The Tenacity of Hope

Before we eat dinner together, my family does a blessing each night. Much of the time, we hold hands, center ourselves, and say what we are thankful for in that moment. Tonight, I said I was thankful for the tenacity of hope.

Over the past 2 months since my last post, I’ve vacillated back and forth between genuine optimism regarding the Obama campaign, to utter pessimism about the state of American politics in general. Both remain valid points of view in my opinion.

Clearly, yesterday’s elections were historic moments, and you can feel a palpable sense of relief and optimism, as well as a renewed sense of hope.

As I watched Obama’s speech last night at midnight, I got very emotional, with tears strolling down my face. Apparently I was in good company, but I suspect my emotions were quite different from these 2 iconoclast African-Americans.

You see, I so want to believe what Obama is saying, that he really is about change, that he wants to make this world a better place for all people. But as I’ve written here, the memory of 1992 lingers too fresh in my mind, and I just can’t quite force myself to abandon my knowledge of history and cling to a false hope.

But one thing is already different, which is surprising and pleasing. The tone of American political dialogue already has shifted from Bu$hite rhetoric of spending the “political capital” he earned from the American people after stealing his second-term election, of arrogance and aggression, of not listening to the throngs of people protesting in the streets, to one of working together for a common good. A small sampling:

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long…. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.
Barack Obama

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.
John McCain

Last night, I had a warm conversation with President-elect Barack Obama. I congratulated him and Senator Biden on their impressive victory. I told the President-elect he can count on complete cooperation from my administration as he makes the transition to the White House…. It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House. I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have awaited so long.
George W Bush

This was an exercise in American democracy of which Americans across the political spectrum are justifiably proud. President-Elect Obama was inspirational and I’m certain he will continue to be. The Department of State will do everything that we can, and I personally will do everything that I can, to ensure that this is a smooth transition…. I want to close on a personal note, as an African-American, that I am especially proud.”
–Condoleezza Rice

Every American ought to celebrate tonight. It is a hopeful and optimistic thing for our country, and for the world it’s a great symbol of what America’s all about.”
Karl Rove

This type of dialogue is to be expected at the end of an election, but the shift in tone is palpable.

Ultimately, time will tell. Hope is tenacious inside me, yet I remain cautious. I think things will change, at least a little bit. After the Democrats won the house a few years back, I remember deriding the “wave of optimism” that would no doubt sweep the country. But this feels different. Obama has charisma, there is no doubt about that.

Let’s see if he manages to do anything.

What I urge those people carried away by their optimism, hope, and relief to remember is the same thing I’ve been saying all throughout this campaign season. The sum total of American politics, for the people, does not begin and end on election day. Obama has been elected. Now the real work begins.

DNC = Does Not Compute?

“Now is not the time for small plans. Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation.”
–Barack Obama, 2008 Democratic Nomination Acceptance Speech

I’ve been following the Obama story with great interest, and saw most of the big speeches from the Democratic National Convention. This is unusual for me, because I’d stopped listening to politics for the most part. Obama definitely has charisma, and is a spectacular orator.

And the thing that is throwing me off, is that I actually agree with 8 out of 10 things he says. This is unprecedented. Even when I supported Nader in 2000, it was probably 7 out of 10.

However, past experience (namely Clinton in 1992-1997 or so) tells me that politicians like this, even one as obviously skilled as Obama, are all talk. I remember the euphoria from 1992 when Clinton was elected. I remember thinking, “we won.” And yet, by 1996 I was thinking that in his 2nd term, Clinton would actually do things to change the world in his 2nd term, when he didn’t have to worry about re-election. But by 2000, things were worse and I was really disillusioned about the American political process.

The point I have to remember is one I’ve articulated many times on this blog: Democrats and Republicans each serve the power structure in different ways. Republicans push the line as far as they can get away with, and the Democrats hold position, offering a little relief (at least in comparison), until the next Republican president takes office.

The point of American politics is not to actually solve problems, but rather to pacify the American people into idle, comfortable submission and apathy. Therefore, no politician in his right mind will say something that isn’t immediately agreeable.

