Category Archives: History

Viva La Revolución Cubana

May Day in La Plaza De La Revolución

Forty-nine years ago today I had the honor of marching through La Plaza De La Revolución as a member of the 6th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. I got to listen to Fidel give one of his shorter speeches (only about 2.5 hours, if memory serves.) The USA has been exceptionally cruel to the people of Cuba. They deserve far better, as do we all.


Psychedelic Republicans

Unopened, so I’ve never seen what these cards look like.

While cleaning out the remaining drawer from a really nice solid wood dresser I purchased when I was living in Playa del Rey around forty years ago and gave to Aimee to use in her bedroom, I found these. Psychedelic Republicans.

Subtitled “Seriously Groovy Trading Cards”, these cards were distributed in three different packs of 8 cards each. The card fronts show purple-haze inspired altered caricatures, and card backs give parody facts. I’ve never opened them, so I have no idea what most of them look like.

The red pack is Series 1, which contains: George W. Bush, Orrin Hatch, Lynne Cheney, William Rehnquist, Trent Lott, Richard Cheney, Laura Bush, and Colin Powell.

The blue pack is Series 2, which contains: Jesse Helms, Donald Rumsfeld, Antonin Scalia, Rush Limbaugh, Condoleezza Rice, Jeb Bush, Henry Hide, and John Ashcroft.

The yellow pack is Series 3, which contains : Karl Rove, Ann Coulter, Ari Fleischer, Katherine Harris, Clarence Thomas, Pat Robertson, Strom Thurmond, and Dan Quayle.

I found two complete sets offered for sale online for $100. Mine aren’t for sale … yet.


What Are We Afraid Of?

A quote from Howard Zinn regarding the power of the people
Power To The People

This has been my pinned Tweet since last November. I think the concept scares the crap out of most people. We have the power, but lack the organization and, perhaps, the will to use that power. Things will change in a heartbeat if we rise up. The question seems to be, how do we go about doing that? Supporting unions is one way, IMO. Voting can be pretty helpful as well, especially in local and state contests.

Building an economy and a society that uplifts instead of denigrates, that offers real support instead of behind-the-back snickers, and that creates opportunities for all isn’t beyond our reach. It does, however, seem to be beyond our imagination. The biggest bogeyman of my time—the “Red Scare”—is alive and well, and it’s still the biggest impediment to progress, IMO.


A Bit of Berzerkeley

There’s a saying, (probably) wrongly attributed to Robin Williams, “If you can remember the 60s, you probably weren’t there.” To tell the truth, I do have a bit of trouble remembering some of the last half of the 60’s, as well as a bit of the 70s, and this is why finding this document in a file in the garage today is important to me.

I was a disc jockey on a very underground radio station in Berzerkely, but I couldn’t quite remember when it was. I knew approximately when, but not with the “precision” this document provides.

My memories – from about 1967, when I made it up to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Franciso at the tail-end of the “Summer of Love,” to the mid-seventies – are a bit jumbled and confused. I knew I was up there around this time, because I remember the walls of my no-water flat weeping from the moisture in the winter air, and the almost deadly asthma attack I had after being up all night doing a show.

Our radio station probably reached about an area six or seven blocks square. That was it. I think we had one-tenth of a watt of transmission power, and a transmitter that our engineer had managed to sneak onto the top of the Engineering building that was on the north campus of UC Berzerkeley.

It was great fun, dangerous for my health (though here I am,) and I learned quite a bit from it. Turned out I was a horrible reporter. I went to the Marin County Courthouse to cover the arraignment of Angela Davis, after Jonathon Jackson attempted to free his brother George, and ended up killing the judge in the case and dying along with his brother. When Angela’s attorney came out to speak with her supporters, she was surrounded by the media and nobody could hear what she was saying, so I turned my recorder into a PA and let her use it to address the crowd. I ended up with nothing for my story. I have no regrets.


Let’s Keep It Real

Apparently, WordPress’s embed tool for Twitter forces publishing of the previous tweet if your publishing a response to it, hence the reappearance of Brian’s initial tweet from the thread. Having lost the account I created in 2006 last year, I am now approaching 900 followers, which is a few thousand less than I had. Some of those followers were from way back and, frankly, there’s no way I could recall who all of them are. Also, back then I was far more active in implementing social media inside the firewall of the large aerospace company I was then working for, as well as collaborating with an international group of practitioners who were interested in facilitating the same thing where they worked. So I’m gratified that, after a mere two hours my response has been liked by 83 people, retweeted four times, and even elicited a one word response, to wit: “I agree.”

The thread goes on for seven more tweets, the last two wrapping up the point he’s making:

In response to this thread I offered the following:

I do want to reiterate the point. In my opinion, too many people hear Margaret Mead’s quote and apply it to the changes they’re hoping to bring about. They’re not wrong, but I suspect their take on it is a little incomplete. I believe this is Brian’s point. A small group of “thoughtful, committed citizens” with bad intent and nefarious motives can also bring about change, and it won’t be anything near what progressives are working toward. Therefore, let’s keep our eyes on the prize and not delude ourselves, ever!


State of the Union

The Criminal in Chief

This treasonous son-of-a-bitch is still holding our nation hostage with his lying and gaslighting. Now 1/6 was a fucking love fest? Donald John Trump incited and instigated the violence that took place at the Capitol on January 6 of this year. He IS responsible for the damages, injuries, and deaths.

I know its fraught with political consequences, but Trump MUST PAY for his criminality. AG Merrick Garland needs to bring charges against him, as well as the people who stormed the Capitol. If he is not held accountable, it will happen again and again until they succeed in tearing this country apart.


¡Hasta La Victoria Siempre! Venceremos

This is my ID card, given to me by the Cuban government when I traveled there in 1973 with the sixth contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. I celebrated my 26th birthday around the time we returned, after two months of construction labor and educational presentations, and culminating in a one-week tour of the island that ended in Santiago de Cuba.

We weren’t actually allowed to travel there back then, but we flew Western Airlines anyway from LAX to MEX, where we transferred to an Ilyushin four-engine turboprop from MEX to HAV. We were met by the CIA in Mexico City, who insisted we pose for pictures before we were allowed to proceed. We were met with a television camera, celebration, and nation-wide coverage upon our arrival at Havana.


Huddled Masses

I recently came across this simple graphic I put together and I took the opportunity to re-read this poem in its entirety. It hit me that I had neither heard nor read the complete poem by Emma Lazarus, entitled “The New Colossus,” before I had put this together (which was probably sometime last year) and, in fact, didn’t have much of a recollection of reading it back then.

So I then posted it on Twitter, which gave me the opportunity to read it a couple more times. Each time, I gained a bit more insight into the message Ms. Lazarus was attempting to convey, and each time I felt her message a bit more deeply.

It didn’t get that many likes, but it did generate enough feedback for me to pay really close attention to the poem, and I took the opportunity to read it several times. It finally brought me this image of my Bubbie, my paternal grandmother, along with my uncles Sam and Al and my aunt Sophie, arriving in New York from the Ukraine, where they had fled the pogroms. My grandfather, who I never knew, had made his way to Chicago and had worked to earn and save enough to send for all four of them to book “steerage” to the United States. My father was the first-born in the United States.

Reading her words and looking at this beautiful picture of the Statue of Liberty lifting “her lamp beside the golden door” moved me to tears as I thought of the struggles my ancestors must have endured, knowing as well that most of them never made it past their sixties, if they made it there. My father didn’t quite hit his 60th birthday before he died and, as I mentioned, I never knew my grandfather. I only saw my grandmother once that I can recall, as we lived in California and they lived in Chicago.

I also felt a deep sense of gratitude that my family was able to escape those pogroms relatively intact and they were able to resettle here in the U.S., where I was born a quarter century later. The more I read the poem, the deeper I feel that gratitude, though I’m disappointed to find things have been slipping backward in the struggle for justice and equality and in the level of welcome this country has traditionally shown (even if sometimes half-heartedly) to the ongoing flow of immigration.

I hope it moves some who read it as it moved me. This is the attitude I want my country to have toward immigration.


Memories of the Sixties & Seventies

A Few of my Collectibles From Back in the Day

This is just a part of the collection of my political memorabilia from the late sixties and early seventies. The button at the top left is from Radio Habana, as is the pic of Che, which has a 1973 calendar on the back. The button with the torch I got when I was in Cuba in 1973 as well; it’s from Cabo Verde y Guinea Bissau. The Cubans were providing military assistance for their liberation struggle and we were fortunate enough to be able to meet a few of their fighters, who gave us the button.

The one next to that is from the fight to lower the voting age to draft age (I couldn’t vote until I was 21.) Next over, to the right, as a Vietnam era veteran I was eligible for membership in VVAW and I worked very closely with them for several years during that time. The next one conveys my general feeling about drugs … which hasn’t changed much in the ensuing years. The last button is from the time when Angela was on trial for providing the weapons Jonathan Jackson used in an ill-fated attempt to free his brother, George Jackson, from prison while he was in court at the Marin County Courthouse.

Below that is my ticket to the fundraising concert for Angela, where I was one of the armed bodyguards for the McAfee family, who put their farm up for Angela’s bail. Finally, the ticket in the middle is from when I attended an event at UCLA where several of the defendants in the “conspiracy” spoke about their trial. Sacha Baron Cohen was, regrettably, not present that day. Neither was Abbie Hoffman.


Keep It To Yourself, Please

Recently, I came across an article on Axios.com with the title “America is losing its religion.” In the article, the author (Bryan Walsh) opens by saying, “New surveys show Americans’ membership in communities of worship has declined sharply in recent years, with less than 50% of the country belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque.” He goes on to list the Gallup poll results he rests his premise on and concludes with the following thought: “But conventional religion’s power is on the wane, and it might take a miracle for that to change.”

I can’t say I’m bothered in the slightest about this trend. Being an atheist, I have a somewhat dim view of organized religion, especially when it’s used to deny rights to others based on some cockamamie interpretation of words that were uttered thousands of years ago, when life, economics, and society in general were much different than they are now.

On the other hand, I understand, and empathize with, the desire for community that religious observance brings to those who practice, but belief in a supreme intelligence/being that literally created us and watches over us is, IMO, patently absurd. I find acknowledging and appreciating how physics, chemistry, and cosmology (in other words, science) explain where we came from far more compelling and beautiful than anything to be found in any religious text I’ve read. And to be clear, my general attitude toward religion is, “what you believe is none of my business … until you start telling me or others we are required to believe as you do or we’re damned.”

So … here’s the deal. If attending services at a “house of worship” is your cup of tea, and you attend with others who share your beliefs or your faith (however you define those) I say “zei gezunt,” which is Yiddish for “be well” or, as I tend to think of it, and somewhat more ironically “more power to you.” Just keep it to yourself. Don’t bring it to the commons. Enjoy it for you and those who you consider part of your fellowship, but don’t for one minute suppose you can tell others this is the ONLY way. Do that and you will richly deserve to be shunned by others who don’t feel as you do.

PS – You can read the article, which contains a bit more detail than I’m including, here.


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