Category Archives: RagBlog

Joshua Brown :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Diversionary attack

Previous installments are archived at
http://www.joshbrownnyc.com/ldw.htm
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Allen Young :
FEATURE | New Left leader continued idealistic path with worker-owned company

SDS veteran Paul Millman retires after decades leading Vermont cooperative.

Paul Millman at his Chroma Technology desk in April, as he plans for retirement. Photo by Dale Kondracki.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | May 25, 2020

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — “So what are you going to do when you grow up?” That’s a question asked, in a kindly way, of many children. However, if you had a conservative uncle, and you were his 20-something niece or nephew active in the anti-war movement and New Left of the 1960s, you might have had that uncle toss that same question in the most snide manner.

Indeed, many in the older generation of those times thought that left-wing activists were spoiled brats. But the question “What next?” became very relevant for such activists by the mid-1970s when the Vietnam War came to an end and the thrust for change lost its momentum. Certainly, the once exciting word “revolution” no longer seemed relevant.

What did people do? While a few gave up their idealism, it is my firm belief that most sought new pathways to be followed with many of the former values and the idealism still intact. People became educators, health care workers, writers, artists, union organizers, salesmen, farmers, small business owners, secretaries and more — but the idea that they “sold out” does not really hold up.
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Thom Woodruff :
VERSE | Enchanted Rock: Native American Heritage

Roadrunner. Image by timeflies1955 / Pixabay.

Enchanted Rock
Native American Heritage


So he sat on Enchanted Rock with me
and played his flute – gently, slowly…
Heat and the rock and the green of the day
made the slow flight of turkey vultures hold sway
We sat until time stopped. Then saw the stillness change.
A thin roadrunner stretched her feet towards his flute,
coming as close as any wild creature may. He continued to play.
It seemed that thin bird leaped a little, moving to the motion
of the winged flute, and her dance as natural as the sky
We smiled, and watched, as that roadrunner strutted by
Amused, bemused and never knowing why
A flute and four eyes could conjure up fauna
to be so attracted as to dance on by.

Thom Woodruff
Austin


[Austin poet Thom Woodruff (Thom the World Poet) was named State of Texas Beat Poet Laureate, 2020-2022, by the National Beat Poetry Foundation, Inc.]

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Larry Piltz :
VERSE | The Wrens of Consciousness

Wrens, male and female. Illustration by John Gerrard Keulemans, 1888 / Wikimedia Commons.

The Wrens of Consciousness


Fittingly and unfailingly

in flits and a flash

tiny and so brash

flirting with bright dusk

still time enough to busk

a spring wren couple

fly in and out and to

wisp branch tips

and alight each stop anew

on their silhouette trips

from one tree to another

one rising over the other
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Jay D. Jurie :
OPINION | Biden our time?

A reply to David P. Hamilton about the 2020 election.

Weimar Republic cartoon. Caricature from Simplicissimus.

By Jay D. Jurie | The Rag Blog | May 20, 2020

Trump wants to turn Washington upside down — that was his first message and his winning message. We want the exact same thing. — House ‘Freedom Caucus’ co-founder Mick Mulvaney, 2016

SANFORD, FLA. — David P. Hamilton has written a critique of Joe Biden, presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee for president (“Opinion: Why I Won’t Vote for Joe Biden,” The Rag Blog, May 16, 2020). He argues that since Texas will invariably vote for Trump it makes more sense for progressives to vote for the Green Party than for Biden; if the Greens get enough votes, they’ll score federal matching funds. Hamilton’s critique of Biden is largely on target; there’s much to dislike about his record and candidacy. Similarly, there is appeal in garnering funds for progressive electoral politics.

In this regard, it’s too bad Hamilton spends so much time detailing what’s wrong with Biden while the only case he makes for the Greens is an opportunity to “assert your progressive principles.” Additionally, while it obviously makes some difference to Hamilton who the Democrats run for president, one is left to wonder if he’s advocating support for the Green candidate, regardless of who that turns out to be. That seems premature, if nothing else.

Unfortunately, there’s a whole lot more at stake than simply not voting for Biden or picking up matching funds. This coming November is truly a watershed election. Over seven years ago The Rag Blog published an article I wrote wondering when the U.S. might arrive at a “Weimar Moment.” This referred to the 1932-33 period in Germany when the Social Democrats and Communists were preoccupied with fighting each other rather than the Nazis.

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Jonah Raskin :
BOOKS | ‘Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties’

A new book by two stellar ex-SDS members, Mike Davis and Jon Wiener.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | May 20, 2020

SONOMA COUNTY, Cal. — To really get the most from this huge history about the City of the Angels in the 1960s, it helps to have been a member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and a part of the New Left, which reinvented American radicalism and redefined political protest in an era when the U.S. empire seemed to be on the ropes at home and overseas.

Mike Davis and Jon Wiener, the two authors of Set the Night on Fire (Verso; $34.95) were both SDS members and stellar SDS organizers. Their two-page-long biographies at the back of the book offer in detail the kind of information that would have helped J. Edgar Hoover get his rocks off in 1965.

Davis says that he burned his draft card, and that with two other SDS members, Margaret Thorpe and Patty Lee Parmalee, he raised hell on L.A. college campuses. Wiener says that he helped organize Princeton SDS, brought Tom Hayden to campus and wrote for New Left Notes and Liberation News Service.
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Alice Embree :
OPINION |We have a binary choice in November

A second Trump administration would be an existential crisis for democracy, the planet.

