, they would see their payroll tax deductions double.

And no tax on capital gains? That is absurd. Talk about a free ride! There are many millionaires and their Trustafarian offspring that are living large off capital gains. They would pay no income tax? Zero may be easy, but it’s far from fair, and the rich know it (that’s why so many of them on the Right hate Warren Buffett now). Cain should be scorned for even suggesting we eliminate taxes on capital gains.

And how do a lot of people get rich in the first place? From inheritance, that’s how. No tax on that? None at all? Again, anybody who believes in that shit should move back to 17th Century England. You know, the plutocratic country from which our forefathers fled.

UPDATE:  See two posts up.

Charles Krauthammer Hates Obama the “Class Warrior”

Charles Krauthammer Hates Obama the “Class Warrior”

I bet you all figured out by now that this week is Class Warfare week. And I bet you all want to know what the famous Dr. of Psychiatry, Charles Krauthammer, has to say about President Obama’s plan to fix our government’s debt problem with a mixture of spending cuts and, (are you sitting down? You might want to sit down for this.) tax increases.

I think Dr. Krauthammer went off his meds and was suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome when he wrote this one:

…the new Obama, today’s soak-the-rich, veto-threatening, self-proclaimed class warrior. Except that the new Obama is really the old Obama — the one who, upon entering office in the middle of a deep economic crisis, and determined not to allow “a serious crisis to go to waste” (to quote his then-chief of staff), exploited the (presumed) malleability of a demoralized and therefore passive citizenry to enact the largest Keynesian stimulus in recorded history, followed by the quasi-nationalization of one-sixth of the economy that is health care.

But this is more than a political calculation. It is more than just a pander to his base. It is a pander to himself: Obama is a member of his base. He believes this stuff. It is an easy and comfortable political shift for him, because it’s a shift from a phony centrism back to his social-democratic core, from positioning to authenticity.

The authentic Obama is a leveler, a committed social democrat, a staunch believer in the redistributionist state, a tribune, above all, of “fairness” — understood as government-imposed and government-enforced equality.

That’s why “soak the rich” is not just a campaign slogan to rally the base. It’s a mission, a vocation. It’s why, for all its gratuitous cynicism and demagoguery, Obama’s populist Rose Garden lecture on Monday was delivered with such obvious — and unusual — conviction.

President Obama is a self-proclaimed “Class Warrior?” Really? I’ve never heard him refer to himself as a class warrior. “Soak the Rich” is one of his campaign slogans? Really? I’ve never seen that on his website or on a bumper sticker.

I have written numerous times about how the Republicans have screwed the middle class, the poor, and the infirmed. How they have tried to marginalize homosexuals and non-Christians, but I’ve never said that their candidates use campaign slogans like “Screw the Middle Class!” or “Doing all We can to Rid our Country of the Poor and People with Pre-Existing Conditions!” or “Exterminate the Homos!” or “Atheists Suck!” No doubt that many of the candidates believe all of those slogans, but you’ll never see them used in their campaign ads or on bumper stickers.

And Krauthammer says Obama is “a member of his base” as if there’s something wrong with that. And he thinks Obama’s centrism is phony? If only it were! In reality its been anything but phony for the past three years, much to the dismay of people like me who voted for him.

If the good doctor thinks that raising the income-tax rate on the super rich by four or five percent and taxing capital gains like any other income is “soaking the rich,” one has to wonder what he thinks of the patron saint of Republicanism, Ronald Reagan, who raised the capital gains tax to 28% “out of fairness,” (Ronnie’s words, not mine), when he lowered the top-marginal rate to that same rate. Was Ronald Reagan soaking the rich? If not, how is Obama’s plan to increase the capital gains rate from its absurdly low rate of 15% to something like 20% or 25% soaking them? They’d only be paying something closer to what people who work for a living pay.

If proposing to increase taxes on people earning over $250,000 is class warfare, what does that make the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats who have fought long and hard to lower capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, and marginal income-tax rates so that the super rich – who have seen their income quadruple over the past 20 years – now pay the lowest effective tax rate in over 50 years? Those wealth-protecting congressmen are like superheros for the rich. They waged war on the middle class so that the rich can pocket more profits gained from paying lower wages and reduced benefits to their workers – and now they pay lower taxes on all that extra income! The super rich love their superhero congressmen because now they can use all that extra cash to purchase mega-mansions, million dollar cars, yachts, and jewels. And if they have so much money that they can’t spend it all, they can pass their excess wealth down to their children who will be so rich they won’t even have to work. Why would they work when they can live a lush life off of capital gains and pay a lower tax rate than their chauffeurs and body guards?

