Rabbi Arthur Waskow :
Facing two different forms of anti-Semitism

We must resist White Nationalism and reach out in solidarity to the communities it attacks.

Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, August 12, 2017. Photo by Anthony Crider / Wikimedia Commons.

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow | The Rag Blog | March 14, 2019

An old Jewish saying goes, “Why did God give us two thumbs? So we could say — ‘On the one hand!’ and then, ‘On the other hand!’”

Through much of the history of Jewish thought and the evolution of Jewish values, in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) and rabbinic discussion ever since, Jews have often faced the need to choose between what at first seem to be irreconcilable alternatives — two “goods” or two “bads.”

We face what seems to be such a choice now, about responding to what seem like two different forms of anti-Semitism. One is the pervasive danger to Jews among many other communities of a hypermasculinist White-Nationalist wave of policy and rhetoric coming from some places of great power in American life, and the other is the occasional use of expressions that to many of us feel like ant-Semitic motifs, coming from members and leaders of groups in American society that are under systematic attack from centers of great power — groups toward which many of us feel deep empathy and hope to act in solidarity.
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Jonah Raskin :
BOOKS | Don Cox’s caustic memoir of the Black Panthers

Heyday is brave to have published this book, which blows the lid off the BPP.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | March 7, 2019

Mention the two words “Black Panther” to anyone under the age of 40, and they’re likely to think, right off the bat, of the 2018 action, adventure film Black Panther. They’re not likely to think of the Black Panthers of the Sixties, who were superheroes to a generation or two of Americans, both black and white, and who were as deeply flawed as any tragic heroes in any film.

Don Cox’s Just Another Nigger: My Life in the Black Panther Party ($28), which has just been published by Heyday in Berkeley, will not replace Ryan Coogler’s movie, Black Panther in the pantheon of popular American culture, but it will dispel many if not all of the myths that have surrounded the Black Panther Party (BPP) and its two founders, Huey Newton, who was killed in Oakland in a drug deal gone awry in 1989, and Bobby Seale, who is still alive and a shadow of his former self, though he performs very funny stand-up comedy.
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Evan Hearn :
MEDIA | Jussie Smollett, and why mainstream media needs to stand its ground

The media’s reaction has been depressingly predictable.

Jussie Smollett, 2018. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

By Evan Hearn | The Rag Blog | February 27, 2019

On January 29, actor Jussie Smollett made headlines after he claimed to be the victim of an assault. According to Smollett’s initial descriptions, he was accosted by two assailants who taunted him with racist and homophobic slurs, told him “this is MAGA country,” and left him with a rope around his neck. Now, Smollett is suspected of having staged the assault, and is awaiting trial for multiple felony charges.

The media’s reaction has been depressingly predictable. After initial reports of the attack, media outlets like CNN and MSNBC aired outpourings of support for Smollett, condemnation of his attackers, and commentary on the troubled state of our nation. Even Fox News published a handful of perfunctory articles covering the incident and the immediate follow-ups by the Chicago police department.
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Richard Croxdale :
BOOKS | Debs Graphic bio is perfect vehicle to tell his story

Eugene V. