Maxine Phillips :
BOOKS | Love in the twilight of capitalism

The story may be set in Finland, but the
plot is universal.

Cover of Me, Mikko, and Annikki.

By Maxine Phillips | The Rag Blog | September 3, 2019

[Me, Mikko, and Annikki, A Community Love Story in a Finnish City, by Tiitu Takalo, translated by Michael Demson and Helena Halmari, afterword by Paul Buhle, North Atlantic Books, 2019]

A young woman and man lift hammer and paintbrush in (perhaps) unconscious homage to Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” or some propaganda poster of socialist realism as they stand in front of their recently renovated home. Behind those triumphant gestures lies the long, intricate love story of the title.

This nonfiction comic from Finland promises two love stories: one personal, one political, and both entwined. The first is between the “Me” and Mikko of the title. The author, a well-known feminist artist, falls for Mikko, an engineering student (horrors!!) who pursues her with a wry doggedness. The second is between the two of them and Annikki, a housing co-op whose history Takalo traces through the Middle Ages, industrialization, and up to the present day.
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Joshua Brown :
POLITICAL CARTOON | ‘I am the chosen one!’

Previous installments are archived at
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Ivan Koop Kuper :
A candid portrait of Daniel DeWitt
Thomas, Part 2

The making of the 13th Floor Elevators’ album, ‘Bull of the Woods.’

Danny Thomas.

By Ivan Koop Kuper | The Rag Blog | August 21, 2019

HOUSTON — A third studio album followed the 13th Floor Elevators’ groundbreaking psych classic, Easter Everywhere. However, when the time came to begin recording again, the band was in the process of unraveling. With limited input from Tommy Hall and Roky Erickson, the responsibility to complete the new album and to fulfill the band’s contractual obligation with their record label, now lay squarely on the collective shoulders of Stacy Sutherland and Danny Thomas.

The Elevator’s final album, Bull of the Woods, is largely regarded as a Stacy Sutherland solo album with limited songwriting contributions from Erickson, Hall, and even Ronnie Leatherman. By the time production began on what is considered the Elevators’ swan song, bassist Danny Galindo had already resigned from his duties in the band and returned to San Antonio.
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Bruce Melton :
Tree planting: A diminishing part of the climate solution

This article looks at what is called nature-based carbon dioxide removal.

A mountainside killed by native bark beetles in Jasper National Park. Across North America, 96 million acres of forest have been mostly killed by a native bark beetle driven berserk because of warming. This is an area the size of New England, New York and New Jersey combined. U.S Forest Service Data shows that U.S national forests are now dying at a rate that is twice as fast as they are growing. Photo by Bruce Melton / The Rag Blog.

By Bruce Melton | The Rag Blog | August 20, 2019

While tree planting has long been a substantial nature-based part of the climate pollution challenge, increasingly we are finding that both existing and future warming are creating a reality where these long-held forest truths are no longer valid. Not only has current warming reduced the viability of forests to store carbon, future warming on our way to the widely held best-case warming scenario of 1.5 C will further reduce forests’ ability to store carbon.

A recent academic publication suggests planting (about a trillion) trees “remains among the most effective strategies for climate change mitigation.” A recent media push for an organization called Trillion Trees, relies on similar logic. Oh, if this were true. Rebuttals can be found here, here, and here. The bottom line is that the academic work behind the trillion tree solution is far from valid.
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Michael Simmons :
Paul Krassner: Nun smooching in America

Krassner chronicled his satirical pranks in his self-published magazine, The Realist.

Paul Krassner at City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, 2009. Photo by Heidi De Vries / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0.

By Michael Simmons | The Rag Blog | August 14, 2019


When I was 12-years old in 1967, my father Matty Simmons published Cheetah — a slick magazine designed for what the press called “hippies.” It was a fine publication — top-shelf scribes like Tom Nolan, Robert Christgau, and Ellen Willis contributed, editor Jules Siegel ran his legendary “Goodbye Surfing, Hello God” profile that announced to the world that Brian Wilson was a mentally ill genius and Mama Cass Elliot doffed her oversized duds and posed nude for a centerfold. But “slick” and “hippies” were oxymoronic and Cheetah tanked at the newsstand, folding in a year.