Image from Needpix.com.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | May 19, 2020

I signed a letter with Rag Blog editor Thorne Dreyer and 75 other founders and early leaders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) that appeared online in The Nation, April 16, 2020. The letter was directed at young activists of today. It argued for support of Biden to defeat Trump.

Biden was not my first, second, third, or fourth choice. I did not vote for him. But this fact was known by the time COVID-19 shut down open society: Biden had gotten more votes than Bernie by a decisive margin. More important now, Bernie has endorsed him and so has Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

I do not believe that electoral politics is the only path to change. I do believe, however, that we have a binary choice in November. We live in a winner-take-all electoral system, deformed by the Electoral College, warped by partisan gerrymandering, and made toxic by corporate campaign contributions. The other side in this fight believes that they must suppress the vote to win, and they are doing everything they can on that front. They are obstructing, among other things, the means of voting safely, by mail. These are the cards we are dealt in 2020.
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David P. Hamilton :
OPINION | Why I won’t vote for Joe Biden

Principally, there is the matter of Biden’s record, consistently in service to the rich.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, 2019.
Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr.

By David P. Hamilton | The Rag Blog | May 16, 2020


UPDATE: We have received substantial feedback about this opinion piece. We stand by our posting of the article but want to make one thing clear: It only reflects the views of one writer and not those of The Rag Blog or its editors. — Thorne Dreyer


First, he’s from Delaware. Delaware is the paradigm of corporate political hegemony. It is more a tax haven than a state. It has 0.3% of the U.S. population, but 64% of the Fortune 500 major corporations call it home. Typically, these corporate “headquarters” are no more than a post office box.

This fiction is maintained because of Delaware’s very corporate-friendly climate. “Big corporations, small-time businesses, rogues, scoundrels and worse — all have turned up at Delaware addresses in hopes of minimizing taxes, skirting regulations, plying friendly courts or, when needed, covering their tracks.”

According to a 2019 Mother Jones article, “Delaware was less a democracy than a fiefdom, contorting its laws to meet the demands of its corporate lords.” Such is the corporate capitalist swamp from which Joe Biden emerged and that he represented in the Senate for 40 years.
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Roger Baker :
ECONOMICS | The economy of the pandemic

What was unbalanced before can’t be restored to the previous exponential growth state.

Seasonally adjusted miles traveled by month. Seasonally adjusted data are modeled by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, U.S. Department of Transportation. For additional seasonally adjusted travel data and information, go here:
http://www.transtats.bts.gov/OSEA/SeasonalAdjustment/

By Roger Baker | The Rag Blog | May 17, 2020

The whole global system of finance capital is so loaded down with unrepayable fiat currency debt that it has become like a bubble, like a fragile network of global supply chains. The system is now so burdened by interest due on the debt that a strong external shock like the pandemic can initiate an interactive global economic collapse.

The central banks like the Fed try to keep their economies pumped up with easy credit to maintain a population of consumers happy to keep spending themselves into debt, together with the consumerist spending inducement of mild inflation. The average American now dies in debt.

Now, the effect of the pandemic is to cause the lower income portion of the population to shelter in place and stop spending except on essential survival needs. This spending pattern is highly deflationary or conducive to stagflation. An economy which has a lot of discretionary spending like for travel and recreation and which hires a lot of service labor tends to contract in two ways, as both the customers and the service workers tend to stop spending.
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Jonah Raskin :
LITERATURE | Obit for the American Shelley: Michael McClure (1932-2020)

Beat poet, author of ‘The Beard,’ died in Oakland on May 4.

Michael McClure, 2004. Photo by Gloria Graham / Wikimedia Commons.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | May 14, 2020

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. — Along with a star-studded cast of Sixties personalities, among them Timothy Leary, Dick Gregory, Jerry Rubin, and Lenore Kandel, Michael McClure performed at the Human Be-In that was held in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on January 14, 1967. That event, which preceded the Summer of Love, is said to have ushered in the era of sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, and rebellion.

But the Sixties really began in San Francisco on October 7, 1955, at an art gallery known as the Six. There were no psychedelic drugs, but there was plenty of inexpensive red wine, and there was, apparently, an orgy afterwards. The Six Gallery reading brought about a revolution in American poetry that shook the literary establishment.

Of the five poets who performed their work at the Six Gallery, only one of them — Gary Snyder — is still alive, and he’s 90. Michael McClure, who was born in Kansas in 1932, died in Oakland, California, on May 4, 2020. He was 87. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who attended the landmark cultural event at the Six, is still alive at 100, but he didn’t read any of his work. While he published the Beat Generation writers, he wasn’t really a Beat, but a bohemian, a painter, an anarchist and in a way petty bourgeois, as the owner of City Lights Books and City Lights Publishing. Too bad there aren’t more petty bourgeois individuals like him.
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Joshua Brown :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Tripped up

Previous installments are archived at
http://www.joshbrownnyc.com/ldw.htm
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Allen Young :
TELEVISION | Fascinated by the ‘Tiger King’

This bizarre human being has become the most famous gay man in the USA.

Tiger King image from Netflix.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | May 13, 2020

ROYALSTON, Mass.Tiger King, an eight-episode documentary series, has caught the attention of millions of television viewers. This show is not for everyone, for reasons I’ll explain below, but I’m fascinated by it.

My commentary here is largely influenced by my identity as a gay man and by the fact that I write often on gay-related topics, but this is not a gay show any more than it is an animal rights show.

A straight friend of mine who is about half my age (I’m 78) suggested I might want to watch this unusual series. I don’t watch a lot of TV, and didn’t know a thing about this program, but I took his advice. (Spoiler alert: You could watch the series with the shock and awe that I experienced, but if you read this first, your experience will be different.)
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