Yes, that’s life in Krauthammer’s America, and every good Republican believes his fairy tale because it’s been told so many times that they too believe they will someday benefit from a tax system that is rigged to benefit only a tiny sliver of our population that holds tremendous wealth and power.

Elizabeth Warren Rebuts Cries from the Right about Class Warfare

Elizabeth Warren Rebuts Cries from the Right about Class Warfare

I’ve always wondered why politicians on the Left always seem so tentative when they state their case for raising taxes on the wealthy.  After all, the Right – far from tentative with their charges of “Class Warfare”- will say anything in their campaign to shield the super rich from paying higher taxes.  

The Left has a new champion for their cause.  Elizabeth Warren, campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, made the case for why millionaires and billionaires should be paying more income taxes.

Hey Democrats – Watch and Learn!


Transcript via Eschaton:

I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.”—No!

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.

You built a factory out there—good for you! But I want to be clear.

You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.

You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.

You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.

You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.

But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Krugman Checks the Fact Checkers on Obama’s Plan to Raise Taxes on the Rich

Krugman Checks the Fact Checkers on Obama’s Plan to Raise Taxes on the Rich

On Monday, President Obama outlined his long-term budget plan that included raising taxes on the top earners. As expected, the Republicans responded with cries of class warfare.

Obama took a moment to point out that some of the millionaires and billionaires included in the top 1% of income earners pay a lower income tax rate than their secretaries.  The fact-checking sites focused on that statement and went to work. Some of the fact checking was pretty sloppy. In this article for the AP, Stephen Ohlemacher seemed to gloss over the operative word “some.”

On average, the wealthiest people in America pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor, according to private and government data. They pay at a higher rate, and as a group, they contribute a much larger share of the overall taxes collected by the federal government.

There may be individual millionaires who pay taxes at rates lower than middle-income workers. In 2009, 1,470 households filed tax returns with incomes above $1 million yet paid no federal income tax, according to the Internal Revenue Service. But that’s less than 1 percent of the nearly 237,000 returns with incomes above $1 million.

Glenn Kessler’s column for The Washington Post was a little closer to the mark:

Of the 400 taxpayers, 238 taxpayers paid a marginal rate of 35 percent, the top income tax bracket. That figure — which Republicans focus on — means that more than one-third of each additional dollar earned went to the federal government. However, various deductions and the like helped bring down the average rate. In fact, only 59 taxpayers in this rarified group had an effective tax rate of between 30 and 35 percent.

Neither of these two articles or a very sloppily written opinion piece on the Bloomberg View really touched on what the debate is about.  Leave it to the ever realiable Paul Krugman to go directly to the source in one post:

Look at the IRS data on returns for the 400 highest incomes in America (pdf) — specifically, Table 43. If you look at the numbers since 2004, you’ll see that in a typical year between 30 and 40 percent of those super-high-income players paid an average tax rate of less than 15 percent; most of them paid less than 20 percent.

And in this one about new data released by the Tax Policy Center (go to article for the table that suports the following statement):

40 percent of taxpayers with incomes between 30K and 40K pay more than 12.9 percent of their income in income and payroll taxes; meanwhile, 25 percent of people with incomes over $1M pay less than 12.6 percent of their income in these taxes. This suggests that there are a lot of very-high-income guys paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

And that doesn’t even take into account state and local taxes, which are quite regressive.

And in this post he clearly states the point of contention:

…cutting taxes is itself a choice — and they’re a choice that then leads to demands that we cut programs for the poor and middle class to close the deficit those tax cuts created.

The point is that yes, tax policy these past 30 years has been very much tilted toward benefiting the rich.

