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Jack Ragsdale

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About Jack Ragsdale

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  • Birthday 01/02/1914

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  • Location
    San Francisco, CA USA
  • Interests
    In the simplest terms, my interest is in history, government, gardening and writing. Back in 1985 I wrote a history of “America's Splendid Little Wars.” Recently I have been writing my memoirs and for the last several years I have been attending lectures at the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco.
  1. I listen to the BBC most days and prefer it to any other source. In San Francisco I listen to NBC News (owned by General Electric Corp), hear local radio and TV as well as read the local Chronicle, a Hearst Corporation paper. All the latter accept George Bush's infamous lie "War on Terror" cry, connecting it with Iraq. It is an interesting commentary on San Francisco, America's most progressive town, that all our American information sources are corporate and far right. Jack Ragsdale
  2. Iran is in the news again and the question “Why do they so hate America?” is on the minds of the pundits who deal out the news to us innocents. Twenty years ago, I wrote a book I was not able to publish, the title: “America’s “Splendid Little Wars”. In my chapter four, I laid out the reasons in 6000 words. I will be glad to send it without charge to anyone requesting it: jbrags@comcast.net.
  3. I am grateful for Jim Hudson’s reply to my email to a friend in which I told of a wartime experience more than sixty years ago. I’m grateful to him because he laid out the vast span of our differences in the present. He has confused the issue a little by saying, that considering the geography of my origin, I am a Socialist. I have lived my life in Georgia, New York, Texas, and California in that order. I reply: We have a Republican governor, who I think a clown, wildly embraced by a giddy, irresponsible electorate for no other reason than that he is a famous actor in highly unrealistic movies containing much violence. His other fame is for having pinched the butts of many women. By his actions to date he has favored the very rich and collected a political war chest making him the envy of every politician. His major thrust has been to reduce taxes on the rich. He is reputed to be the owner of a fortune of four to five hundred million dollars, thus qualifying to be a CEO of sorts, the same ilk that runs our national government. The most powerful world governments have evolved into entities which continually stir us in a giant boiling pot of war, occupying us constantly with mortal danger and the production of arms. Thomas Jefferson’s notion of “the pursuit of happiness” (which he borrowed from the Scots) is lost on our leaders, who pursue (even as did Caesar and Hitler) conquests, whether it be land or oil. I think that wasteful of human life and the resources of the planet.
  4. Hi R: This morning I am experiencing the most pain ever in both my hand and right arm. Kaiser wouldn't give me the remedy I asked for--I must spend another $20 and lose of another half-day in their pursuit. Thanks for your email this morning. I feel for you waking in the night without being able to go back to sleep. I've had a lot of that. In re your comments on the little piece I sent you, I have only selected memories of that trip and I wonder why. Happenings much older are fresh in my mind. Why? On remembering, I now I think we stopped in Liverpool and later did go to Antwerp. I can't assign trips I made to those places to any other time. It's mixed up in my head. When I was in London the war was still on. The tale I told you is without its raison d'etre. Ten or more years ago, I wrote the story to a friend with whom I was and am rather intimate--in the sense that we exchange stories in vulgar tasteless language. We are both cynical and contemptuous of our Melican fellows. You probably knew why I was walking in Picadilly late at night, and you are right:. It was for no good. I wrote the tale for Matt as a trial and I thought it good then--but it is lost.. I have it somewhere-- but where? I thought [then] that I grasped the intense lonliness I felt that night. I would have given anything to be with someone. As I said, in every doorway there was a soldier and a girl in tight embrace. There were so many people on the street, it was difficult to maneuver. I still retain a vision of the many small stores with just a step up and room for two people to crowd into the small doorway of a closed shop. There was light fog, cold and a darkness in which everything was visible but only in misshapen outline. I was familiar with the lighting in New York at that time--it had been reduced. In London there were no streetlights--just creepy darkness that intensified the cold. Eventually I met a girl who was alone, and spoke to her-- she told me she lived nearby. In a matter of minutes we were mounting the steps to a flat on the second or third floor. She was slim and pretty, smiled easily and was quite agreeable--not whorey or worn-out--probably no more than 23 or 24. Since the room was cold we undressed quickly and jumped in the huge old-fashioned bed under ample covers. Nothing could have been more pleasant--my fantasy certainly was being fulfilled. After some minutes of tactile exploring we proceeded toward the main goal. I can imagine that my mind at this point became quite clouded with dreams lacking a lot of logic--but those dreams were not destined to endure. All of a sudden, the girl was standing on the floor beside the bed, excitedly pulling on clothes, addressing me: "Are you coming with me?" She was literally tearing at her clothes. It was only then that I could hear the siren of alarm, and somewhat wearily, as my mind began to deal with reality, I put my feet oin the floor and slowly decided that I would not go. "Put on your clothes," she said to me, "you can't stay here, but you can sit with ..." she mentioned a feminine name. In great haste, she took me across the hall to another flat. In a small room, unlighted except for the flickering fire in the grate, a woman a little older than I was sitting, bundled-up, in a comfortable chair. She pointed to another comfortable chair set toward the fire and I sat with her. After the exchange of platitudinous greetings, we fell into the most pleasant conversation immaginable. She told me she had a bad cold but that she never went out in case of airraids--just carried on her regular occupations. I responded with some petty detail about my ship and train ride down to London. In that room there was utter Serenity. We were aware of muffled sounds outside but we gave them no recognition. The small size of the room added to its comfy cosiness. What wouldn't I give now to know that woman's name and her place in society today at one hundred and one. Alas, I was thirty then and she must have been near forty. After thirty minutes, "my girl" peeked in the door and I left my friend and her fire. Dutifully, as two soldiers, "my girl" and I returned to that big comfortable bed, resumed our places and completed our assignment. The Magic--, it was no longer. I mozied my way back to my musty, heavily curtained hotel.room in the Prince something or other. The next day I went back to Euston station and took a train north. The only other memory I have of that place is one on entering the river leading to the town. The entry is through a sizable estuary or river mouth. I was standing on the bridge with the Chief Mate. It was not my watch, so it must have been his-- my first trip on that ship, it may have been only my second trip as third mate. All of a sudden there was the boom of a cannon and the mate immediately changed course. It was a warning we were headed for disaster and I hadn't understood. I remember that I felt relief it had not happened on my watch for I would not have known what to do. Thank God we won that war. That victory made it possible for us to go on to other and even greater things: The Bay of Pigs, presidents like Lyndon Johnson, Nixon and George W. Bush. WHAT WONDERS WE HAVE WROUGHT. God looks down on us with approval and all the little Iraqi children who have been blasted into heaven are grateful to us for ending their lives. God blesses America.
  5. Brent: If it is your goal to compare liberals with conservatives, perhaps a good place to start (as you already have) is with Reagan who was a liberal Democrat who turned conservative Republican. My opinion is that he turned mostly through convenience after going to work for General Electric. He was their spokesperson for many years and they lavished favors on him. Another problem is the fact that the Democrats in recent years have moved to the right so that the difference between parties has become blurred. I have lived through the administrations of many presidents and have only one I can admire--Franklin Roosevelt. Other presidents range from some who were professionally competent but total failures like Hoover or neuroticly borderline insane like Nixon. All politics now is corrupted by the need to have vast sums of money to run for office. Senator Hollings of S. C. said recently on retiring that he had to raise thousand of dollars every day for six years to run a campaign. Nothing could be more unhealthy. What can we think of a president like Bush to goes to war on the basic of falsehoods, costing the lives of 100,000 Iraquis (estimate by British Medical JournalLancet) and 1300 American soldiers plus thousands of soldiers injured. Where is his high moral value and that of the Americans voter who sees war as a remedy over patient negotiation. Please also read George Monbiot's posting of yesterday. It has good lessons for any student of politics. What works and what does not. Best wishes Jack Ragsdale
  6. I have a thing about U. S. presidents. Their power is awesome. Under some, it has been used wisely. Nowadays, things are different, our chief executive’s clout extends over the whole world. His power now is not just awesome, it’s perilous to human survival on the planet. Our citizens’ fascination with raw national supremacy, exotic weaponry, and peace through ever greater strength, is a fatal attraction leading us to what some predict is to be our doomsday. Presidents the stature of Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt come to us only rarely; Franklin Pierces and Gerald Fords have more often been our lot. They served us well enough in everyday budgetary matters and the appointment of consuls. Unfortunately, we, the innocent general public, without sophistication to understand the complex manipulations of modern political life, are at the mercy of spinners, corporate media, and hampered by a herd of voters who can’t find Paris on the map. It’s enough to make an atheist turn to prayer to a God who shows little favor to the masses who adore him… her? Darn it, seems everything is in doubt. The result is general cynicism and a move into anarchy—in no way to be confused with the political movement of that name. Those people are of a higher order than those of us who follow more conservative political parties. The religious conservatives who now hold power in the person of Chief Dunce George Bush, practice one kind of anarchy—destruction and wild spending. Kansans practice another kind. Of them someone has said: “Who on earth would want health care when we can deny gays the right to marry?” Some person of advanced scientific knowledge practiced anarchy by mailing infectious anthrax powder to politicians as though those guys open their own mail. A mail room person died. Powerful CEO’s do their part by pillaging their companies—often walking away squeaky clean. Jack Welch of General Electric gave some of his back, but that adjustment came about only because of a nasty divorce proceeding. If I can’t have it, I’ll get my satisfaction by denying it to you. The ultimate practice of this kind of anarchy is war, bringing out the basest of human impulses, so that torture and general cruelty become a part of the bag of tricks, and très patriotic. Listen friends: we have a mess on our hands that will take some straightening out.
