Spies Are Reading My Blog

by David Rovics

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I spent a fine, long, wet day in November, 2013 with Billy Oskay at Big Red Studio in Corbett, Oregon, and this is the result. These are all songs I wrote in the past three months or so. This is a web-only album, only available right here on Bandcamp.


released November 4, 2013

All songs written and performed by David Rovics on guitar and vocals.
Engineer: Billy Oskay
Co-produced by David Rovics and Billy Oskay at Big Red Studio
All songs are registered Creative Commons




David Rovics Portland, Oregon

"Absolutely brilliant. David Rovics says exactly what needs to be said."
Ian McMillan, BBC


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Track Name: Between You and That Harpoon
Time to leave now, head from Hobart to Antarctica
So close but so far from Australia
Where watchful eyes are always peeled, because you never know
When there's a growler below
Watchful eyes peeled for predators and prey
Where all one can do is do whatever can to keep the hunt at bay
The time is coming and it's coming soon
When we'll stand between you and that harpoon

The tide is unforgiving, the sea floor is a grave
For those capsized souls before us who fell beneath the waves
And perhaps we'll join them by accident or not
Perhaps a gale or a storm or a well-aimed shot
But we'll steer around the ice and right into their sights
Everyone must pick their battles, this is our fight
So here beneath the Southern Cross and the crescent moon
We'll stand between you and that harpoon

Between you and the harpoon, there's just a little space
But that's where we can see your face
Look into your eyes and hear you sing
One comes to realize, you have to do something
Sometimes all you can do is do your best
And hope that someone else will do the rest
So once again we'll spend this afternoon
Standing between you and that harpoon
Track Name: Syria, 2013
There's an uncivil war in Syria, one hundred thousand dead
Millions of refugees without a roof over their heads
Proxy armies flowing in to a country open wide
You got Al-Qaeda and America fighting side by side
You got Saudi monarchs and French socialists on one team
You got Russia and Iran backing the regime
You got the Arab League having another meaningless debate
Saying let's just see what happens if we wait

But now the west says gloves are off, it's all become too real
Now Cameron and Obama are dictating the deal
Now red lines have been crossed, now it's time to act
Now it's time to have a few million tons of impact
Now it's time to do the thing that the west does best
Time to step in the hornet's nest
We don't know who did it, but there has been a war crime
So we'll bomb an Arab country one more time

What we know is this: there was a chemical attack
Kinda like the ones that happened in Iraq
Like the white phosphorous we used on the people of Falluja
Or the chemicals we sold to Saddam for Halabja
But this time it's a different story, this poison gas in Gouta
Our allies would never do this, those foreign fighters in Al-Qaeda

We don't know who did it, but we know who to blame
The Baathists are the party, Bashar Asad is the name
We don't know who did it, we can figure that out later
Meanwhile we'll turn Damascus into a smart bomb crater
We'll fix them with Cruise missiles, like in Baghdad and Mosul
Where they now have peace, prosperity and democratic rule
Track Name: Before Their Ship Arrived
My father's mother's parents came here on a boat
They came from a land of kings and queens,
but on the wrong side of the moat
My father's father's parents came here on one, too
They didn't want to leave Austria, but it was the thing for Jews to do
I don't know your story but I bet it's more or less the same
What kind of war or famine was on when your family came
Before their ship arrived

Did your folks come here to discover and explore
Or were they refugees running from the war
Did they cross the freezing mountains to make it to the sea
All the while wishing that they never had to flee
Were they marched across the jungles with chains around their feet
Nearly dying of exhaustion in the desert heat
Before their ship arrived

Did they make a life here or were they kidnapped and detained
Held for years in limbo as their optimism waned
Were they turned down for asylum and told they shouldn't lie
Then sent off to be tortured, sent back home to die
Did they get to move here, create their lives anew
Or are they held on Christmas Island asking what on Earth they can do
Before their ship arrived
Track Name: Anthony's Wiener
Anthony Weiner takes picture of his wiener
And sends them off to lots of women that he's never met
Normally I wouldn't care about some guy's pubic hair
Except in this case it's a politician we can hopefully soon forget

He wants to make New Yorkers proud and show he's very well-endowed
To be the mayor of the city from which he sends his Tweets
He's a good Democrat, he'll go up to bat
For the people of New York, and the random women that he greets