So when Republicans go crazy about raising taxes on the rich to what they were during the Clinton era, just 4.6% more on the top bracket, you really have to wonder what their problem is.  I mean they are the ones who were in control of congress when two wars were started, and they never asked for any taxes to pay for them.  They  passed the Medicaid Prescription Drug Benefit and never asked for any revenue to pay for it either.  So the party that is responsible for around 71% or our country’s debt has no problem spending when a Republican is in the White House but, when a Democrat is in the White House, not only can they not spend, they have to make drastic cuts to social safety net programs.  And it’s all done to spare the super rich from paying an additional 4.6% (or whatever rate Obama eventually settles on) in federal income taxes.

Bitch Magnet Reunites to Roast Your Ears

Bitch Magnet Reunites to Roast Your Ears


Jon Fine, guitarist for the band, contributed an article to the October issue of The Atlantic:

I liked to lean my forehead on my amp’s speaker enclosure when I played guitar. I liked the vibrations it sent into my skull. Sometimes, mid-song in my first band’s practice space, I’d stick my head in the bass drum. On tour in Europe in 1990, I ended one song each night by getting within inches of my (very loud) amp to produce some feedback. At times I’d get sudden spikes of treble that would turn my stomach and make me stumble, as if they’d briefly deranged whatever whorls of plumbing in my ears govern balance.

Extreme volume is nerd-macho. I couldn’t bench-press 250 pounds—actually, I couldn’t bench-press half of 250 pounds—but my band was much louder than yours. I sneered at those who wore earplugs at their shows. Earplugs turned the picture to black-and-white. Why would you do that? Onstage, your eyesight whiting out from the stage lights and your ears roasting from the decibels, the air seemed suffused with pure adrenaline. It lit you up like a city at night.

Any regrets about hearing loss?

Screw it. I don’t regret a thing. Sound transported us to places most people never get to see. When my old band got asked to reunite this year at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in the U.K., our concerns centered on practice logistics and plane schedules, not on our battered eardrums. The old basketball star walks gingerly on aching knees. Me? My ears ring. I can’t hear a thing you’re saying in this noisy bar. And it turns out that my left ear’s hearing is noticeably weaker in certain frequencies—it has what ear docs call the “noise notch” that afflicts those exposed to serious sound. But I’m okay enough. If not, well, I accept the physical penalty without complaint. For now, at least.

Bitch Magnet will be performing at the Nightmare Before Xmas festival presented by All Tomorrow’s Parties, December 10th in Minehead England.

Karl Marx Said Unbridled Capitalism Will Destroy itself, and He was Right

Karl Marx Said Unbridled Capitalism Will Destroy itself, and He was Right

The rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs. – Karl Marx 

Bloomberg BusinessWeek has been extolling the works of Karl Marx over the past few weeks. One article, “Marx to Market” by the Bloomberg News Services economics editor Peter Coy, brought me to a reflection on my own studies in Karl Marx in the early 1970s at the University of Pittsburgh. Although my focus was on alienation themes in his treatises, one could not help but be captured by the breadth and depth of his writing. In 1999 the BBC did an extensive polling to determine who were considered the greatest men and women of the millennium. Karl Marx topped the list followed by Einstein, Newton, and Darwin.

My interest even led me to London where I ordered an ale from the same corner of The Museum Tavern in Bloomsbury where Marx revived himself after his efforts at the British Museum across the street. I also came to identify with Engels plea to Marx, “You just read, read, read. It’s time to stop reading and start writing.”

Even the Vatican signed in on Marx in 2009 when L’Osservatore Romano praised his diagnosis of income inequality—a phenomenon that is becoming increasing rampant in American society.

Marx argued that overproduction was in fact endemic to capitalism because the proletariat isn’t paid enough to buy the stuff that the capitalists produce. Again, that theory has lately been hard to dispute. The only way blue-collar Americans managed to maintain consumption in the last decade was by overborrowing, according to Coy.

That statement reminded me an encounter between Henry Ford and Walter Reuther decades ago. Ford, showing Reuther a new factory that was to open and noting all of the automated assembly machines, baited Reuther with “You won’t get many union members from those machines.” Reuther’s reply was prophetic, “And you won’t sell them many Fords.”

Because, as Marx noted, the wild excesses of capitalists tend to sow the seeds of their own complete destruction, deregulation is actually disastrous for capitalism in the long run.  Former Oxford professor David Harvey believes that “The Republican Party is en route to destroy capitalism and they may do a better job of it than the working class could.”

