Wednesday, January 30, 2019

My Own Industrial Collapse

Here in the USA, the government shutdown is over for now and the state of emergency has not yet been declared. Stay tuned to future episodes, when we find out what happens next in America's rapid transition to an openly fascist state.

Hundreds of thousands of government workers and millions of contract workers are trying to put their lives back together. It turns out so many of them had no means to cope with missing one paycheck, despite being more or less gainfully employed, often because they're spending so much on housing that they can barely afford to keep roofs over their heads when they're not being furloughed, and they have negative savings – otherwise known as perpetually maxed out, high-interest credit card debt. They are part of the growing class of Americans who no longer measure desperation by lack of savings or even by massive credit card debt, but by the point when you can no longer pay the minimum because you missed one paycheck.

The stories of high-interest credit card debt, late fees, medical needs put off or ignored, unpaid bills, not knowing what lies around the corner, that point where you decide it's OK to see if folks out there in a less difficult situation might be willing to help out a bit, the fear that someone will then expose you as a fraud and a freeloader, they're all so familiar.

I have personally never had what I thought might be a stable job, and I've never been furloughed from such a job either. But for most of my adult life I've been one of many, many people working in an industry that has been in a state of perpetual collapse.

I know most people don't conceptualize music as a business, or as a job, but it is, or at least used to be. The business they used to call the music industry was altogether five times bigger when I started working as a musician than it is now.

The feeling of working in a perpetually collapsing industry is a lot like playing the classic video game, Frogger, where you're leaping from one sinking log to another sinking log, hopefully departing one log before it sinks, and landing on another before it does the same. It's a process of constantly trying to figure out how to stay afloat now that the whole scenario has changed again.

Amid so many other collapsing industries, from steel mills to newspapers to big box stores, it's easy to overlook professions as marginal to begin with as songwriters, recording artists, or touring musicians. But I promise that the collapse of these professions has been across the board – left to right, top to bottom.

The fact that everybody else's industries are collapsing at more or less the same time as mine is one reason this industrial collapse is an easy one to miss. Another reason is that everybody has been simultaneously transfixed by the same evolving technologies that have inundated us all with the very stuff that very few people can make a living producing anymore – journalism, books, movies, music, etc.

Occasionally people look up from their phones, or have a moment to think about those other than themselves who are failing to make ends meet, and, kind of like peeking out from your tent after an all-night thunderstorm at a festival, you emerge to see that half of the tents that had been set up are now floating in mud.

To briefly summarize what has taken place for people in my profession over the past century or so:

From the time radio began up until the Reagan-Clinton deregulation of the airwaves that started immediately after Reagan took power in 1981, there were all kinds of opportunities for local artists to develop a local following, to get exposure, to work in the industry. Deregulation meant the sudden loss of thousands of local radio jobs throughout the country, with the impact of the loss of those jobs on independent music incalculable. This is what paved the way for Clearchannel, and the full spectrum dominance of the culture factories in New York, LA and Nashville.

As the phenomenon of downloading and streaming music online took off globally around the turn of the millennium, it was a great time for new people to hear your music from all kinds of corners of the world, without leaving home. But in many places such as the US their cost of living was rising fast but earnings were not, and with that combination of factors, they weren't leaving home. And when they did, they weren't buying CDs or t-shirts.

The fact that crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter started up when they did was no coincidence. These weren't new concepts. They became popular when they did primarily because of good timing. That is, at the time they started up, many people were now sufficiently desperate to start begging.

I first started crowdfunding recording projects in 2011, when so many other people did. I didn't use one of the new crowdfunding platforms, but that's also when they were all getting popular. If a musician is going to spend $12,000 in a studio making an album that no one is going to buy, it's going to take a very long time before the $20 a month in revenue the album might generate from streaming will cover that expense.

