Category Archives: RagBlog

Jonah Raskin :
FEATURE | American teens and the
insurrection of 2020

Caught between passion and cool.

Colin. Photo by Jonah Raskin / The Rag Blog.

“People don’t ask us what we think about stuff.”
Gabriel (Gabe) Gutierrez, 18-year-old Californian and member of Generation Z

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | June 10, 2020

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif — I took a stand the other day by taking a knee and kept it for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time that Derek Chauvin pressed his white knee down on George Floyd’s black neck and ended his life. A bullet to his head or the heart would probably have killed him faster and been less painful. But Chauvin’s point seemed to be to make Floyd’s passing as painful as possible and with the least amount of effort on his part while Floyd struggled to breathe.

I was not the only person who took a knee outside the police department in the town where I live. Most of the other demonstrators were white adults over the age of 40, though some teenagers, and some people of color, participated. A young African-American woman who had shaved one side of her head, and arranged the hair on the other side in cornrows, told me, “I just moved to California from Utah where it feels more like a police state than it does here.”

Young African-Americans like the former Utah resident, seem to know how to make eloquent statements with their hair and their bodies with more ease than many of their white counterparts. On her face mask, in white letters on a black background, she had written George Floyd’s words, “I Can’t Breathe,” which struck me as more timely and more relevant than “Black Lives Matter.”

”I Can’t Breathe” is an urgent matter of life and death. It’s individual, universal and inclusive.

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Joshua Brown :

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Jonah Raskin :
BOOKS | The doctor is sick

A review of Susan Reverby’s new book about former leftist fugitive Dr. Alan Bergman.

Co-Conspirator for Justice: The Revolutionary Life of Dr. Alan Bergman by Susan M. Reverby (2020: University of North Carolina Press; $30)

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | June 6, 2020

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif — Marilyn Buck doesn’t show up in Susan Reverby’s biography of Dr. Alan Berkman (1945-2009) until about page 100 in a 300-page book, when she hooked up with members of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). From that decisive moment in the 1970s, until her death from cancer in 2010, Buck played a vital role in Berkman’s life — they were briefly lovers — and also in the armed underground groups, including the BLA, to which they were affiliated.

Like her, Berkman died of cancer. Like her, he served time in prison, though not as long. Like her, he thought of himself as a revolutionary. Unlike her he was Jewish, Ivy League, and East Coast all the way.

Born in 1947 in Temple, Texas, and the daughter of a liberal Episcopal minister, Buck belonged to SDS, was a volunteer at the original Rag in Austin, wrote for New Left Notes, worked with Third World Newsreel, and in 1979 presumably helped BLA member, Assata Shakur, escape from prison.
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Alice Embree :
ANALYSIS | Vote by mail in Texas: Do it!

In the courts, the issue continues to be a roller
coaster ride.

The author, with Vote by Mail application.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | June 5, 2020

AUSTIN — In this ongoing pandemic and national uprising over the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Black Lives Matter. And democracy matters. It matters that Rep. Steven King was defeated in Iowa and it matters that Ella Jones was elected as the first woman and first African American mayor of Ferguson, Missouri.

I want you to vote. And I want you to vote by mail if you can. Do it for the poll workers. Do it for your own safety. Do it because Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton doesn’t want you to do it. Do it because the entire Republican Party hates the idea.

Just do it. And do it soon.

In Texas you need to mail in an application. Get it done if you want to vote in the Texas primary runoff July 14. I suggest you take a photo of yourself wearing a mask and holding your stamped envelope. Post the photo on social media. That will doubly disturb our disturbed president. And it might give our indicted Texas Attorney General heartburn as well.
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Jonah Raskin :
ANALYSIS | Rioting reflections, again

‘A riot is the language of the unheard.’ — Martin Luther King

Photo courtesy of Jonah Raskin.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | June 1, 2020

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif — I have not actually been in the streets protesting over the past week or so, but I have followed the news of the rioting and also the news of the looting. I have been with the protesters in spirit, albeit not with the looters. A longtime New York friend of mine who is a journalist and magazine editor sent me a photo of some demonstrators in his neighborhood. One of them carried a sign that said, “A riot is the language of the unheard, MLK.” He nailed it.

Indeed, Dr. King understood that people go into the streets to riot when their voices are not heard, when the authorities don’t listen to them, and don’t change any of the egregious conditions that lead to riots.

Readers and contributors to The Rag Blog surely understand King’s statement. Some of them have probably rioted in the streets of Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Austin. I have protested in the streets many times in the nation’s capital, and from New York to California. I have also taken part in riots, trashed windows, and battled cops. I did this most dramatically on December 9, 1969, five days after two Chicago Black Panthers, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, were shot and killed by law enforcement. I had to put my body on the line. Thousands of other men and women joined me.
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Thom Woodruff :
VERSE | Three poems

Digital World. Image from Wikimedia Commons.


of hugs, kisses, cuddles (personal contact)
and our world has now turned virtual/digital
Like being told you can ONLY have online banking
or that your credit card has been hacked
The lack of personal community is a loss
How many hugs in an open mic?
How many eye to eye contacts
that cannot be replaced by ZOOM Meetups?
Pot lucks are gone-the sharing of food
can never be a FACEBOOK photo of a meal.
Neither a revolution, nor evolution-
more a retrograde flattening of the curve
so the virus does not steal all our lives
But part of our lives is strictly personal-
Parts of us are missing and will never return
Somewhere, in the Cloud, are our Real Lives
More than Smartphone SD cards, more than computer hard drives.
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Joshua Brown :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Diversionary attack

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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 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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