Into A Prism

by David Rovics

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04:16
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02:30
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02:59
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about

INTO A PRISM consists of 15 new songs, recorded live at Big Red Studio in Corbett, Oregon on July 1st, 2013. Ten of the songs were written during the course of my spring, 2013 tour of Europe. Two were written after I got back, and three of them were written at home in Portland last winter.

credits

released 02 July 2013

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Track Name: Prism
A secretive government had a secret operation
Massacring villages, killing millions, secretly bombing an entire nation
They wiretapped a hotel room, they got caught and a government was deposed
Because of secret documents Daniel Ellsberg exposed

One government came down, and to prevent a repetition of this fact
The next government passed the Freedom of Information Act
Each administration since then hoped it would go away
And then they finally seized the chance on a September day

They passed the Patriot Act before a single Congressman had read it
But don't ask the Executive how they interpret it
Because that itself is secret, never to be revealed
Just like their secret prisons and all the torture sessions they concealed

Then they formed the Prism Program so they wouldn't even have to ask
Compliant corporations to assist them in the task
Of collecting information, every email you ever wrote, every book you ever read
Every call you ever made, everything you ever said

I looked into a prism, what did I see
A police state looking back at me

The Secret Government men lied to Congressional committees
Secret information even a Senator can't see
Secret bureaucrats working with secret corporations enforcing secret laws
Forming secret juries to serve a secret cause

One brave man came forward and then he fled town
And now the Secret Government men mean to hunt him down
Feinstein says he is a traitor, McConnell said so, too
But I'd say if we have a future it's because of the whistle that he blew
Track Name: Landlord
The patroons came from Holland to America, became landlords where none had been before
Soon one man owned half a million acres on both sides of the Hudson River shore
He invited families to move in and give him thirty percent
Of everything they grew each year, this is how they'd pay the rent

His name was Rensselaer, he became one of the richest men on Earth
In today's terms ninety billion dollars is how much he'd be worth
All this for doing nothing but saying all of this was his
“I have the power of the state behind me and I'm in the landlord biz”

After two hundred years of this and one revolution won
Another Rennsalaer had another son
And this Rennsalaer was greedier than his ancestors dead and passed
It was now the 1840's and things started changing fast

It was the straw that broke the back, the bottle was uncorked
They started organizing meetings, the tenant farmers of New York
They found the strength of numbers, they found the power of suggestion
They found each other asking the same question

Who gave you the right to be a landlord, to live a life of ease while others toil
Who gave you the right to be a rich man, while the rest of us pay you so that we can work this soil

They vowed that they would stop the rent collection, they vowed they'd bring this madness to an end
And when one blew the tin horn of distress, they'd soon find they had a thousand friends
Dressed in calico skirts with masks upon their faces, on horseback, armed with knives and guns
They chanted and they yelled, they kept their farms, and they kept the sheriffs on the run

They asked...
Chorus

The governor passed laws to try to stop them, but nothing could be done to break their will
And by 1848 the landlords buckled and sold their holdings to the farmers in the hills
Yes they overthrew this feudal system, but it's replaced now by speculators and banks
And you can still hear the homeless families asking of all the landed gentry in our ranks
Track Name: Assata
Special Agent Ford got on TV to put a price on someone's head
Two million dollars, bring her back alive or dead
On the very anniversary of the killing of Osama
In the endless War on Terror, the next victim of Obama
Enemy number one of those who brought us Cointelpro
It's the FBI's Most Wanted, a real-life cop show
It's not enough to kill them or have them jailed, old and gray
You have to double the bounty for the one that got away

(But) if Assata is a terrorist
What does that make you?

She was born in Alabama in an apartheid state
Ended up up north, where she found another shade of hate
Terrorized by racism in the schools and in the street
Terrorized by policemen for giving children food to eat
Terrorized by agents sent to disrupt and kill on sight
Terrorized for daring to stand her ground and fight
They tried to frame her for whatever, take your pick
Finally they found something and they managed to make it stick

One racist cop was dead, Assata's hands were in the air
She didn't fire a shot, the all-white jury didn't care
They tortured her in prison, years alone in a basement cell
Her comrades liberated her and broke her out of solitary hell
For years they tried to find her, but in 1984
She made her way to Havana and found asylum on the Cuban shore
And they terrorize the Cuban people, try to bring them to their knees
But despite the terror of the empire this so-called terrorist is free
Track Name: The Man Who Burned the White House Down
Robert Ross was from Rostrevor, he was born there in County Down
His family was given land there by the British Crown
He was a man born of the gentry, born with wealth and fame
But he joined the British Army to serve his Queen and make his name

In the Napoleonic Wars he fought in many lands
In Holland and in Spain and on the far-off Egyptian sands
He was wounded there in battle, came back to fight another day
And he was sent off to attack the USA