So my biggest problem with all this is that it’s just a political system that I don’t trust, that I believe is broken, and that I don’t see how can be fixed. So why participate in it? On the other hand, the pragmatic argument is that suffering is likely to ease somewhat if Obama ends up president. But who knows.

So even if we assume that the system works, a point that I’m very much NOT prepared to grant, there are still many problems with all this.

  • One important issue to me is the issue of intellectual property, as readers of this blog doubtlessly know. Joe Biden is on the wrong side of intellectual property debate. This alone makes it difficult to get behind Obama/Biden.
  • I find it ironic that Obama said that Bill Clinton made “the case for change as only he can make it” during his speech, given how the issue of change was itself precisely the cornerstone of my disillusionment and disappointment during the Clinton administration.
  • Whatever happened to “war is good for the economy”?
  • It’s extremely interesting that, 8 years after the Nader run in 2000, Obama is using Nader’s argument for change. But rather than “there is no difference between Republicrats and Demicans,” he’s saying “there is no difference between the Bush administration and a possible McCain administration.” Perhaps Nader’s message has been absorbed more deeply than many realize.
  • I have a HUGE issue with the Democrat’s repeated insistence on clinging to outmoded ideals that “a job is dignity.” One’s work is one dignity, whether or not one is waged for it. The fact that people must wageslave for 40 hours per week, and still struggle to meet their economic obligations under the system of wageslavery, is criminal. For all his hope, Barack Obama still believes that making sure MORE people participate in this system is the best way to help the American economy.

All these arguments are true, and plain to my eye. However, I still must concede that the pragmatic argument above carries weight in my soul. If Obama becomes President, it is likely that suffering will be reduced compared to a Bush or McCain presidency. Therefore, vote for Obama.

It is because of this argument, and ONLY because of this argument, that as it stands now I will vote for Obama in November. But I will NOT allow my participation in American politics to end there. The system is broken, and needs a serious upgrade.

Good citizenry goes beyond voting once every leap year.

Don’t you feel safe?

For the first time in history, a country has more than 1% of its adult population in prison.

And that country, dear readers, is The United States, as reported by The Correctional News, a trade magazine for the prison industry.

Do you think maybe that there is a trade magazine for the prison industry has anything to do with this fact? Think about it: there are annual trade shows for the prison industry, where they get together to figure out how to increase profits.

No, that can’t be related.


I took a nice ride tonight on our scooter, about 60 miles round trip, down Route 35 (mostly) from New Gloucester to Hollis. It’s still chilly in Maine, it’s been going into the low 40s at night. Tonight it was raining for the second half of the trip.

I’ve been reading several books by Emma Restall-Orr. I have 3 of her books, all of which approach various subjects from the point of view of druidry. Her newest book is about Pagan ethics, which is a subject near to my heart; there are many overlaps between this book and the book I’ve had in my head for a while. It’s philosophical, but not academic. Another of her books discusses being with your environment, tuning in to what is happening around you. So while it was cold, and wet, it was great fun just whizzing through it at 37 miles per hour.

It was good to clear my head. Since I started working from home a few months ago, I don’t get out of our place much. I’ve been spending lots of time outdoors lately, building garden beds. They’re done now, we’ll plant this weekend. I’ve been so busy with everything, I’ve not had as much time for my normal creative endeavors, mostly music and writing. My creativity has gone into the new job, and into the garden beds.

I’m not bitching, just describing. There is plenty of time for everything.

The warm weather is nearly here. Summer is coming. This is a good thing.

fukk da pope!

Can you believe this nonsense? The pope and George W hanging out like old buddies, with all the pomp and ceremony around it?

And listen to what they’re saying: the pope was talking about the sexual abuse scandal among catholic priests in the US, but changed to subject to say: “”What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?”

Yeah, widely-available pr0n is the problem. Not the destructive behavior of sexually-repressed men in positions of spiritual authority. Let’s blame the fact that kids might see sex on a screen somewhere. Not those who actually decide to attack and violate these children.

Then to show just how full of cr@p all of this is, George W piped up: “In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred.”

Sigh. Where to begin.

But don’t worry. Things will be better soon when Obillary is in the White House.

Mmm hmmm.

No, really.


A Seeker’s Question: Why do we continue to do things to ourselves that we KNOW are not good for us, that we know will harm us and bring no enduring benefit?

A Shaman’s Answer: Because we are not yet good enough at loving ourselves.

1000 True Fans, or, art patronage in the 21st century

I just came across this fascinating article called 1,000 True Fans. It is basically a manifesto on how, with web/Internet technologies, a creative person can make a sustainable living if they have just 1000 “true fans”:

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

The idea here is not new, but it is a nice articulation of a formula that bands have followed for years. For example, Marillion (one of my all-time favorite bands) first began exploring the potential of the Internet in 1997, when their fans (me included) donated money ($50, $10, $100 etc) to get the band to be able to come tour the USA, a venture which would have been cost-prohibitive otherwise. Then in 2000, they again tapped into their fanbase to finance their album, Anoraknophobia.

The challenge, of course, is to find 1000 true fans. Not a simple task.

Speaking of “true fans” (LOL), I wanted to note here that my band, Freakwitch, has finished our new album, Interconnected. If you are a myspace person, you can here 6 of the 8 songs on our myspace page. Or, you can listen to the full album right from your browser by going to our RPM challenge page. Or if you are “old school” net music aficionado you can download the mp3s directly from us (though PLEASE use the other 2 to save bandwidth if you are able).

We took part in the RPM Challenge in February, which is something like the National Novel Writing Month, except that you record an album rather than write a novel in a month. We decided to go for it, partly because we were tired of not getting recordings done, and partly because we wanted to give my new recording rig a test drive. Enjoy it, and if you do please consider becoming one of our 1000 true fans. :-)

Concentration of Power

Ok, you can make the argument that this post is in response to seeing a headline that Rush Limbaugh is ordering his cult to cross the lines and vote for Hillary in Texas. Sheesh.

Clearly, there was a deal made here somewhere. Some money (or another form of concentrated energy) changed hands somewhere.

And in the matter of Clinton vs. Obama, this is demonstrative of the reason why I cannot endorse Hillary Clinton.

It’s not about her shady past, her questionable profiteering, her womanly laundry capability when it comes to stained blue dresses, or anything like that.

It’s about her obvious connection to existing power structures. When Rush Limbaugh of all people is openly campaigning for Hillary Clinton, you know that there is a connection there. This is the existing power structure trying to preserve itself. And it says a lot about how much they fear Obama.

Speaking of Obama, let me take you back for a moment.

It’s 1991. A young Democrat takes the political world by storm, and convinces people that there may indeed be a way out of the oppressive dominance of the Republicans and back to more compassionate, sane values. He was a breath of fresh air and inspired hope when he spoke. He was intelligent, articulate, and conveyed an honest passion that was refreshing from the usual scope of politician of the day.

He wins the election.

/cue Monty Python/

“And there was much rejoicing.” *Yay, hooray*

And from my point of view, not a heck of a lot changed. Capital, (or the corporations, the neocons, whatever you want to call it) expanded its power got wealthier, thousands are people were killed in the name of profit, etc etc. Things did indeed feel better immediately, but I soon realized the rush of euphoria (I can’t believe We(tm) actually won!) wore off quickly. The Clinton Years were, in my mind, characterized primarily by a relief that the velocity of destruction and greed seemed to be slowing.

Before you accuse me of believing that there is no difference between Demicans and Republicrats (yes I voted for Nader in 2000, but don’t worry, Gore “won” Maine) I concede that, obviously, Bush II is “worse” than Clinton. But this is only because Bush is 8 years further down, and at the opposite polar point of, the same trajectory that Clinton rode for 8 years.

I now am aware of the difference between Democrats and Republicans. The 2000 election taught me that, as I’ve written before. They each serve the power structure in different ways. Republicans push the line as far as they can while in power, then the Democrats maintain that power until the next Republican is elected. Lather, rinse, repeat. This give and take is now the sum total of American political consciousness, such that anything that exists outside of this power structure is seen as not valid or “not realistic” or other such dismissal. This dance between the two goes back decades. Think about it:

  • 1992-2000, the Clinton years. The golden age. Wealth, prosperity for many. American didn’t actually invade and occupy any countries, we just bombed them from afar.
  • 1980-1992, the Reagan/Bush years. Destroyed labor unions, several wars, the rich got richer, etc etc.
  • 1976-2000, the Carter Years. End of Vietnam, the country heals after Watergate with another young fresh breath of trustworthy air.
  • 1968-1976, the Nixon Years. Vietnam. Watergate. All kinds of outrageous scandals, corruption, genocide, standard Republican nonsense.
  • 1963-1968, the Johnson Years. Vietnam, and the empowerment of the Military Industrial Complex. This is a Democrat, no less….
  • 1961-1963, the Kennedy Years. Another golden age, another young politician who charms people, etc etc. This one had people feeling so good they killed him for it.

And so on. Push the envelope, then provide some relief because things don’t seem to be plummeting as quickly. Push/pull. Give/take. Take it all together, and over time you see that this energy pattern is a downward spiral.

Anyone who is connected to this energy pattern, this concentration of power, should NOT be voted in to power. Anyone reading this from Ohio (my birth state) or Texas should read this as a suggestion to vote for Obama. There, I’ve officially done my part to counter Rush Limbaugh’s endorsement.

After the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004, in general I am not inclined to vote these days. Obama is the only one I would actually vote for, I think. But I know this: I will not limit my participation in American politics to this one event every 4 years.

EDIT: someone pointed out to me that Obama is still very much a part of the system, and I completely agree with this. My point is, at present Obama is less entrenched into the system than Clinton is. Perhaps in 15 years they will be similarly invested. This underscores the point that the problem is with STRUCTURES of power, and not with individual people. This point was brought home by Al Gore; here’s a guy who participated in the atrocities of the Clinton years, who votes Bush into power in 2000 when they stole the election for him, etc etc. Now that he is removed from the power structure, he’s doing good work with his films and environmental activism.

So yes, I am quite suspicious of concentrations of power, and the reason Obama is so attractive is because he is, for the most part, outside of that structure at present. This is also why I am suspicious that things will change, because if he does win the presidency he will then be assimilated into the power structure.

Yes, I still love Maine in the winter…

We had a winter storm pass through. We got 12″ of snow, then it turned to freezing rain and then rain. Truly a “wintry mix.” The snow is piled about 2/3 of the way up our garage at the edge of the driveway. Our power went out for almost 24 hours.

But yes, I still love Maine.

I took some photos, and (finally) started a Flickr account. There are 9 photos in the set. Here are some thumbies to give you something to check out:

Whose side is the RIAA on?

In case there was any doubt about whose side the RIAA is on, this article clears things up. The public perception they would like to create is that the RIAA is busy fighting for the artists, by suing those artists’ biggest fans.

Mmm hmmm.

But now the RIAA is arguing that the artists get paid too much. I mean, getting 8 whole percent of the sale price of a 99 cent digital download, DAMN those artists are greedy. What do they think they do, write, perform, and create the product we’re selling or what?

According to papers filed by the RIAA at the Copyright Royalty Board, the labels want the board to reduce the rate to 8% of wholesale revenue. The current rate is about 9 cents per song, but it often is lowered in negotiations with the record companies. That money usually is split 50-50 between the publisher and the songwriter.

So yeah, that 8 per cent royalty rate is actually split between the artist and the publisher. So in actuality, the artists only see 4 percent.

It gets better. They also want to ELIMINATE royalty payments for streaming audio. This is when you click on a link on a webpage somewhere, and the music starts playing on your computer without you having to save a file or download. The RIAA is arguing that this does not constitute a “mechanical” royalty, which is paid whenever someone buys a copy of a song. The fact that streaming technology necessitates transferring a copy of the song from the server to the listener’s computer seems to elude the RIAA.

Yet another example of how the RIAA misunderstands the digital age, and its application to outdated business models. Their business model is doomed, and they know it. For 70 years, the RIAA has been nothing more than the gatekeepers between artist and fan, and now there is new technology that makes that position completely moot and irrelevant.

So rather than adapt to the new reality, they grip ever tighter to the old paradigm, to the point where they are suing their best customers and ripping off their artists.

Good plan. Uh-huh. That’ll work.