Anthony Weiner's wiener
These days it's all the rage
To find out more about Anthony's wiener
Just take a peek at the front page

I probably wouldn't give a shit about his adolescent wit
Whether he was sexting after he resigned from Congress or before
I may not like his style as he issues his denial
But what really bugs me is he voted for the war

Now that it's the second scandal, maybe we can pull the handle
And send Anthony and his wiener down some Flushing drain
And await the politician next who will send a penile text
One vile politician down, but far too many still remain
Track Name: If I Had A Hammer
I watched it on the TV, machine guns
Fire towards the ground, I watched the people run
Helicopter gunship strafing the street
I watched them lining up the bodies in the Baghdad heat
They say these leaks had consequences, and I must agree
When I saw them fire on the children, it affected me
I thought what if I were wearing the other shoe
If I had a hammer, what would I do

I am just a person like anyone
I am just another mother's son
I have no special powers, I cannot fly
Not like that helicopter gunship up in the sky
Sending all those bullets all around
To the journalists and children on the ground
I am just one man, that's very true
But if I had a hammer, what would I do

Sometimes I try to wonder, why should I care
But then the answer seems so obvious – there are people down there
And right here in Queensland there's an Army base
And there's a helicopter gunship just sitting in place
There's a time for watching, there's a time to act
It's just gonna kill more children if it remains intact
I am just one person, but you are, too
If you had a hammer, what would you do
Track Name: Trade War
Let me tell you a tale, stir a hornet's nest
Well remembered in the east, most forgotten in the west
It was the 1830's and the industrial revolution
Was turning Europe into a land of wage slaves and air pollution
The history books tell us it was the era of free trade
And the entire world hungered for the products Europe made
Merchants plied their wares across the seven seas
And they brought back things like porcelain, silk and tea

Soon all the tea in China could barely keep the west awake
Such a thirst for Chinese products as could barely be slaked
They liked to drink their tea in cups of Chinese porcelain
And those who could afford it loved the silk upon their skin
But what made the merchants and the monarchs scream and cry and shout
They seemed to have little to offer that China couldn't live without
They didn't want their muskets and they didn't want their wool
Which left the British coffers empty and the Chinese coffers full

And they called it a “trade war”

They called it a trade war and I guess that could be so
They say it's not free trade if it's just a one-way flow
Because apparently free trade is when the west comes out ahead
That's how it is in practice though that's never what is said
The fact of history they'd have us sweep under the rug
The one thing they could sell in China was an addictive drug
It had long been banned by Chinese law but the British didn't care
They packed the opium up in crates and they shipped it there

It all came to a head in 1838
When the soldiers of the emperor torched twenty thousand crates
It took three days to burn it, and when the fires had gone out
The Chinese people would soon learn what free trade was all about
Navies came from Britain, France and the USA
In blood, land and silver they would make the Chinese pay
Cities levelled, thousands killed, the war was three years long
That's how they “opened” China, that's how they got Hong Kong
Track Name: Iceland, 2008
Iceland is an island with half a million or so Vikings
Mostly known for volcanoes, hot springs and fishing
Known for its welfare state, for being good and socialistic
Certainly not known for being corrupt or nepotistic
But in the USA and Europe when they were deregulating banks
Iceland's politicians took bribes and joined their ranks
Soon you had a situation, one would think just couldn't be
A bank whose debt was worth ten times the country's GDP

When Wall Street imploded, sure enough it spread
Banks all over the world were floating in the red
All over the world, governments made the plan
To cut spending and raise taxes on the working woman and working man
The banks were bailed out while the people had to pay
But in Iceland people thought there must be a better way
And the Earth stood still a moment, fear was struck in every toff
When Iceland told the bankers to fuck off

Folks were in the streets in Reykjavik and just couldn't be ignored
They said this is a debt we Icelanders can't afford
Let's guarantee deposits of all our people, yes indeed
But as for all the speculators motivated by their greed
To make really dumb investments, to them Iceland said good luck
Sorry for your losses but we don't really give a fuck
The 1% all trembled when they took away the trough
When Iceland told the bankers to fuck off