York had been sacked and burned by invading Yankee men
But the Canadians regrouped, chased the Yankees home and then
The British Navy made its way to the shores of DC town
Where General Ross burned the White House down

The year was 1814, the US was in retreat
It was a Canadian victory, an American defeat
Without the French to help them, they got their ass whipped by the Crown
When General Ross burned the White House down

The place had just been constructed only twelve years before
But it had to be rebuilt, soon after this disastrous war
The President turned tail and ran like a raggedy clown
When General Ross burned the White House down

He was killed a few months later, Irish rebels stopped him in his tracks
He was buried in Nova Scotia, in the town of Halifax
He might have been forgotten, but he'll forever be renowned
He's the man who burned the White House down
Track Name: Egyptian Rag
People are mysterious, they have many mysterious ways
For four thousand years in Egypt, when someone reached the end of their days
They'd be carried out to the desert, preserved in an oily broth
And they'd be buried beneath the ground wrapped in twenty pounds of cloth
And they called it Egyptian Rag

People are mysterious, some mysteries last a while
With half a billion people buried in the sands beyond the Nile
So when the British came to build a railway connecting west to east
With every trench they dug, they unearthed the deceased
Wrapped up in Egyptian Rag

People are mysterious, like one wealthy man in Maine
Who heard about these mummies discovered as the British built their train
He formed a corporation to make good use of this find
He sent steam ships across the water where there were graveyards to be mined
Filled with Egyptian Rag

People are mysterious, where there is money to be made
By turning linen into paper in the body-snatching trade
The boats were sent across the sea for fifty years or more
Shipping cargo over to the New England shore
Filled with Egyptian Rag

People are mysterious, and in the paper mills they thought
There was something strange about these tons of cloth they were brought
For they'd throw it on the floor and wonder at what they were seeing
As the linen sprang into the shape of a human being
And they called it Egyptian Rag

People are mysterious, and we may never know
All the many consequences of what we reap and what we sow
But next time you hold a book printed in the nineteenth century
If you believe there is a God, perhaps you want to pray for mercy
For what they once called Egyptian Rag
Track Name: Someone's Got Their Ear
Well it's another electoral cycle, time to look inventive
Time to listen to your constituents and pretend to be attentive
Time to say what they want to hear, make a job, raise a wage
Then once the farce is over they can relax and turn the page
And take the envelope of cash from some random corporation
To subsidize their move to a sweatshop nation
And on the off-chance a reporter asks what was that about
Just make sure to call them a liberal unpatriotic lout

Yes they'll talk about democracy and the good old USA
Praise the Constitution and the American Way
They'll listen to their electorate and then throw them under the bus
'Cause someone's got their ear, but it's not us

They'll say they're environmentalists, it's very popular these days
But that windmill manufacturer just ain't the one that pays
The biggest envelope of cash comes from Chevron and from Shell
Call it “energy independence” as we frack our way to hell
They'll say that lower taxes is something they would not forsake
But it's hard to keep your promises when you're on the take
When GE needs your money to build a nuclear bomb
Just say all those who oppose it don't love apple pie or mom

'Cause it's those envelopes of cash that keep it all so real
Gotta make the campaign fund, gotta grease the wheel
If someone says that it's corruption, just say that they are nuts
You'd never confuse your paymaster with your honest American guts
Just take that envelope of cash and give a toothy grin
Ride a horse, go to church, say America will win
Just wear a flag on your lapel and talk out of your ass
And accuse all of your detractors of smoking grass
Track Name: Henk
There are those who will tell stories of their youth so long ago
They will talk of past adventures like a wild picture show
They'll talk of comrades lost, and lovers found along the way
They'll tell of how they almost didn't live to see today
And then there are the many who never made it through
Who leave their friends and family to wonder if they knew

Who leave their friends and family to wonder if they knew
And to always ask the questions about what they didn't do
To always ask the question, why did they survive
While others died to see the day that they would be alive
For some the liberation was a great, heroic feat
For others it's all much more bittersweet

We didn't want another hero
A noble struggle to employ
We just want our lieve jongen
We just want our boy

Henk Streefkerk was born in Naarden, and as the story goes
He went to work for Phillips to work on radios
He lived through the Depression, next came the German tanks
Friends joined with the Resistance, Henk also joined their ranks
He lived an unassuming life beneath Holland's cloudy sky
Working quietly at night, not to draw a German eye

Henk Streefkerk was killed, that's how history is made
Until this day no one knows how he was betrayed
He was standing on the sidewalk, he was executed there
Left lying on the pavement, blood spattered his blond hair
Four days later the war was over, they say the Allies won
Many people celebrated while the Streefkerks buried their only son