It was only two years after Kickstarter kicked off and we all started crowdfunding album projects that it began to sink in to me that not only could I not afford to record albums without crowdfunding them, but I couldn't afford to pay the rent either, without making some drastic lifestyle changes such as finding an entirely different line of work, or touring 12 months a year and abandoning my children, because the loss of CD sales alone meant losing around 40% of my annual income. (It didn't help that in the meantime, my rent had also doubled. In this experience I was also in very good company.) I'm sure it was not coincidental that Patreon was becoming popular around the time that I set up my own version of their subscription model on my own website. The desperate evolution of my own career clearly was mirrored by many other careers following the same treacherous, avalanche-prone mountain path. In the dark. With bears.

The business model of creating free content and then asking people to voluntarily support you in your endeavor to pay the rent while you continue to create and give away free content online is a weird, ethereal way to go about one's life, I can tell you that. And it doesn't work as well as selling albums used to. But soon all of what I'm talking about here will seem mysterious to all of the other songwriters and bands putting music up online for free and making a few bucks a month from Spotify, who never were in a position to entertain dreams of selling thousands of CDs on tours around the world every year and supporting themselves in the process, as I did for most of my adult life.

That, in a nutshell, is the story of my own industrial collapse. What's yours?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

One Day at a Catholic High School

At the time of this posting, the government is still undergoing its so-called “partial shutdown.” Untold thousands of government workers are truly suffering under the strain, since they were barely surviving before they stopped being paid. I'm waiting for the president to drop the other shoe, declare a state of emergency, dissolve both houses of Congress, proclaim himself dictator, and live up to the title that Michael Moore has given him of “America's last president.”

But today I'm going to share a little anecdote from a tour I did around 15 years ago.

I was trying to get more gigs at high schools, with very limited success. I wanted to reach the kids who were going to be drafted for the next war, which was then starting up. I played at a total of maybe a dozen high schools during that time. Most of the time, the teacher who invited me got into trouble with the administration, or with parents, or both, afterwards. None of them had been expecting this to happen, and it was an educational experience for all, you could say.

Once I performed at a conservative, mainly white Catholic high school in the midwest, where 10% of the student body were in the Junior Officer Training Corps. It was probably a lot like the school those kids from Kentucky go to. The JROTC kids came to my gig in uniform and sat in the front, in protest against who they thought they were coming to hear, arms crossed at all times, determined not to clap after the songs, it seemed.

I want to reach all of my audiences, and I had no intention of failing to reach this one, though this was the first and only time I've ever been invited to perform at a Catholic high school. I made a wild guess that many of the students had Irish ancestry, and I focused my 45-minute school-wide concert on the history of Irish oppression by Britain, and the history of the Irish immigrant experience in the United States. I sang to them about the Irish who deserted from the US military during the 1846 US invasion of Mexico who joined the Mexican Army. Known and loved still today in both Mexico and Ireland, they were called the St Patrick Battalion, or the San Patricios.

By the end of those 45 minutes all of the uniformed JROTC boys were clapping. Several of them were very intent on speaking with me after the concert. One of them told me he had learned more in those 45 minutes than he had learned all year at school, and he was obviously just getting started.

If you, like me, view yourself as a radical with a mission, then it is our job to win the hearts and minds of anyone we can reach. It's a very worthwhile effort, I've found – a little bit of reality can counteract a whole lot of lies.

Wherever they let me into the high schools in my brief career as a musical counter-recruiter, on every occasion I successfully convinced teenagers not to join the military, who had been thinking of doing so – without exception. If I can do that every time I spend 45 minutes with a group of students, just try to imagine the possibilities, if they let people like us into the high schools more often. This, I believe, is why they don't generally do that. We're much safer when kept inside our echo chambers.

It's not hard to imagine what those kids at the Lincoln Memorial might be like in ten years. Some of them will be anarchists. Most won't. Most kids don't actually fall too far from the tree, because of their circumstances. Some kids are taken on buses to anti-abortion protests in DC every January, and in the summers they're taken to week-long outdoor church revivals. Other kids are taken on buses to protest militarism outside of the School of the Americas every November. They generally don't go to the same Catholic schools, though there are many values they share in common with one another, and given the opportunity, real communication can be an amazing thing. That's why the powers-that-be want to make sure we just keep shouting at each other.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Of Triggers and Bullets

This commentary is dedicated to all of my friends who don't know the difference between a trigger and a bullet. I apologize in advance if I sound condescending. I'm 51 years old and I've been through this nonsense too many times – and every time it gets more surreal.

It's an imperfect metaphor -- that's the nature of metaphors. But you don't need to be an anarchist to understand it – you don't even need to have fired a gun in your life, either.

Facebeast loves our arguments – their algorithms only show us arguments and baby pictures, nothing else is relevant to their business model. I really don't understand why anyone bothers arguing with someone on Facebeast, unless they're just trying to encourage the further stratification of society. I assume they find it therapeutic to dump on other people. It's the social media equivalent of yelling out your car window at another driver who's doing something you don't approve of.

The theme that tends to get a rise out of people the most, from my experience, is any criticism of Democratic Party politicians. There is an actual fascist in the White House, they say. We must have a unified opposition against him – a united front, a glorious resistance.

I don't bother arguing on Facebeast with anyone, well-intentioned though they may be. It's a pointless exercise, by design. But yes, of course, there is a bona fide fascist in the White House. (For more on the similarities between Germany in 1933 and the US today, listen to episode 22 of my podcast, This Week with David Rovics.)

The Orangeman in the White House is the bullet, in my metaphor of the week. What to do with that bullet, which is already speeding through the air towards its metaphorical destination, is an important question. But figuring that out absolutely requires understanding how the bullet left the chamber of the gun, and what made it fire – we know what the bullet is, but what is the trigger?

The deplorables, I can hear someone say. The unreconstructed white American racists, says another. The misogynists, says someone else.

I would say that no, while overt racism is in fact what the Democratic Party was founded on and the platform on which it ran for most of a century, I'd say that racism, sexism, xenophobia are not the triggers, they are just the casing of the gun. They are the stuff America was built on.

The trigger that fired the bullet, what got us to where we are now in this current situation – that is, those who had the power to make the changes necessary to prevent it but failed to do so -- is actually the Democratic Party. The trigger is made of false hope, and change that never comes. We're running on a platform of affordable housing, jobs, opportunity, fairness, yada yada. The party of hope and change and fairness and jobs now has a super-majority in the Oregon legislature – they're in the perfect place to show us all exactly what their party is made of. Are they going to deliver affordable housing in Oregon? Is my rent going to be cut in half? Are they going to deliver prosperity and opportunity? Are their counterparts in the Congress going to question our immense military budget, or take radical action to save the planet? Are they going to ban all disposable packaging, invest in a bullet train network, confiscate the property of the oligarchs, imprison the torturers and carpet-bombers and other war criminals living among us?

No. They've been one of the two ruling parties forever, they've been running on these false promises forever, and they don't deliver. They rarely even talk about the things that need to be done, let alone begin to take on the task of accomplishing them. They will not deliver this time, either.

The Yellow Vest movement in France is still going strong, though every week the media, on the rare occasion they mention the French protests anymore, predict the movement's imminent end. In the first few weeks of its existence, it won more concessions from the French government than any of the many strikes organized by the French labor movement over the past several decades. I believe in hope and change, because I know it can happen. And when it does happen, it will take a form similar to that of the Yellow Vests. It will be a movement in the street. It will not be on a podium, making false promises.

I admit, I'm angry. These people telling me to unify with the trigger to combat the bullet infuriate me. People ignorant of history ask why anyone would criticize the Social Democrats who led the Weimar Republic in Germany up until Hitler took power. Hitler was so terrible, why couldn't more people in Germany just grit their teeth, join together and support the Social Democrats in the face of what we can say in hindsight was the rise of an unspeakably horrific totalitarian government? Why were they fighting with each other while this fascist movement was taking over?

