Sunday, 30 November 2008

Behind the Songs: I Kill Therefore I Am

"Farewell to the gangsters, we don't need them anymore
We've got the police force, they're the ones who break the law"
--Phil Ochs, "I Kill Therefore I Am" (1969)

Our Enemies in Blue

Our Enemies in Blue examines the history of police violence from a radical but pragmatic perspective. Uniting theory and practice, the book provides a resource useful to activists, scholars, and citizens concerned about the encroaching police state. Kristian Williams traces the evolution of modern police forces from slave patrols and protection rackets, critiques "community" policing, explores racism in law enforcement, and suggests strategies for combating police violence. Our Enemies in Blue shows that police misconduct isn't just a matter of "bad apples" but is a function of the very nature of policing in the United States.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Behind the Songs: Crucifixion

"Images of innocence charge him to go on
But the decadence of history is looking for a pawn
To a nightmare of knowledge he opens up the gate
A blinding revelation is served upon his plate
That beneath the greatest love is a hurricane of hate
And God help the critic of the dawn"
--Phil Ochs, "Crucifixion" (1966)

Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

At 1:00 P.M. on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead, the victim of a sniper attack during his motorcade ride through Dallas. That may be the only fact generally agreed upon in the vast literature spawned by the assassination. National polls reveal that an overwhelming majority of Americans (75 percent) believe that there was a high-level conspiracy behind Lee Harvey Oswald. Many even believe that Oswald was entirely innocent. In this continuously absorbing, powerful, groundbreaking book, Vincent Bugliosi shows how we have come to believe such lies about an event that changed the course of history.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Behind the Songs: Pleasures of the Harbor

"In the bar hangs a cloud, the whiskey's loud, there's laughter in their eyes
The lonely in disguise are clinging to the crowd
And the bottle fills the glass, the haze is fast, he's trembling for the taste
Of passions gone to waste, in memories of the past"
--Phil Ochs, "Pleasures of the Harbor" (1966)

The Long Voyage Home

The Long Voyage Home (1940) is an American drama film and directed by John Ford. It features John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell, Ian Hunter, Barry Fitzgerald, Wilfrid Lawson, John Qualen, Mildred Natwick, Ward Bond, among others.

The film was adapted by Dudley Nichols from the plays The Moon of the Caribees, In The Zone, Bound East for Cardiff, and The Long Voyage Home by Eugene O'Neill. The original plays by Eugene O'Neill were written around the time of World War I and were among his earliest plays. Ford set the story for the motion picture, however, during World War II.

The film tells the story of the crew aboard an English cargo ship named the SS Glencairn, during World War II, on the long voyage home from the West Indies to Baltimore and then to England. The ship carries a cargo of high-explosives.

On liberty, after a night of drinking in bars in the West Indies, the crew returns to the tramp steamer and set sail for Baltimore.

They're a motley group: a middle-aged Irishman Driscoll (Thomas Mitchell), a young Swedish ex-farmer Ole Olsen (John Wayne), the spiteful steward Cocky (Barry Fitzgerald); the brooding Lord Jim-like Englishman Smitty (Ian Hunter), and others.

After the ship picks up a load of dynamite in Baltimore, the rough seas they encounter become nerve-racking to the crew.

They're also concerned that Smitty might be a German spy because he's secretive. After they force Smitty to show them his letters from home it turns out that Smitty is an alcoholic who has run away from his family.

Critic Bosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times, liked the screenplay, the message of the film, and John Ford's direction, and wrote, "John Ford has truly fashioned a modern Odyssey—a stark and tough-fibered motion picture which tells with lean economy the never-ending story of man's wanderings over the waters of the world in search of peace for his is harsh and relentless and only briefly compassionate in its revelation of man's pathetic shortcomings. But it is one of the most honest pictures ever placed upon the screen; it gives a penetrating glimpse into the hearts of little men and, because it shows that out of human weakness there proceeds some nobility, it is far more gratifying than the fanciest hero-worshiping fare."

Friday, 14 November 2008

Behind the Songs: Outside of a Small Circle of Friends

"Look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed
They dragged her to the bushes, and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody outside of a small circle of friends"
--Phil Ochs, "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" (1966)

Twisted Confessions: The True Story Behind the Kitty Genovese and Barbara Kralik Murder Trials

"It didn't seem possible. Kitty Genovese had been viciously stabbed to death in Kew Gardens on March 13, 1964, while her neighbors heard her screams from their apartment windows and looked on passively...Everyone from coast to coast, it seemed, including President Lyndon Johnson, was weighing in on the failure of Kitty's neighbors to respond to her screams for help. The incident opened up a whole new phenomenon for students of social psychology to explore and puzzle over: the Kitty Genovese syndrome."

Friday, 7 November 2008

Behind the Songs: Santo Domingo

"Up and down the coast, the generals drink a toast, the wheel is spinning
And the cowards and the whores are peeking through the doors to see who's winning
But the traitors will pretend that it's getting near the end when it's beginning
The Marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo"
--Phil Ochs, "Santo Domingo" (1965)

Rag-Tags, Scum, Riff-Raff and Commies: The U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic, 1965-1966

In April 1965, a popular rebellion in the Dominican Republic toppled the remnants of the U.S. backed Trujillo dictatorship setting the stage for the master tinkers of America's Cold War machine. In this groundbreaking study, Eric Thomas Chester carefully reconstructs the events that followed into a thriller of historical sweep, and creates a stunning portrait of how the U.S. government--from President Lyndon Johnson on down--used the Dominican Republic as a tool of its imperial arrogance.

Eric Thomas Chester explains how the U.S. intervention was in the tradition of gunboat diplomacy as well as a consequence of Cold War ideology, and the Cuban Revolution. After the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Haiti in 1934 and the initiation of Roosevelt's so-called "good neighbor policy," the United States had refrained from sending its own troops to intervene in Latin America. The 1965 invasion broke this pattern and reinitiated an era of direct armed intervention in Latin America. The result was that by early May, with more than thirty thousand troops deployed, there was a greater U.S. military presence in the Dominican Republic than in South Vietnam.

In this fascinating account, Chester makes extensive use of recently declassified diplomatic and intelligence documents to offer a nuanced and textured study of the workings of covert as well as diplomatic initiatives and provides a thorough analysis of U.S. Cold War foreign policy in the region.