Steve Early :
BOOKS | Nick Licata’s ‘Becoming a Citizen Activist’ a guidebook for progressive politics

Former Seattle City Councilor’s book offers pointers for taking Bernie Sanders’ revolution to the local level.

By Steve Early | The Rag Blog | July 25, 2017


Reviewer Steve Early and author Nick Licata will talk about “Rebel Cities in the era of Trump” as Thorne Dreyer‘s guests on Rag Radio, Friday, July 28, 2-3 p.m. (CT) on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and streamed live here.

Steve Early and Nick Licata will also be featured at “A Tale of Two Rebel Cities,” a book party and discussion at Scholz Biergarten in Austin on Thursday, July 27, 7-9 p.m. For more information, go here.


[Becoming a Citizen Activist: Stories, Strategies & Advice for Changing Our World by Nick Licata (January 5, 2016: Sasquatch Books; Hardcover; 224 pp.]

As the 2016 political season drew to an end, hundreds, if not thousands, who had been “feeling the Bern” started turning their eye to local politics.

Many would heed the call of Minnesota Congressman and Sanders supporter Keith Ellison:
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Larry Piltz :
VERSE | TRUE HOMELAND

American Bird of Prey by DonkeyHotey / Flickr.

TRUE HOMELAND

Why is this sweet world we live in
so torn between chaos and Zen
with extremes at either end
like enemies and lifelong friends
starvation and stock dividends
a young child’s death yet love transcends
are we really blowing in these winds
with not that much on which to depend
can we compromise in a scale of ten
must our safe place be a lion’s den
and our safe word something to defend
must we wait around for the worst to begin
if peace breaks out don’t we all win
there’s a lot to learn if we don’t pretend
that chaos comes from some original sin
what starts the wars again and again
who stands to gain from this which men
they must not care we all are kin
nor care about the shape we’re in
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | ‘800 Words’ is a fun Aussie-Kiwi comedy-drama

The top-watched series features enjoyable characters & situations with an Aussie family trying to fit in to a New Zealand town.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | July 24, 2017

Australian-New Zealand TV series 800 Words is a hit
with all demos.

[In his Rag Blog column, Alan Waldman reviews some of his favorite films and TV series that readers may have missed, including TV dramas, mysteries, and comedies from Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Scotland. Most are available on DVD, Netflix and/or Netflix Instant Streaming, and some episodes are on YouTube.]

Last year PBS stations ran the first eight-episode season of the top-watched Australian-New Zealand TV series 800 Words; the second season has aired down there and a third season has been ordered. At imdb.com more than 91.3% of 601 viewers gave it thumbs up and 25.1% rated it a perfect 10.

It was a hit with all demos, particularly females 45+ and 18 and younger. My third and favorite wife and I enjoyed it greatly. The first two seasons will be coming to Netflix. YouTube charges you to see episodes, but here are two consecutive free trailers.

This year the series did very well at Australia’s top awards (Logies), snagging best actor for star Erik Thompson, most outstanding newcomer actress for Melina Vidler, who plays his daughter, Shay, and best new talent and breakthrough star of tomorrow nominations for Benson Jack Anthony who plays Thompson’s son, Arlo, plus noms for best drama program and most outstanding drama series.

Thompson plays recently widowed father George Turner who quits his job as a popular 800-word columnist for a top Sydney newspaper and over the Internet he buys a house on an impulse in a remote New Zealand seaside town. He then has to break the news to his two teenage kids who just lost their mum, and now face an even more uncertain future. But the colorful and inquisitive locals ensure his dream of a fresh start does not go to plan.

The cast is unknown to us, but much fun. George initially faces widespread hostility because he referred to his new hometown of Weld as a “dead-end town.” The family must deal with faulty plumbing, surfing incompetence, a dangerous school bus driver, theft of the town founder’s sculptured head, four competitive and horny women, rumors that George may have killed his wife, a wealthy developer’s plan to turn the main park into a seniors’ village, a seductive Maori boy with designs on daughter Shay and many other girls, and more.

Locations on the North Island’s northwest coast are lush, the show’s tone varies from playful to dramatic and everything moves on light feet. Many of the characters are pleasantly “kooky.”

For the first seven episodes this was the top-rated show in Australia, drawing more than 1.2 million viewers.

Creator James Griffin has created three other popular Australian/New Zealand TV series including Outrageous Fortune and has won top Kiwi writing awards for the latter. He wrote 15 one-hour episodes of 800 Words. Maxine Fleming wrote four episodes of this series. Erik Thompson won Australia’s top award (Logie) as 2016 best actor for this role, to go with his other two Australia-New Zealand honors and 10 noms for other works.


[Oregon writer and Houston native Alan Waldman holds a B.A. in theater arts from Brandeis University and has worked as an editor at The Hollywood Reporter and Honolulu magazine.]