Marx predicted that companies would need fewer workers as they improved productivity, creating an “industrial reserve army” of the unemployed whose existence would keep downward pressure on wages for the employed.

Although Adam Smith is often cited as the first economist to describe capitalism, Smith fell short in his projections missing the growth of child labor sweatshops, the deliberate displacement of workers to keep pressure on workers to work for wages that were not commensurate with their productivity. Neither did he foresee the alienation of labor from its work product as assembly lines developed. Marx did.

Critics often point to the USSR as failures of Marxism but they did not exemplify the teachings of Marx either in concept or in the development of the proletariat. Both of them jumped from feudalism to socialism skipping the important step that Marx required: Going through a stage of capitalism first. That’s why the socialism of the Scandinavian countries is so effective.

Marx believed that societies follow laws of motion simple and all-encompassing enough to make long-range prediction fruitful. Second, he believed that these laws are exclusively economic in character: what shapes society, the only thing that shapes society, is the “material forces of production. Third, he believed that these laws must invariably express themselves, until the end of history, as a bitter struggle of class against class. Fourth, he believed that at the end of history, classes and the state (whose sole purpose is to represent the interests of the ruling class) must dissolve to yield a heaven on earth.

Evidence of stage three is all about us.

Marx was much more original in envisioning the productive power of capitalism. He saw that capitalism would spur innovation to a hitherto-unimagined degree. He was right that giant corporations would come to dominate the world’s industries. He rightly underlined the importance of economic cycles (although his accounts of their causes and consequences were wrong).

The central paradox that Marx emphasized, “namely, that its own colossal productivity would bring capitalism to its knees, by making socialism followed by communism both materially possible and logically necessary” has turned out to be false (so far). As Coy points out, Marx could lay claim to having sensed more clearly than others how far capitalism would change the material conditions of the world. And this in turn reflects something else that demands at least a grudging respect: the amazing reach and ambition of his thinking.

When one looks at the huge increase in families living in poverty, at the fact that the laboring class has not realized any increase in their true income in over 40 years and the fact that a small percentage of Fat Cats have nearly half of the total income in this country one can only wonder what the defenders of our form of capitalism can say to defend it.

They will probably sound like the slave holders of many years ago who proclaimed that they provided a wonderful life for their slaves who were much better off than if they were on their own. Not surprisingly that sentiment was repeated in a pledge that was signed by many of the Republican candidates this year when they agreed that the family structure of the slave family was preferable to the family structure of black families today. A blatantly false representation because families were torn apart as they were sold off. But don’t let facts get in the way.

That wonderful, C-minus student (in Animal Science at Texas A & M), Governor Perry, knows better than to trust science with its facts. (His statement of Galileo Galilei: namely that the scientists of his time didn’t believe him was 180 degrees off the mark. All the reputable scientists in Rome and elsewhere accepted a heliocentric universe. It was the church–e.g. the government–that wouldn’t accept his theory just as there are people today who make a political determination that man has no part in global warming.

One more example of capitalism working very hard at its own destruction.

Maybe the Country Really Deserves the GOP

Maybe the Country Really Deserves the GOP

When I heard that a heretofore reliably Democratic House Seat had flipped to the Republicans, I wondered which parts of the Republican agenda were suddenly embraced by the good folks of the 9th Congressional District.

Maybe it’s the Republicans’ desire to radically slash government spending so that, for example, Medicare as we know it is dismantled and privatized, or Medicaid for the working poor and elderly is block-granted to states with the result that eligibility for many in need will be reduced, or food safety enforcement weakened because there will be fewer inspectors, or job retraining programs and government-sponsored research will be starved of adequate funding, or unemployment benefits in this recovering economy will be cut off sooner (I mean it only discourages them from looking for work, right?).  Better this than asking the wealthiest Americans to pay moderately higher taxes.

Or perhaps it’s the GOP’s environmental and deregulatory agenda that holds promise in the eyes of these New Yorkers. After all reducing the EPA to a shell is a big part of the plan; I mean who really needs clean air and water? And won’t it be nice to have our western landscape torn up and dotted with oil and gas drills, and roads gouged through wilderness (I mean who the heck needs wilderness?) and to be free to exterminate wolves again if the GOP manages to gut the Endangered Species Act.   

