Allen Young :
BOOKS | Genealogy effort leads to book about people becoming Americans

This impressive new volume is the work of Carla Barringer Rabinowitz.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | July 9, 2020

ROYALSTON, Mass. — Borderers: Becoming Americans on the Southern Frontier is the title and subtitle of an impressive new book written by Carla Barringer Rabinowitz, a friend and neighbor here in rural Massachusetts.

When I first saw this 493-page tome, I wondered if borderers is a real word, or a word she invented. Of course, I looked it up, and here’s what the dictionary says: “a person who lives in a border area, especially the border between England and Scotland.”

Fair enough; it’s a real word. For now, however, forget about England and Scotland. Carla defines borderers as the “the first permanent settlers in an area newly opened to Europeans,” and she goes on to muse about the variety of social and cultural borders that they also occupied between the north and south of the United States.

We read in this book about people and events in parts of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas. These are the places where Carla dug up facts about some of her ancestors, including her great-great-grandfather, Thomas Drew, who became governor of Arkansas and later served as a regional Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jonah Raskin :
OPINION | Trump’s Fourth of July ‘remarks’

The demagogue sounds off.

Donald Trump. Digital caricature by DonkeyHotey, 2019,
Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | July 9, 2020

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. — Donald Trump’s Fourth of July oration has been heralded in some quarters as a genuine expression of the highest ideals of American democracy. Writing in Tablet, Liel Leibovitz, an Israeli born journalist who came to the U.S. in 1989, says that it was “every bit the statement I needed to hear, a clear and unapologetic reminder of why America is worth loving unconditionally, admiring unequivocally and fighting for unremitting.” There are too many “uns” for my liking, and too much emphasis on fighting which is what got us in the Civil War, the unrest of the 1960s and 1970s and the house dividedness of the present day.

Leibowitz goes on to quote at length Trump’s comment that, “We are the country of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Frederick Douglass. We are the land of Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill Cody. We are the nation that gave rise to the Wright Brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Jesse Owens, George Patton — General George Patton — the great Louie Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Elvis Presley, and Mohammad Ali.” Why Louie and not Louis? Was Trump ever that intimate with “Satchmo”?

Trump’s speech is as notable for whom he omits as much as for whom he includes. He mentions no American Indians, no Sitting Bull or Geronimo, no first generation immigrants, either, and no Mexican-Americans. Trump goes on to say, and Leibowitz goes on to quote the sentence in which mention is made of Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Irving Berlin, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, all of whom are dead. Perish the thought that he might include a living person.
Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Harry Targ :
ECONOMICS | New thinking, political economy, and economic policy

The university community as a microcosm of the national economy.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, April 2, 2019. Daniels called the national debt the “new red menace.” Public Domain Image.

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | July 8, 2020

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — In a recent article Shawn Hubler surveys the impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic on the political economy of campus towns (The New York Times, June 28, 2020). During the spring shutdowns of college campuses millions of dollars were lost in revenues as students departed. Now with many universities and colleges contemplating reopening for the fall term, resistance has emerged from faculty, staff, and students because of the continuing threat of the spread of the virus.

Some campuses have followed the lead of Purdue University in ordering equipment, trying to figure out on-campus teaching with social distancing, and preparing pledges students and faculty will be required to make to honor a health code.

Although the plans for the fall may sometimes sound bizarre, the impacts of not reopening universities would be drastic for what one might call “campus town political economies.” Whole university communities rely on dollars spent by thousands of students. Tuition makes up a larger share of university budgets today compared with 20 years ago as state funding for higher education has declined. Athletic programs attract alumni contributions and the sale of sports paraphernalia.
Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joshua Brown :

Previous installments are archived at
Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bruce Melton :
ENVIRONMENT | Covid-19, climate change,
and permafrost collapse…

…and our new, abruptly evolving culture.

This is permafrost collapse on the Glenn Highway in southeastern Alaska near Slana. All photos by Bruce Melton.

By Bruce Melton | The Rag Blog | July 3, 2020

AUSTIN — The origin of Covid-19 is still in dispute in academia. The classic connection is from contemporary bats via pangolins or civets, allowed or enhanced by habitat loss and warming that creates animal stress leading to increased animal disease, and the habitat loss crowding animals ever closer to our burgeoning human population. Or maybe it was just bad luck with some populations that eat different animals than other populations.

Meanwhile, permafrost collapse from climate change is 70 years ahead of schedule and plausibly emitting, not sequestering, as many greenhouse gases as are emitted every year by all of transportation across the globe. New research is showing reanimation of viruses preserved in permafrost is real and though no research has yet fingered permafrost collapse as the culprit, scientists have been warning us about things like this for 30 years.

First off, the origin of COVID-19, was not from a lab experiment gone wrong or deliberate genetic modification, this is definitive.
Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Rag Blog :
ELECTIONS | Here’s the latest on voting by mail and in person

The following statement comes from the Austin Chapter of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans (TARA):

If you mailed in your application to vote by mail and you are concerned that you haven’t received your ballot yet, you can call your County Clerk’s office and find out if your ballot has already been mailed. The application deadline is July 2nd, so they will be mailing out ballots continually for the next several days. The requests to vote by mail in Texas increased by over 1000% just for the runoff on July 14. Your County Clerks and their staffs are working overtime to handle the huge influx of mail-in ballot requests.

Wondering if you can still vote in person? Absolutely! Take your ID and mail-in ballot with you, as you will be required to surrender the ballot at the same time. If you haven’t received your ballot and just don’t want to wait for it, you will be given a provisional ballot which will be counted after July 14, election day, so they can confirm that your mail-in ballot wasn’t used.

Early voting will continue through July 10. Polls are closed on July 3rd and 4th, open on Sunday, July 5th from 12–6. Election day is July 14th. Your ballot should be in the mail by July 9th at the latest to ensure its receipt no later than the close of business on election day.