The UK called them terrorists, said we cannot let this stand
Who do these peacenik blonds think they are in Iceland
They threatened isolation, an economy in flames
But the Icelanders said sorry, but the banks can settle their own claims
Though that might be harder for them now that they're under house arrest
Or else they fled the country, as they were most unwelcome guests
And now Reykjavik's recovery just makes the fatcats sputter and cough
Since Iceland told the bankers to fuck off

If you haven't heard of this example, perhaps there's a reason why
The owners of the world don't want this kind of shit to fly
They say we all must pay up in this shakedown by the mob
If we can't afford to pay the rent 'cause we don't have a job
They say it's not their problem if we're forever shackled by their debt
We must save the 1% from the fate they should have met
But there is an alternative, though it makes the fatcats scoff
That Iceland told the bankers to fuck off
Track Name: Song for Pelican Bay
Some people have a lot in common
Such as the thousands and thousands of captive men
Held in windowless cells 23 hours a day In the SHU's of Pelican Bay
Some of the smartest people you'll never meet
Each and every day, a life on repeat
Indefinite detention is the weight they carry
Never told when they get out of solitary

Decades alone until they snitch Those are the rules, that's the pitch
Decades divided into different groups A guaranteed life of repeated loops
Decades divided on different teams With Latin, Black and Aryan themes
But those days are over and it's been five weeks
Refusing food until the Reaper speaks
Now they're not eating anymore

Some of them are in there for reading the wrong news
Some of them are in there for having the wrong tattoos
In the outside world they might not care
But there's no “free speech” in there
A life lived under arbitrary authority No human contact, no dignity
It's no kind of life at all So 20,000 prisoners answered the call
And said we're not eating anymore

They say California's a progressive state
Governor Brown, ain't he great
You got Silicon Valley and Hollywood stars
And 120,000 men behind bars
Hunger pangs stab like a knife But sometimes so does life
Something's gotta change, maybe this is the start
If the people on the outside play our part
Because they're not eating anymore
Track Name: Trayvon
A boy went to visit his father out of town
Where he had moved, to an upscale neighborhood
It rains a lot in Florida, and it was raining on that night
But everybody says exercise is good
He went out for a walk to the convenience store
To go out and bring some candy back
But some people leave and they never come home
And that night it was all a one-way track

For the Neighborhood Watchman was driving his car
On a rainy night looking for
A young man who might have a part to play
In his personal race war
And what if this trolling vigilante
Sowing terror on racist whim
What if when he found this teenage boy
He instead had found a man more like him

What if things were different
Where would he be bound
What if Trayvon had stood his ground

When Zimmerman approached in an unmarked vehicle
When the high school student ran
What if instead he had stood there in the rain
With his Skittles and his Arizona can
What if trying to avoid a conflict with this cracker
Who was evidently messed up in the head
Trayvon had said I feel like my life's in danger
And he had shot this vigilante dead

Would this hooded youth be gingerly arrested
Treated for his wounds and then let free
Would he be hailed as a hero by the NRA
By Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity
Would he be found not guilty by any jury in this country
Would he be allowed to keep his gun
Or would he be sitting in a prison cell, watching pundits on the TV saying
That kid really should've run
Track Name: Oil Train
There's an oil boom, the prairies are on fire
Shale gas, all the fuel you might desire
Coming out so fast, no time to lay pipeline
Eureka-ville, it's like the Days of '49
Except this time we're using massive rigs
That poison everything more thoroughly the deeper that it digs
Trains a mile long, load it up in rail cars
Send them west, sent them east, past cafes, schools and late-night bars
There's an oil train coming through your town

There were dangers, they knew this from the start
But they were minimal, they said, and everyone must play their part
And risk the destruction of their cities each time a train rolls by
Hope it won't derail, and detonate sky high
There's an accident each day somewhere but we're not supposed to fear
That it could happen here
Listen closely, do you hear that whistle blow
Look out the window, do you see the fire glow
There's an oil train coming through your town