Though I was but a lad, I was paying attention and there was one contributor whose writings and exploits inspired in me a special delight that appealed to remnants of my mischievous childhood and a more sophisticated analysis of the ever so fucked-up world. That satirical terrorist was Paul Krassner.
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Steve Russell :
The 800 pound gorilla of 2020

All of my life, I now think I
underestimated racism.

Eight hundred pound gorilla. Fair use image.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | August 5, 2019

Nobody chooses their ethnicity was what I thought as a child from the very first time I was ridiculed for being Indian. I did not yet know about Oklahoma as Indian Territory, about the bogus treaties that were forced upon the Five Tribes and then violated to make half a state from Indian Territory in 1907.

When I got old enough to understand the historical raw deal, the story of Oklahoma Territory — the other half of the state — seemed somehow more pure and honest. The tribes on the reservations in Oklahoma Territory were mostly Plains Indians brought there at gunpoint after hot wars. The reservations were gussied up POW camps. There is just something about the moral bankruptcy of entering treaties you have no plans to honor that stuck in my throat before I ever considered studying law.
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Judy Gumbo Albert :
A ‘Yippie original’ remembers ‘Realist’ editor Paul Krassner

Paul became what he called an ‘underground abortion referral service.’

From left, Stew Albert, Judy Gumbo Albert, and Paul Krassner.

By Judy Gumbo Albert | The Rag Blog | August 5, 2019


[Paul Krassner, legendary social satirist, editor of The Realist, and a founder of the Yippies, died July 21, 2019, in Desert Hot Springs, California, at the age of 87.]

I first met Paul at Anita and Abbie Hoffman’s apartment on St. Mark’s Place in April or May of 1968. I ingested Paul’s honey in Lincoln Park right before Yippies were gassed and beaten protesting the Vietnam War at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, and I was there for Paul’s abbreviated testimony at the Chicago Conspiracy Trial in 1969. Paul, my husband Stew, and I remained friends from then on, through Stew’s death in 2006 until today.

Of all the memories I have of Paul, perhaps the most vivid is of a conversation we had about 1962 — before he and I ever met. Paul told me how he helped women obtain abortions. He had written an article in The Realist about a sympathetic physician in Ashland, Pennsylvania, who provided abortion care to women. Abortion was illegal at the time. Paul did not publish the physician’s name.
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Anne Lewis :
STORY & VIDEO PODCAST | Asylum, terror, and the future #6: Nazis among us

Based on case stories by Jennifer Harbury…

Asylum, Terror, and the Future #6 Nazis among us based on case stories of Jennifer Harbury from Anne Lewis on Vimeo.

By Anne Lewis | The Rag Blog | August 4, 2019

I remember the slogan during Vietnam anti-war protests, “Fascism is imperialism turned inwards.” We took that to mean that once we had forced an end to the war (along with the North Vietnamese), the ruling class would turn on U.S. workers for exploitation and profit instead of relatively privileging them.

We now know that it is entirely possible to have both fascism and imperialism at the same time. The slogan was probably based on Lenin’s definition of both imperialism and fascism as embodied in “decaying capitalism.” We also had the illusion that capitalism would collapse in on itself (perhaps as early as 1974) giving us the opportunity to build a better world.
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Bruce Melton :
Yosemite National Park: Climate Change is here, and it’s bad

We are documenting what no others are documenting.

Yosemite National Park, El Capitan, and bark beetle kill. Photo by Bruce Melton / The Rag Blog.

By Bruce Melton | The Rag Blog | July 31, 2019

Bruce Melton will discuss his recent environmental expedition to Yosemite National Park at Thorne Dreyer’s 74th Birthday Bash, a benefit for the New Journalism Project which takes place this Thursday, August 1, 6-9:30 p.m., at The High Road on Dawson. Bruce and his Climate Change Band will perform at the event, as will jazz singer Sarah Sharp.

As of 2017, 2.4 million trees have been killed by bark beetles in Yosemite National Park.

Some say it’s a natural occurrence, and it is. It happens every time our climate changes abruptly.

This story is a part of Climate Change Across America, an epic filmmaking effort to document the ongoing extreme impacts of climate change already happening across North America. This is our fifth year of production and we have driven 52,500 miles in our quest so far, from Brownsville to the North Slope of Alaska, short on money, camping almost always. (See Beach Report 2019, 2018 Photo Tour, 2018 Trip Log, 2018 Instagram, Permafrost 2018, Beach Report 2017, The Desert 2017, The Beetles 2016, and more at
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Shepherd Bliss :
In praise of honeybees

We two-footeds can learn much from the winged honeybees.

“Life vs Monsanto,” gouache on paper. © Cecilia Colomé.

By Shepherd Bliss | The Rag Blog | July 30, 2019

SEBASTOPOL, California — I attended a honeybee gathering recently at a wild place in rural Sebastopol. During my nearly 30 years of organic farming here, I have usually had honeybee hives on my farm. The berries need their pollination.

We two-footeds can learn much from the winged honeybees, especially during this time of international crises. Such bees can help us at this time, which some describe as possibly the final days for humanity, as we move toward a possible exchange of nuclear weapons and the mounting climate change. Fortunately, people in Peru, Scotland, India, and elsewhere honor and pay tribute to honey bees.

“Bees are our family members,” one person at the gathering said. “We honor and pay tribute to this ancient ally of humans. They know the way,” bee whisper host Michael said. “Honeybees call us to awareness. If you are angry or aggressive, the bees feel it.” “How can we transform our anger?” Gary Pace, M.D. asked.
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Jonah Raskin :
Paul Krassner, 1932-2019: American satirist

Krassner, who edited ‘The Realist,’ took up where Lenny Bruce left off.

Paul Krassner at City Lights Bookstore, 2009. Photo by Heidi De Vries / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | July 29, 2019


“He’s gone. Feel free to spread the word,” Michael Simmons said in an email that went out to a few dozen or so of the usual suspects, including Wavy Gravy, Judy Gumbo, Larry (Ratzo) Sloman, Jim Fouratt, Rex Weiner, Aron Kay, Kate Coleman, Jeffrey St. Clair, and Barbara Garson, some of whom had been Yippies, Zippies and their fellow travelers.

“He,” who was now gone at the age of 87, was Paul Krassner, who took up where Lenny Bruce left off, edited The Realist, helped found the Yippies, reinvigorated satire, defended free speech at every opportunity, and who lived at the end of his life in Desert Hot Springs, California, in part because of the climate and also because he could afford to live there.
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Anne Lewis :
STORY & VIDEO PODCAST | Asylum, terror, and the future #5: From military officer to drug lord

Based on case stories by Jennifer Harbury…

Asylum, Terror, and the Future #5 from military officer to drug lord Based on case stories of Jennifer Harbury from Anne Lewis on Vimeo.

By Anne Lewis | The Rag Blog | July 27, 2019

When people say that the current removals of workers and families, use of military force, concentration camps, denial of entrance for refugees, snatching of children from the arms of their mothers and fathers are new under the Trump Administration, they have little understanding of our history. It’s easy to find examples of all of these — based in the pervasive belief that white America is racially, ethically, and politically superior to other nations and peoples, both within our national boundaries and without.

This podcast explores with Jennifer Harbury why it is that so many refugees flee from Central America even though they know full well the danger of the journey with kidnapping, rape, and physical torment, and the potential for torture, imprisonment, and deportation across our border.

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