Because they were starving. This is not political theory, this is reality. The historical revisionists then blame the Treaty of Versailles for the suffering of the German people, and the Great Depression. But other countries were able to feed their people during this period – not Germany's government. Because the Social Democratic-led government couldn't rise to the occasion and implement the kind of land reform and wealth redistribution that would have been necessary for people to eat. And to prevent the rise of fascism.

Today, people can blame modernity, automation, and China for the poverty and inequality that is all around us. But they are just blowing smoke. This is just what the gun is made of – guns are made by machines now, too. We'll never get all those jobs back, and we don't want them. Do we? I don't. I just want the owners of the factories and the owners of the cities and the mines and the container ships to share the wealth that the workers of the world have unwillingly gifted them with. I don't want equality of opportunity. I want equality. I don't want false promises, I want real change.

It's January, 2019. The campaign season for the 2020 presidential election is already underway, I'm nauseated to say. The Democratic Party candidates are lining up and making their false promises. Some of them can act well, most of them suck at it, and sound obviously disingenuous, such as the governor of Oregon, Kate Brown. They sound like wealthy landlords trying to pretend they understand what it's like to be a tenant, but their act is totally unconvincing to me. Mainly because I know their record. They have made these promises before. For decades. For centuries.

Ten years ago this month, our first African-American president came to power, a Democrat who inspired millions to come hear him speak all over the country and the world during his campaign. He mobilized masses of people who had never voted before to campaign for his vague brand of hope and change. By the time his reign was over, some of us had health care, but most of us were paying so much more for housing that anything we saved on health care was more than taken up by rents and mortgages. If only he and the last Democratic administration before his had delivered something other than falling living standards, if only they had had a strategy for dealing with the real estate barons and their property speculation other than “whatever the market will bear,” if only their policies had represented any kind of a break from the neoliberal policies that destroyed any hope for change decades ago, if only both of their cabinets weren't packed full of elderly white male former Goldman Sachs executives, we might have fewer disenchanted former Obama voters voting for Trump eight years later. If only. But in reality, Obama, his former Secretary of State, her former husband and the “new” Democratic Party were, in the end, nothing more than Trump's delivery mechanism.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Joy of Life

There are a lot of different reasons why people like me tend to alienate others. On occasions when I'm spending a bunch of time attempting to interact with what we may for these purposes refer to as “mainstream society,” I realize what a misanthrope I appear to be.

Whenever I meet a new person and we engage in conversation that lasts for more than two minutes or so, I somehow manage to turn it into a political discussion. If someone mentions the sunset is exceptionally beautiful today, it's people like me who are bound to point out that air pollution gives it an especially wide array of reds and oranges. I somehow can't help myself. I steer the conversation in a political direction, and doing so almost always involves complaining about someone. You look at most of what I talk about, and certainly most of what I've written or sung about, and I'm full of complaints.

Of course, there's a lot to complain about, which is why I do it so much. This is a weekly podcast, and just in the past week there's so much horrible stuff that has happened, including some predictable developments in terms of the similarities in the timeline of events that are taking place in the US now, compared with 1933 in Germany that I outlined two weeks ago, in my last podcast of 2018.

The reason I'm meeting so many new people lately is because my wife had a baby at the hospital here in Portland last Saturday morning. Reiko and the baby are still in the hospital, as there were some complications with our newborn daughter, Koto – her first breath consisted of blood and poop rather than air. It happens sometimes. She's getting better every day under the expert care of the medical staff at Providence hospital. It's all paid for by the Oregon Health Plan, where people who fall below a certain income, including us, get mostly free health care.

Little Koto is my third child. I've gotten lots of messages of congratulations, but I know that many people out there question why I would do such a thing as bring babies into this world. From a really simplistic, mechanistic environmentalist standpoint I understand where they're coming from, and of course from that angle if we follow the logic to one of its possible conclusions, the best thing for the planet we could all do is kill ourselves. There's been some great dystopic fiction using that kind of plot line. But I think babies are amazing, and we'll all be better off with more babies, if they're raised well, because more well-raised babies are exactly what we need if there's any hope for the world.

As a political activist sort it's hard to be very positive these days or most days. It's not really what we do. If we're being positive, it's generally to encourage people to fight back against something negative, which is still a very combative mindset.

As a parent, especially, I have striven to raise happy children by playing with them, empathizing with them, supporting them by finding different ways to provide them with exciting and relatively safe ways to interface with the world. I regret every occasion when I ever lost my patience with my children and spoke with that hurtful, impatient tone of voice. Sometimes I also regret being too open too early with my eldest daughter about some aspects of the world we live in – though living in Portland, it would be very hard for her not to notice on her own that we live in a terribly unequal society. The most efficient route from our apartment to the school she went to for several years when she was very young took us right through the downtown area with the highest concentration of people living on the sidewalks or waiting in line for a free meal.

But what is most beautiful to see in many of the people around me – particularly in my children and in my wife, Reiko – is that they clearly share with me the joy of life. I don't know if we're really unusual that way or not, but I'm under the impression there are billions of other people in the world who feel much the same way. Those many like us who aren't rich by western standards but aren't poor by global standards, who live in a city or town with parks and playgrounds, neighbors and friends, running water that's relatively palatable, a water heater that works, a roof that doesn't leak when it rains, who wake up happy on most mornings – happy to have each other, the companionship, the sunrise, the clouds, the grass, the squirrels, the music, the mountains, the climbing walls, the espresso, the cannabis (at least in my case).

Yes, the rent is going up all the time and the music industry has been collapsing for most of the time I've been attempting to make a living as a musician. Yes, for many people the world is a terrible place, and this also touches us in so many ways, from the forest fires to the constant awareness of the real desperate poverty all around us here in this radically unequal country. There is probably little to wake up for for people whose houses have just been bombed or those who can't feed themselves or their children. And as someone concerned with the welfare of humanity and life in general, it is these injustices that I tend to focus on in my work as a songwriter and as a podcaster.

But every day as I wake up, like so many other people, I'm excited for another day in the world. I know that life is finite, and I don't take a single day for granted. Whether that is because I have so many friends who have died young, or because I'm old, or both, or neither, I don't know. But that's how it is for me. I wake up in the morning and hold the toddler who is usually next to me, and I feel the kind of joy where you don't know if you're going to laugh or cry, so you do both. I love walking into the living room before anyone else has gotten up, and opening the blinds to watch the fog lift on the grass in front of the medical center next door to our apartment complex, to see the absolute enthusiasm with which the dogs run for those sticks their humans throw for them every morning. I enjoy turning on the espresso machine and the ritual of making and drinking my first flat white of the day.

Maybe I don't talk about this stuff too much because I feel like I'm bragging, or because I have an aversion to New Agers and what often seems like their narcissistic obsession with finding inner happiness. Or maybe it's just that as a goal in itself, it seems really strange. Because to me, it's just the default setting – whether I'm driving to the next gig, changing a diaper or making a matcha latte for Reiko, it's those little things in life that are so enjoyable to me.

I've been fascinated with the studies in recent years that have been done around the world on the global happiness index. It's the subject of much satire, mainly because the countries that usually are on top of the index are countries that aren't known for the kind of effusive behavior that many people tend to associate with happiness – countries like Denmark or Norway. They are countries with some of the world's highest tax rates, where it's cold and dark much of the year and raining much of the rest. But it's not living in Disneyworld that makes people happy, it turns out. It's living in a place where you're consistently able to enjoy the little things in life that life is all about – the hygge the hipsters are talking about so much these days. When people have their needs met and they live in a society where almost everyone else is basically having their needs met, too, this produces happiness – even if it's cold, wet and dark most of the time.