Alan Waldman has updated 89 of his Rag Blog columns with recent information and current free links in his new paperback, 89 Smart. Foreign TV Series: English-language Comedies, Thrillers & Dramas from the U.K., Canada, Australia, Ireland, N.Z., Scotland & Europe (+362 Favorite 1997-2016 Films for Grown-Ups). Rag Bloggers have never seen his descriptions of 255 great 1997-2011 films in the book. Find it at Create Space.com.

Note: Several fine series mentioned on The Rag Blog and in Waldman’s paperback have recently come out with new seasons, many of which are on YouTube, PBS and/or Netflix, including Wentworth, Prime Suspect, Grantchester, and Broadchurch.

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David P. Hamilton :
NATO: An obituary

Who will follow the capitalist class clown car into future military adventures to protect the profits of fossil energy tycoons?

In the face of Trump’s clown car, Cold War rationales may no longer hold NATO together. Cartoon by Carlos3653  / Wikimedia Commons.

By David P. Hamilton | The Rag Blog | July 23, 2017

PARIS — NATO died recently. Over the past few months, its decline was rapid. Its death has yet to be reported in corporate media. It died because, as principally a vehicle for U.S. imperialism, it required U.S. leadership.

Once that fell into the hands of a cabal of incompetents, no NATO country was any longer willing to follow this capitalist class clown car into future military adventures to protect the profits of fossil energy tycoons.
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Henry Mecredy :
BOOKS | Tracy Kidder: ‘The Soul of a New Machine’ revisited

It’s a fine tale of a product development project that unfolds in secrecy, in a mild paranoia born of corporate competition.

By Henry Mecredy | The Rag Blog | July 22, 2017

Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d
Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre
Instead copy’d some things already made
And squander’d thus their own creative fire
                                     —Gray/Mecredy

[The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder (July 1981: Little, Brown and Company).]

This Pulitzer-winning 1981 book is a delightful account of the development of an electronic product by a design team in the late seventies, at a now-defunct company called Data General. It’s a fine tale of a product development project that unfolds in secrecy, haste, and a kind of mild paranoia born of corporate competition.
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Thorne Dreyer :
The life and times of leftist journalist
Jack A. Smith (1934-2017)

Including a personal memoir from the former Guardian editor, plus the Rag Radio interview.

Jack A. Smith (1934-2017)

By Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | July 20, 2017

Below, see “Jack A. Smith: My life and times at The Guardian,” originally published by The Rag Blog in August 2012, and listen to Thorne Dreyer’s 2012 Rag Radio interview with Smith.


On July 10, Jack Smith’s wife, Donna Goodman, sent us the following message:

I wanted to let you know that Jack Smith, my life partner and the creator and editor of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter and Calendar, has died… I know you and he did an interview together not so long ago. We read it together when the family gathered after his death.

Jack A. Smith died of complications of COPD in New Paltz, New York, on June 29, 2017.

Jack Smith started out as a reporter for United Press International, but UPI fired him when he was indicted for refusing the draft (he spent nine months in federal prison). He later wrote for and then edited the prominent leftist newspaper, The Guardian (not the liberal British daily), in the 1960s-1980s, and was, as I wrote in 2012, “one of the most important figures in progressive journalism in the 20th century.”
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Lamar W. Hankins :
Hypocrisy: Outrage over Russian meddling, but what about the U.S.’ global history?

Overthrowing elected governments is the most extreme form of interference in election results.

After the military overthrew Manuel Zelaya, Hillary Clinton wouldn’t call it a coup. State Department photo by Michael Gross.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | July 15, 2017

Hypocrisy seems to be as much a part of American life as apple pie or Thanksgiving. And hypocrisy is prominent once again in the reactions of Americans, especially the political class, to the FBI.’s investigation into Russian interference in the most essential feature of our democratic system — free elections.

Seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed Russian hacking into computer files related to the presidential election of 2016. I abhor Russian interference in our elections as much as any American (with the exclusion of President Donald Trump and his minions, who won’t forthrightly acknowledge that it occurred), but I cannot forget how our beloved country has interfered in the free elections of numerous other countries over the years.
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David P. Hamilton :
Emmanuel Macron, ‘centrist’ revolutionary

He combined social liberalism — covering all the identity politics bases — with neoliberal economics.

Election posters for Macron and Le Pen, La Clusaz, France. Photo by David r jenkins / Wikimedia Commons.

By David P. Hamilton | The Rag Blog | June 21, 2017

PARIS — Emmanuel Macron has totally changed the landscape of French politics. Previously, French politics was characterized by a right-left spectrum of several parties, two of which, Socialists on the left and Republicans in the right, contended for leadership. The center of this spectrum was relatively poorly represented. The only self-proclaimed centrist in the 2012 presidential election, Francois Bayrou, get only 9% of the vote.