It was more than sixty years after the occupation's awful toll
Someone noticed Henk wasn't on the Honor Roll
And on a wall somewhere perhaps now his name will be engraved
They'll thank him for his courage and the families he saved
He'll join the thousands of Nederlanders, and millions more
All the lieve jongens killed in the world wars
Track Name: Barack Obama
His first name is the last name of an Israeli Prime Minister
His middle name's the last name of Saddam
And his last name's middle syllable
Quite conveniently is “bomb”

Some people call him Mr. President, some people call him an elitist
Some people call him Mr. Smart Bomb
Some people call him Mr. Drone Strike, some people call him a wanker
Ralph Nader calls him Uncle Tom

But his name's Barack Obama, Barack Obama
Barack Obama, Barack O-bomb-a

Some people say it's wonderful, a black man in the white house
And his kids are awful cute, he's got a feministic spouse
But he's locking up his people, throwing away the key
He could have skin as white as birch or as black as ebony

He's still Barack Obama...

They say he's in his second term now, he can show his true progressive side
He can tax the rich, bring the troops home and fill his base with pride
He can stop the frackers in their tracks, spend money on the schools
He can stop all the evictions
he can free all the whistleblowers
he can triple the minimum wage
he can take away the assault rifles
he can jail corrupt bankers
he can start building windmills
he can shut down the dirty coal plants
he can shut down Guantanamo
he can at least start trying to do these things
Or he can just keep playing us for fools

I'm talking about Barack Obama...
Track Name: American Rag
I drive on an American highway In my American car
I watch American Idol I'm gonna be an American star
Hey there's an American road sign This is an All-American town
I like to eat American burgers That I buy from an American clown
I live in an American house I have a great big American flag
I'm such a proud American I blow my nose in an American rag

I have an American iPhone Though it isn't quite American-made
But at least my American machine gun is
And my American switchblade
My dad was an American soldier He fought in American wars
Now he installs American locks To go on American doors
I shop in an American supermarket
Put my stuff in an American bag
I'm such a proud American I blow my nose in an American rag

I work for an American company They pay me in American bills
I drink American lager I pop American pills
I snort American cocaine I smoke American grass
I use American toilet paper When I wipe my American ass
Bury me in American graveyard A stone with an American tag
He was such a proud American
He blew his nose in an American rag
Track Name: Flight 800
Flight 801 left Italy, got to New York town and then
Expected to leave New York, go back to Italy again
It was a normal evening at first at TWA
The flight took off an hour late after a slight delay
And it was wheels up, there was excitement in the air
For some it was the first time they'd ever been up there

But this time Flight 800 barely lifted off the ground
Before it was shot down over Long Island Sound

Scores of people saw it and they wondered why
A light had left the Earth and arced into the sky
They saw it hit the aircraft, saw the craft burst into flame
People asked who fired the rocket, others asked the same
And what was to be another flight over the Atlantic Sea
Was a flight that wouldn't be

Was it a Navy missile going where it wasn't supposed to go
Or a terrorist attack, we may never know
The CIA announced we understood the popular confusion
What appeared to be a missile was an optical illusion
And for some reason which we cannot explain
There are 230 people dead, and dead they will remain
Track Name: A Brief History of the Orange Line
In the Sixties they were building lots of single-family homes
The suburbs were the place to have your child, dog and cat
Businessmen and housewives each had a swimming pool
Prescription drugs, a big car and a generic welcome mat
All the suburbs needed highways and they were being built
In every state, from the east coast to the west
But when in Boston, Massachusetts they came to build a highway
At GM and DOT's behest
In front of their bulldozers there in Jamaica Plain
From all around, people came and stood
They asked should we have commuters or community
A highway or a neighborhood

The governor said we hear you but you just don't understand
It's the way things are, the order of the day
Is that progress must go on, the economy must grow
And this state needs another highway
A whole bunch of people protested, a whole bunch were arrested
The cops figured that was that
But folks kept coming back, where the backhoes were supposed to dig
That's just where people sat
They asked would you have a fast lane here, with big trucks spewing diesel
Or keep your homes of wood

It was the Anti-Highway Movement, who said the national is local
And the people of JP
Against all of those in power, the biggest business interests
Federal as well as state authority
But perseverance won and the highway was abandoned
The neighborhood remains
Instead they built a subway line, a long, thin park
Playgrounds and bicycle lanes
The people had spoken, the question had been answered
As one would think it should
Track Name: Vasili
The Beach Boys were playing on the radio The Beatles were singing “Love Me Do”
Lolita was playing in the cinemas It was October 1962
Ken Kesey published One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest John Glenn orbited the Earth
Australia had just won the most gold medals At the Commonwealth Games in Perth
The boomers were just getting into high school Dylan first sang “Blowin' In the Wind”
The US Army had recently started their war To attempt to defeat the Viet Minh
On the day Vasili saved the world