It is the beauty of the world – the beauty of people and of living things, and even dead things – that motivates me to do all the complaining and exhorting that I do. But once again at the risk of bragging I have to say that for me, every day it is a given that the world is a beautiful, beautiful place.

I know that whether or not you share this feeling, this daily joy about being alive, you have at some point experienced it. If you have ever been in love once, even briefly, you can probably relate to the song that I'll leave you with now. And for those of you who do not find joy in living on a regular occasion, I'll leave you with the words of the late Irish revolutionary Bobby Sands, who summed up the feelings of fellow freedom fighters throughout history and around the world when he said “our revenge will be the laughter of our children.”

Life Is Beautiful

You’re sitting here in front of me
Floating in a cloud
Your chocolate eyes meet mine
And you’re whispering out loud
Words that make me shiver
Thoughts that make me melt
And I can only be thankful
For the deal I’ve been dealt

For the woods outside this window
For this guitar on my knee
For the smile on your lips
For the good you found in me
Looking at the wood stove
And the towels upon the sink
With your fingers on my forehead
All that I can think is
Life is beautiful

For the way you kiss my fingers
For the way you hold my hands
For the way you look
In those leather pants
For the times like now when I just gotta
Roll another smoke
Breath deeply for a minute
And take another toke
Life is beautiful

And when it’s over
And the afternoon is done
We can spend the evening dreaming
Of the rising of the sun
And even when the shadows
Look me right in the eye
I feel your heart within my belly
Like the stars up in the sky
Life is beautiful

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Living Room Elephant

It's a new year, and I for one am going to start it out by talking about the elephant in the living room. What's that, you wonder? Well let's see, if we turn on the news we'll hear a lot about the government shutdown, the tear-gassing of refugees on the border, Trump's demand for a wall, partisan conflict, Trump's racism and xenophobia, the volatility of the stock market, the possible candidacy of Senator Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 presidential race, the trade war with China, and the withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

What you'll hear so little about are the things that affect most of us here the most, which have almost complete bipartisan support among our political elite. Such as our military budget, which is just about as big as the rest of the world's combined. And such as the cost of housing, which has been steadily rising throughout the country under both Republican and Democratic rule for decades – more so in Senator Warren's Massachusetts than almost anywhere.

Where I live, in the biggest city in the formerly official white homeland state of Oregon, the Exclusion Laws successfully kept the state very white for a very long time. But starting in the 1940's, Oregon developed a small but growing African-American community, centered around the northern and northeastern parts of the state's only major city, Portland.

In between the last two censuses, between 2000 and 2010, Portland lost half of its Black population. Did Trump's racism do that? Did xenophobia do that? How about sexism or transphobia? Maybe the proliferation of guns? Police brutality perhaps? The Tea Party? The Republicans? Not to belittle any other important social issues, but no, none of these things.

What is ethnically cleansing Portland – and cleansing it of its working class and artist population generally -- is the uncontrolled rise in the cost of housing. And only regulation of the market in the form of strict rent control and other legal measures can begin to stop this trend, let alone reverse it. But such policies have been opposed by the leadership of both parties. We're told rent control doesn't work, though they never explain why, and they disregard all the countries in Europe where it works great. This isn't Europe, I'm told, when I bring up Europe. I don't know what they mean by that, other than the obvious question of geography, and neither do they.

Beginning in January of 2019, the state of Oregon has a Democratic super-majority. For all you foreigners listening, that means the Democratic Party politicians in the legislature have total control over the legislature. Their party's politics are all that matters, there is no meaningful opposition. If the Democratic Party represents the interests of the working class, then the new Democratic legislature will immediately pass the nation's strictest rent control laws to deal with what they themselves have declared is a housing emergency, though so far their only suggestions for dealing with it have been the social equivalent of a new paint job on a rotting structure.