  7. To Mr. George Mombiot’s references to Fascism, conspicuous consumption, etc, I would add appalling ignorance and fun as descriptive of our present circumstance. Vice President Cheney and Rumsfeld and to a lesser extent, those around them, are enjoying themselves immensely. The attention, the importance. The grip on power. But they are little men without any vision. Nothing they accomplish will endure. Their success is to have turned government away from its duty to protect and serve. They are crass businessmen. War brutalizes all of us. I cannot deal with the day to day movements in this war which to me is madness. On TV, I have seen mothers and fathers of fallen troops express their approval of the war and its high aims. I believe we will “prevail” as they say, but I doubt that the time required will be less than our Vietnam experience. For the soldiers in the field and for us at home, the reward is pain. Our unlearned lesson is that empire building is costly both in blood and money—and long out of date. Surely the Victorians were the last successful ones at that enterprise. We Americans had our best chance in our war with Spain. When we let the Philippines go half a century later, its vast riches and the permanent prosperity “the China trade” would give us had not materialized. We lost 5,000 dead and the Filipinos between one and two hundred thousand. Cuba slipped through our fingers as so much water but we still have not given up our obsession with it. We retain the same silly obsession with Nicaragua. Did we learn any lesson from the Spanish-American War? Indeed we did not. Names like Hearst, Pulitzer and Mahan are not remembered in that context, and that of Rev. Josiah Strong and Senator Beveridge, not at all. Only Teddy Roosevelt, the instigator of that holocaust for Cuban and Filipino peasants, achieved heroic status. His effigy stands in the Black Hills of Dakota with Washington and Jefferson. In the play Arsenic and Old Lace Roosevelt was portrayed as a war-crazed chowderhead. For all his bluster and literary output, I have never been able to see him in any other light.
  8. You ask: What will the new Bush administration bring to America in these next four years? The answer is: More of the same, much intensified. The movers are men typical of Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove, the drivers of the “Movement.” They are business oriented but in a manner Texas style—not traditional. They come on the world scene surveying its assets as their own to be manipulated and utilized under their control. Government is their instrument. Forget Bush; he is the functionary who signs the papers and poses for pictures. However much they speak of “order,” and their abhorrence of “chaos,” the latter is the principal method for getting their way. While they see their way as new and unique, it is a variation on ancient Empire building. They are merely filling in the day to day operations with immense personal satisfaction of the feel of immense power in their hands. Since the 1930s America has had some social programs on its mind—Security in old age and health care for all as well as some control of poverty. The Cheney/Rove group has dismantled that movement by a method of impoverishing the government with war, gifts to the most wealthy and to business. Jack Ragsdale San Francisco
  9. I have lived in four principal US cities: Atlanta, New York City, Dallas and San Francisco—in each for long periods except Dallas where I lived two years. In the 1930s, as seaman, I traveled widely, ending my service in the merchant marine as Chief Mate on freighters in 1945. One of my last trips was to England in (as I recall) 1944 during the time of the buzz bombs. My reading has been mostly in history (American, European and African), biography and religion (T. Roosevelt, Shaw, Russell, Wilde, M. B. Eddy and Joseph Smith) and adventure (Burton, Lowell Thomas in the 1930s). Recent reading was “The Opium Wars” by two authors whose names I did not know-- Texans, as I recall. I am now reading “Black House” a novel by Paul Theroux. I am a particularly slow reader and have read few popular novels for lack of time. I am as pained as 55 million of my fellow citizens are at my country's addiction to war. I am equally pained that some millions of Americans reject gentle Mr. Darwin’s carefully worked out findings. Back in 1925 after the Scopes Monkey Trial and conviction, I threw in the towel and became a believer—in Darwin. I was thrilled on my first voyage, 1935—New York to Capetown and Mombasa—when we passed close to Ascension Island and, a day or so later, St. Helena, crossing Darwin’s path on his return via South America to his home after five years of adventure and learning. For the last ten years of my working life, I had a store in Greenwich Village. Of those who took over that business, one was killed in a robbery a year or two later. As they say, there but for the grace of God.
  10. IHELP!) I need to have detailed instructions I can print out on How to Maneuver. To date haven't been able to get around. I would like to contribute to the J. F. Kennedy forum. I am an active writer. Jack Ragsdale jbrags@comcast.net
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