Getting rid of the pesky Dodd-Frank Act, as the GOP intends, will rid us of any significant means to prevent another financial meltdown in the future so that, with any luck, we can go through this economic mess again – surely a worthy goal.

America has a Swiss-cheese social safety net compared with most advanced countries but at least it’s something, and Democrats have fought to preserve what we have and fill in some of the holes where they can. Republicans on the other are doing their best to further shred it and Americans seem to support them; The New York Times reports for example, that recent polling shows Americans opposed to increased spending to help the poor.

President Obama and congressional Democrats have worked hard on behalf of ordinary, working Americans. The Affordable Care Act, for example, helps not just the medically uninsured (now almost fifty million strong) but those of us who already have insurance by curbing the most heinous practices of the health insurance industry. If the GOP wins in 2012 it will be repealed.

The stimulus bill clearly saved the country from a much worse recession that could have morphed into a full-blown depression. In fact, the exhaustion of stimulus money may well be one of the factors in the now stagnant economy. Yet they get virtually no credit. The same goes for saving the now re-energized domestic auto industry which Republicans were happy to see fail – well, most of the workers were unionized so good-riddance.

None of this seems to have mattered to the good people of the New York 9th District, anymore that it did to Massachusetts’s voters who honored the memory of their beloved Senator Edward Kennedy, by promptly replacing him with a Republican whose election almost killed the last chance of providing near-universal health care coverage in America, surely his greatest dream.  I’d like to ask these voters why they believe the party that hates and despises government will lead it competently.

Americans seem to view Washington with a blurred vision. Republicans have made it a priority to foil any policies that might help us out of the economic doldrums. They have fabricated a crisis over the debt ceiling that had genuine consequences to confidence, both here and abroad, in the ability of government to function effectively. Yet the electorate and even the media seem incapable of holding the real culprits accountable, as they excoriate both parties equally for the dysfunction.

The GOP’s chances of winning it all in 2012 are rising as the rate of jobs created falls.   And maybe that’s as it should be. Sad though it is for me to admit, I’m beginning to think that America and the GOP deserve one another. 

John Boehner is the Saddest Pumpkin in the World

John Boehner is the Saddest Pumpkin in the World

John Boehner was at the Economic Club of Washington on Thursday to deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s American Jobs Act bill.  (NYT story here.)

Just as you would expect, Boehner objected to Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy to help pay for the program:

“It’s a very simple equation,” Mr. Boehner said. “Tax increases destroy jobs.”

To quote one right-winger’s comment on one of the articles, this is fiction. This post from August 16th clearly shows that there was job growth during the periods that taxes were highest, and that there was no job growth when taxes were lowest.

“And the joint committee is a jobs committee. Its mission is to reduce the deficit that is threatening job creation in our country.”

Maybe he should explain the link between the deficit and job creation to me. How is it that the deficit keeps companies from “creating jobs”? Besides, I’ll tell you what threatens job creation in our country – the greedy rich who have to have all the wealth, causing the middle class to shrink and the increasing the number of families living at or below the poverty level. When the masses have no money to buy anything, companies will have to ELIMINATE jobs to keep their profit levels up, meaning less money for the masses, meaning less buying – it’s a downward spiral. Their blind greed is biting the hand that feeds them, and eventually there won’t be a hand left to bite.

And “gimmicks” to lower the debt?! I guess cutting expenses is okay, but raising revenue is a gimmick?

Mr. Boehner also criticized a common talking point of some of his Tea Party members — that cuts in spending designed to take place in later years are not real, meaningful cuts.

“That myth is built on a healthy skepticism that spending cuts made today are going to be implemented tomorrow.,” Mr. Boehner said. “But it is a myth nonetheless, and we need to make sure it doesn’t stop us from doing what needs to be done.”

At least he acknowledges that the Tea Party is completely unreasonable and way too extreme.

But even so, Boehner truly is the saddest pumpkin in the world.

Get over “Retromania” and Move Forward

Get over “Retromania” and Move Forward

As long as I am in this music posting mode., I might as well tell you about another article I recently read in The Atlantic.

First the setup: I bought the October 2011 issue of Mojo Magazine last week, and the CD compilation that came with it is titled Return to The Dark Side of the Moon, a reinvention of the original 1973 album by several groups covering the songs plus a few songs from Wish You Were Here.

I put the disc in my car and listened to it on the way to work and on the way home.  I’d probably listened to the Pink Floyd album at least a hundred times, so I know it note by note, word by word. I was, however, not familiar with any of the artists on the reinvention album, and I ended up liking a few of the covers. I especially liked The Pineapple Thief’s cover of “Money.”  But, I was much more interested in hearing another band performing “The Great Gig in the Sky,” because that track – with the wordless melody sung by Clare Torry –  tripped me out more than anything else on the record.  How could anyone cover that song?  The Last Hurrah!! gave it a go but it was kind of a letdown.  So when I got home I figured what the hell, I’ll just load up my Pink Floyd cd’s, listen to the original recordings, and chill while drinking a beer.

The new issue of The Atlantic had arrived in the mail that day and I came across an article by JamesParker titled, “Everything Old – Our obsession with music nostalgia is strangling pop.” I thought to myself: This is weird. Here I am, listening to an album recorded 38 years ago that sold over 45 million copies reading an article about our obsession with music nostalgia. I was thinking I should change out the cd’s before reading it because I am not one of those people that is stuck in some kind of time warp where the only music I listen to now is music I discovered while in high school and college. (I left the Floyd running.)

So I read through the article:

Has pop culture, uh, stopped? Why do the major musical developments of the past decade include Guitar Hero, reunion tours, hip karaoke, the rise of the tribute band, pop stars made entirely from bits of other pop stars, and Van Morrison re-performing Astral Weeks? Lady Gaga, bless her radical retro soul, is Cher after three weeks in Warhol’s Factory. Cee Lo is Motown with swearing. This month, even as Roger Waters breaks temporarily from his transglobal plod-through of Pink Floyd’s 32-year-old rock opera, The Wall, Roger Daltrey sallies forth with a production of The Who’s 42-year-old rock opera, Tommy. One salutes the unkillability of these gentlemen, one reveres their work, but, honestly.

Early in Retromania, Simon Reynolds’s recent compendious and slightly nauseating (in a good way) account of pop-cultural backward-looking, the author visits 315 Bowery—once the site of the punk club CBGB, now a John Varvatos clothing boutique. Reynolds is on the heritage trail: he’s already been to the British Music Experience in London…

The floating simultaneity and endless availability of all recorded music, the deadening sophistication of the average listener—these are not spurs to Art. “It’s glaringly obvious,” Reynolds writes (indisputably in my view), “that all the astounding, time-space rearranging developments in the dissemination, storing and accessing of audio data have not spawned a single new form of music.” The key word in there is data. Encoded, flattened, trimmed, compressed, and abused, music in the digital age is turning its back on us. It’s a fact, Jack: MP3s sound horrible. I suspect they are bad for your brain. Dionysus will not be treated as information.

We might of course be old farts, Reynolds and I, with old-fart ears and old-fart memories, freaked out by the world that is blossoming at our old-fart fingertips. It may be that to complain (as he does) of feeling “splayed and stuffed” when you go online is merely to say: Yes, I am middle-aged. But Retromania goes deeper. Burrowing backward in search of retro’s first cause, Reynolds traces the reactionary roots of punk rock—its claim to be rescuing rock and roll from the bloatations of the early ’70s.

He concludes with “the fix is in” as if it’s all been done, so what now?

Well I disagree.  The fix is not in.  There are so many new bands making really great music these days. I left the article thinking that Mr. Parker needs to stop thinking and writing about the past and start paying attention to bands that are making great music now.  He thinks that many new artists borrow from the past, but I say, who doesn’t?  So what?  It’s okay to take something from the past as long as you don’t just copy it, but move it forward.

So James Parker and Simon Reynolds, if you come across this site, may I suggest for your listening pleasure the following bands:

Capsula (my favorite band right now)

The Duke Spirit (my favorite band before I heard Capsula)

Grinderman (featuring my favorite singer and song writer, Nick Cave)

Sons and Daughters

First Communion After Party (a new discovery via Tulip Frenzy)

Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter (recently discovered by James Buckley at Tulip Frenzy)

White Denim

The Pimps of Joytime (another new discovery)

Saul Williams

Wild Flag (familiar faces in a new band)

…just to name a few, and yeah they sometimes borrow from the past, but they are using what they borrow to make new and exciting music.

Listen to their music.  Move forward.