It was after midnight on a Saturday night
A resident called in that a rail car was alight
With that much gas, sitting by the lake
It was no one's job to watch the car that maintained the brake
On seventy-three massive tanks of fracking gas
Down the hill, gaining speed as they rolled past
Now at the Musi-Cafe that once was on rue Frontenac
There are fifty customers and employees who won't be coming back
There's an oil train coming through your town
Track Name: Spies Are Reading My Blog
I should be gigging in New Zealand now but
I am not I'm stuck at Narita instead
I should be singing in Dunedin, smoking kiwi pot
And chilling with the kiwi reds
But when I showed up at the airport to board my flight
I was handed somebody's cell phone
Suddenly the future didn't look so bright And I entered the Twilight Zone

The woman on the line said hello I'm from Immigration
You may have a ticket but you can't go To our great island nation
I felt like I'd been hit in the face With a big old kiwi log
But then I felt the Stasi's cold embrace
When she said I've been reading your blog

The spies are reading my blog The introduction and the prologue
And if that's so, it just might be true That they're watching this video, too

Well I normally don't get many views A few hundred friends and kooks
So it comes as surprising news That some of the are kiwi spooks
I try to get my missives out And cause some small commotion
Someone's listening, now there's no doubt
Across the South Pacific ocean

Were you strip-searched in Trondheim, she asked
What kinds of things do you smoke
Have you ever been charged with a crime Are you rich or are you broke
Have you ever been turned away From any borders you tried to cross
What kind of venues did you plan to play Do you use dental floss

I said it seems a bit unusual For you to do things quite this way
I asked her is this normal But she wouldn't say
She'd just repeat her message At Narita you shall remain
I've read your blog, each vile passage And you may not board that plane
Track Name: Pebble Mine
They've been trying now for thirty years or more
To build the world's biggest copper mine by the southwest Alaskan shore
To build the world's biggest copper mine in the world's last great wildlands
To store a billion gallons of poison, turn it into wastelands

A billion gallons of poison in massive reservoirs
And to keep it all there forevermore
The toxic sludge will never leak, they're saying it again
Oh to hear such stupid words from the mouths of stupid men

We know what's gonna happen if the corporation gets its way
And they build the world's biggest copper mine on Bristol Bay

The world's biggest copper mine or the world's biggest run of fish
You cannot have both no matter how hard you might wish
No matter how hard you might pray or how careful you might be
Massive sludge pits on a fault line will soon find its way into the sea

The Pebble Company, it sounds almost benign
But there's not a shred of innocence about the Pebble Mine
Because among the pebbles and the ore are the tanks of cyanide
The toxic sludge pits a mile deep and miles wide

If we cannot stop them, if we don't manage to say no
We can say goodbye to the salmon and the salmon roe
Goodbye to the mountains when they flatten them for ore
Goodbye to all the things we once loved Alaska for
Track Name: Has the Bombing Begun
The president's speaking, fifty years to the day
If the great man were here now, what would he say
With all the people in prison, and all the kids in the street
With the Navy sending in the Fifth Fleet
The president's speaking, oh how things change
Now it's Syria, not Vietnam, in the firing range
Every hour or so I look at my phone
To see if we've sent in the cruise missiles and drones

Has the bombing begun, have we failed again
To stop the war machine from killing more innocent children

The president's speaking, in the August sunshine
Turn on the TV you won't find a sign
That there's something slightly ironic that it should be now
That we're waiting to find out precisely how
The buildings will fall and the people will die
The fathers will hold their lifeless children and cry
How could they do this, did they accomplish their task
So, at the top of each hour I ask

See the refugees streaming, even more than last week
Kids too traumatized even to speak
Hoping to find somewhere, maybe a tent
Wondering where their hopes and dreams all went
There's a demo this evening, as the missiles rain down
I and some others will head into the center of town
Bear witness again to unspeakable crime
And ask the terrible question one more time
Track Name: Christmas Eve in Bethlehem
Church bells are ringing, families are wearing their Sunday best
Choirs are singing, red sun is setting in the west
A soldier is yelling, standing tall
Checkpoint is closing, outside a giant wall
It's Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

Tourists are coming – birthplace of Jesus, a call to port
Now they are leaving, they say you should keep it short
Shop floors are empty, there's no one there
Checkpoint is closing to Manger Square
It's Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

Those Christians who stay here dream of sprouting wings
But they stubbornly stay near their long-lost kings
Relatives stranded far away
They have been branded terrorists, that's what the colonists say
It's Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

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