Gentrification is genocide is what it used to say all over New York City in the Eighties. It was a mantra of the squatters movement. It was a familiar concept for lots of the locals who weren't squatters, too, many of whom at that time in the Lower East Side were from the Dominican Republic.

I remember a squatter explaining it to me. “Our strategy,” he said, “is to make sure we have strong enough defenses to keep the cops out for an hour. That's how long it takes for folks in the neighborhood to hear about what's going on. Then the cops worry there'll be a real riot, and they retreat.”

The concept of cops retreating was such a heady idea, I could barely believe it at the time. Then the police department got a sort of tank with a battering ram attached to it, and this was a problem.

As these battles were taking place in New York City, most of the rest of the country, one state at a time, was abolishing the practice of rent control. That is, state after state was taking the right away from city governments to have any control over what landlords charge their tenants. 48 out of 50 state legislatures were all saying to their elected municipal and county leaders, you may not have any democratic control over the most basic economic relationship in our society – that between landlord and tenant.

By the time the urban cores of so many once-abandoned cities became popular to live in again, it was too late. Rent control was not an obstacle, and landlords made trillions from just raising the rent – whatever the market will bear is their motto. In the two-bedroom apartment where I am now raising three children, the rent has more than doubled since I moved in 11 years ago. That's why we're still in a two-bedroom. The same is true of many of our neighbors.

Most of the artists that once gave the city its reputation have long since been priced out of town, but the real estate developers do their best to maintain the facade. They seem to be the only ones remaining who would bother putting a “keep Portland weird” bumper sticker on their vehicles. But the stickers just look oddly out of place on a recent-model Mercedes.

The elephant in the living room is the living room itself.

NPR reported recently that the cost of the average new home has risen by 50% since 2012. The constant rise in the cost of housing has been an unmitigated success on the part of capitalists that support both parties. But the costs are mighty. We are a far more economically divided society than we have been for well over a century, since long before any of the New Deal reforms came into effect. We are dying younger, and suicides linked to housing insecurity are skyrocketing. The impossibly high cost of housing is not just immoral and unjust, it is killing us.

Meanwhile, the rich are getting richer than ever. And they're doing it on purpose, profiting from our misery, passing laws to make it easier for them to do so. My prediction: when the Yellow Vest movement comes to the United States, it will be about the cost of housing. In the cities of the US, renters now outnumber homeowners.

Someday soon, the rent may be due for the billionaires, too.

Letter to My Landlord
I'm writing you this letter 'cause among the choices
It's probably better than listening to voices
Raging in my head, saying point and shoot
Then after you're dead, your face meets my boot
I don't know your name, it's better that way
'Cause I can't play this game, who knows what I'll say
I feel like I'm burning, I've had it up to here
Time that you were learning the meaning of fear

I live in these apartments – they're your private property
Among your residents, most of us agree
That you're a piece of shit – how does that make you feel
We don't like you one bit – that's for real
We think you're a thief, that you don't care
Seems your one belief is whatever the market will bear
Whatever you can get away with, what you can make us pay
If we ever get justice, you should fear that day 

But it's not just you – it's all your kin
The things you do caused the state we're in
You bribed the politicians so they'd let you off-lead
Now the legal situation's just the one you need
For you to make millions, for profits to be high
Even billions won't be with you when you die
I hope you find the death you seek, meet the devil that you serve
If you live another week that's more life than you deserve 

In the class war you are waging there's no question who is winning
But if there's any justice, this is only the beginning
The next act in this play will be written by the tenants
And until your dying day, you'll be paying penance
Your assets will be seized, that's a fucking given
You profiteers of misery will start spending time in prison
Then you can get a job – figure out what you do best
You can keep the house you live in – but we're taking all the rest 


Reflections on Singing for Wikileaks

My takeaway from the recent welcome news of Julian Assange's release from prison is that collective action works. When the news broke th...