The usual result of presidential elections was for the Socialists to run against the Republicans. These previously dominant parties remained relatively ideologically distinct. When they had to rule together, as when Socialist president Mitterrand was saddled with a rightest prime minister Chirac, it was considered an aberration.
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Chellis Glendinning :
Psychohistory in the Age of Trump

Comparisons between Nazi Germany and Trump´s U.S.-in-process abound these days.

Trump salutes. Donald in Reno, Nevada, January 10, 2016.
Photo by Darron Birgenheier / Flickr.

By Chellis Glendinning | The Rag Blog | June 21, 2017

CHUQUISACA, Bolivia — As befits the times, I have been studying Nikolaus Wachsmann´s KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps and re-reading Uprooted Minds: Surviving the Politics of Terror in the Americas, by Nancy Caro Hollander.

As a resident of Bolivia, I’ve also had the chance to befriend Latin American activists who were jailed and tortured, or fled, during the dictatorships of the 1970s-’80s, including one man who was among very few to escape a massacre committed by the same battalion that years earlier had murdered Che Guevara (“Interview with a Revolutionary,” Wild Culture, 27 Nov 2016) and another who fled directly from being tortured, his jaw broken and blood soaking his shirt, to the airport to escape to Sweden.
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Lamar W. Hankins :
American culture: Appropriated, revised,
and invented

There is virtually no part of our culture that is not borrowed from somewhere else.

Woody Guthrie: “I steal from everyone.” Photo by Al Aumuller / New York World-Telegram and the Sun / Public Domain.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | June 20, 2017

To paraphrase something the musicologist Charles Seeger once said (as reported by his son Pete Seeger), “Plagiarism is basic to all culture.” He might as well have said, “Appropriation is basic to all culture.”

In fact, Pete Seeger spent a good deal of his 94 years learning music from a variety of cultures and teaching others the songs and tunes he encountered in his travels. Without Pete’s work, I may never have heard Cuban songs. Certainly, without his work and that of Zilphia Horton, Guy Carawan, and Frank Hamilton altering an old Negro spiritual, we might not have had what came to be called the anthem of the civil rights movement in this country, “We Shall Overcome,” which has been heard in other struggles around the world, such as in South Africa’s Soweto Township, in Tiananmen Square, and North Korea.
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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCASTS | We talk politics, community, and resistance; discuss some important new books; enjoy some great live music… and much more!

Our guests are Bill Ayers & Bernardine Dohrn; Rev. Jim Rigby & Glenn Smith; Corey Dolgon; Julia Mickenberg; Scott Braddock; Jonathan Tilove; Roy Casagranda; Powell St. John & Charlie Prichard; Gordon Lafer; Eddie Wilson & Jesse Sublett; Eliza Gilkyson; Bob Libal & Alice Embree; David Messier; Jim Hightower & Beverly Shaw.

Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn on Rag Radio. Photo by Carlos Lowry / The Rag Blog.

Interviews by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | June 20, 2017

The following podcasts are from recent Rag Radio shows with host Thorne Dreyer. The syndicated Rag Radio program, produced in the studios of Austin’s cooperatively-run KOOP-FM, has an international audience and has become an influential platform for interviews with leading figures in politics, current events, literature, and cutting-edge culture.


Bill Ayers & Bernardine Dohrn: ‘Demand the Impossible!’

Legendary activists and educators Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn are interviewed by Rag Radio host Thorne Dreyer and writer/activist Alice Embree. They discuss Bill’s new book, Demand the Impossible!: A Radical Manifesto, and how it addresses the problems we face at this dramatic juncture in history.  Vijay Prashad calls Bill Ayers “the philosopher of the revolutionary spirit,” and Angela Davis writes that Demand the Impossible! “is a book that should be read by everyone who believes that ‘another world is possible.'”

Read the full show description and download the podcast of our June 16, 2017 Rag Radio show with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, here — or listen to it here:


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Roger Baker :
The emerging split within the U.S.
Democratic Party

The Perez wing, which is not hostile to Bernie Sanders, seems ready to discuss class oppression.

Tom Perez and Bernie Sanders at an April rally in Mesa, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr.

By Roger Baker | The Rag Blog | June 20, 2017

The Hill, which is widely read by Washington politicians and is rather centrist-liberal in character, reports on the split at the link just below.

This angry split within the Democratic Party is basically between the Hillary Clinton/Debbie Wasserman Schultz/corporate media wing of the Dems and, on the other side, the new DNC leadership wing led by Tom Perez, which is not openly hostile to Bernie Sanders (that would be hard, since Bernie is now the most popular US politician). The Perez wing seems to be ready to discuss class oppression issues, to some degree.
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