“If I Had A Hammer” was in the Billboard charts An Air Force jet crashed into the sea
The first Black student had been admitted To Ole Miss University
Hewlett-Packard sold a Personal Computer But it wouldn't really take off for a while
Jackie O had just come back from a trip to India Plunging necklines were the latest summer style
Algeria had just won their independence Korea was rebuilding from the war
The Russian River had just flooded A couple of weeks before
On the day Vasili saved the world

The CIA was running Operation Mongoose Killing Cubans in their factories and streets
The US was making plans for an invasion Still smarting from the Bay of Pigs defeat
The Soviets had sent missiles to Havana To protect themselves and their Cuban friends
Then the US Navy blockaded Cuba's harbors And there was no telling how this thing would end
Khruschev got on TV to make it very clear Cuba is a sovereign state
And if our ships are attacked We will retaliate
On the day Vasili saved the world

Vice Admiral Vasili Arkhipov was standing at his post On a Soviet Navy submarine
They were on patrol in international waters One actor in a terrifying scene
They were out of radio contact, deep beneath the water When the sub began to shake and crack
The Captain said “arm the nuclear torpedoes We're under attack”
The Americans were bombing them, but in order to respond Three officers had to say “go”
Two were in agreement But for some reason the Vice Admiral said “no”
On the day Vasili saved the world
Track Name: Bonobo Song
There are lots of different monkeys on this lovely planet Earth
There are long ones, there are little ones, there are monkeys wide of girth
There are monkeys that live in trees and those that live in mountain streams
There are those that soak in hot springs, getting lost in their day dreams
But then there are the monkeys who live the way I'd like to do
And I want to be a bonobo with you

There are monkeys who solve problems by forming gangs and swinging sticks
Where the biggest, meanest male is the one the girl picks
But then there are the monkeys who never find the need to fight
Who find time only for affection and the occasional love bite
Those are the monkeys who live the way I want to do
And I want to be a bonobo with you

Bonobos wake up in the morning, greet each other with a kiss
Gather berries, make love and pursue a life of monkey bliss
They only greet a stranger in the most welcoming way
In every combination, that's how they meet the day
Those are the monkeys who live the way I want to do
And I want to be a bonobo with you
Track Name: God Bless the USA
God bless all the Indians living in their reservations
God bless all the strippers and their bodily gyrations
God bless Trump Towers reaching up so high
God bless the Blue Angels screaming through the sky
God bless Appalachia, mountains and moonshine
God bless the creeks, bulldozers and strip mines
God bless the megachurches and all of those who speak in tongues
God bless the corporate ladder, every single rung
God bless the homeless families living under bridges
God bless the golden valleys and the mountain ridges
God bless the beaches and the swamps and the alligators
God bless the NFL and the Oakland Raiders God bless the USA

God bless the conspiracy theorists and the Jewish bankers
God bless ExxonMobil and all their oil tankers
God bless Clearchannel, Toby Keith and Taylor Swift
God bless anorexia, lyposuction and facelifts
God bless the mighty rivers and the nuclear reactors
God bless Fox, Rupert Murdoch and X Factor

God bless all the lobbyists and their envelopes of cash
God bless Miley Cyrus and her birthday bash
God bless the President and his very moving speeches
God bless Idaho's potatoes and Georgia's peaches
God bless Florida oranges and Wisconsin cheese
God bless the internment camps and penitentiaries

God bless Wyoming's rolling fields of hay
God bless high school massacres and the NRA
God bless each member of the Congress and all the oil billionaires
God bless sodium thiopental and electric chairs
God bless the open highways and the traffic jams
God bless the Patriot Missiles and inboxes full of spam

God bless the redwood forests and the paper mills
God bless the plastic Jesuses sitting on the window sills
God bless carpet bombing and men in uniform
God bless the firefighters, the cops and Desert Storm
God bless the immigrants and the I-C-E
God bless the offshore oil rigs from sea to shining sea
Track Name: What Am I Doing Here
I'm sitting on this stool, I can hear the punters talk
I'm looking out the window and I think that I might walk
The monitors don't work, and even if they would
I could turn up the volume but it wouldn't do any good
What am I doing here, I can hear the voices say
Five thousand miles away from home

There's a man in front of me, he is very drunk
He might have been a sailor once but now his ship is sunk
There are nineteen other people, some of them are looking at me
I should sing another song now but I'd really rather flee
What am I doing here at this gig that doesn't pay
Five thousand miles away from home

The last bus is at eleven, I hear someone complain
Half of them get up and walk out in the rain
The only woman in the room is filling up a jar
Looking at the clock as she stands behind the bar
What am I doing here, instead of where you lay
Five thousand miles away from home