Posted in RagBlog | Leave a comment

Jonah Raskin :
FILM | Spike Lee’s ‘Da 5 Bloods’: An anti-imperialist perspective

Come on, Spike. You can do better than this.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | July 2, 2020

SONOMA COUNTY, California — Spike Lee has made a name for himself over the past 35 years as the preeminent African-American film director, with movies like She’s Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X with Denzel Washington in the leading role and the BlackKkKlansman in 2018.

Lee’s new movie, Da 5 Bloods, has been praised and reviled, most notably by the Vietnamese-American author, Viet Thang Nguyen, who writes that while Lee “means well, he also does not know what to do with the Vietnamese except resort to guilty liberal feelings about them.”

Nguyen, who won a Pulitzer for his 2016 novel The Sympathizer, added, “as I watched the obligatory scene of Vietnamese soldiers getting shot and killed for the thousandth time. I felt the same hurt I did in watching Platoon and Rambo and Full Metal Jacket.
Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Allen Young :
ANALYSIS | Obscure moment in 1951 recalls long history of racial injustice

The CPUSA was the only predominantly white organization to make anti-racism a major priority.

Paul Robeson presents “We Charge Genocide” by William Patterson to UN Secretariat in New York, December 17, 1951.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | July 2, 2020

ROYALSTON, Mass. — When I read the news a few weeks ago that Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd (the Black man killed by police in Minneapolis), went to the United Nations to call attention to racial injustice in the USA, a three-word memory from my childhood popped into my head: “We Charge Genocide.”

I was only 10 years old in 1951, when two Black men, William L. Patterson and Paul Robeson, presented a petition on the topic of racial injustice to the United Nations in both Paris and New York.

The petition was entitled “We Charge Genocide: The Crime of the Government Against the Negro People.” Patterson, credited as the author, was secretary of the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), and presented the petition in Paris on behalf of his organization, while Robeson brought it to the UN headquarters in New York City.

The language of the petition is chilling and powerful. Consider this paragraph:
Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Alice Embree :
REPORT | ‘Space City!’ lives online,
survives quarantine

Houston’s underground paper is now digitized; soon to be a book.

Space City! covers, clockwise from top left: Vol. 1, No. 1; Vol. 2, No. 10;
Vol. 2, No. 5; Vol. 3, No. 4.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | June 18, 2020

AUSTIN — On March 11, 2020, I shipped a near-complete collection of Space City! newspapers to Indiana to be scanned for preservation and display at the Internet Archive. Little did I know that the issues would arrive just days before the library shut down because of Covid19. For two and a half months, Space City! sat in quarantine.

On June 1, the library began to staff up again. Soon, the newspapers took on a digital life, a collection accessible to activists, academics (and the general public) interested in the transformative period chronicled on the pages of Houston’s historic underground paper. The work is now complete. Each of the 103 papers can be viewed in its entirety here.

Three issues are still missing. If you have any of them — or know of their whereabouts — please let us know.

  • Volume 3, Issue 3, November 11, 1971. Cover illustration: Mayor Louie Welch with money
  • Volume 3, Issue 32, January 10, 1972. Cover illustration: People dancing.
  • Volume 4, Issue 5, July 4, 1972. Cover image unknown.

Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Lamar W. Hankins :
ANALYSIS |The crime of dark skin

There is little justice in the ‘criminal legal system’ for black people.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | June 18, 2020

SAN MARCOS, TX — I lived in Vidor, Texas, until I was four years old, with my mother, grandparents, and an aunt and uncle. Two other aunts had just married and moved nearby. Vidor has a richly-deserved reputation for being one of the most inhospitable places in Texas for black people. In 1967, my friends Bill and Loretta Oliver and I took a 10-minute drive from the north side of Beaumont to Vidor to try to find the Ku Klux Klan headquarters we had heard about. Much to my surprise, it was housed on Main Street in the same storefront space where I had attended day care in 1948.

For reasons I can’t explain, none of that part of my family ever made racist or derogatory remarks toward black people that I remember. Maybe it was because of their brand of religion, or maybe they were just nice people.

After my mother remarried, we moved from Vidor to Port Arthur, where I lived until going off to college. I’ve thought about, written about, and observed racism all of my life, at least since the age of 10 when I began learning about the pervasiveness of racism in America from a black woman who did housekeeping, cooking, and child care for my parents, both of whom worked full-time jobs in the refineries.

Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Joshua Brown :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Trump and friend

Previous installments are archived at
Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Allen Young :
FILM | Two new films about Roy Cohn
review his decades of villainy

Roy Cohn is best known for being the right-hand man to Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Film by Ivy Meeropol.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | June 11, 2020

NEW YORK, N.Y. — On June 19, Home Box Office (HBO) will release an informative well-crafted documentary film entitled Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn, directed by Ivy Meeropol.

Another interesting movie, Where’s My Roy Cohn?, released in 2019 and directed by Matt Tyrnauer, is streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

Roy Cohn (1927-1986) is best known for being the right-hand man to Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R.-Wisc.) during the Red Scare of the mid-20th century, but he also had a long career as a New York-based attorney serving an array of clients, many of them lacking in morality and steeped in corruption and dishonesty that mirrored Cohn’s own behavior.

There is some overlapping of factual information by these films, but I want to urge readers of The Rag Blog — no matter how much you already know about the despicable Cohn — to view both of these documentaries. The details are fascinating, and even if you feel disgust as you watch the weasel-like Cohn on the screen, you’ll appreciate the insights into the dark side of this fellow human, because there are others like him, most notably Donald Trump. Neither film pretends to be “objective” and we don’t hear from anyone in either film who truly liked Cohn or thinks he was a great man.
Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments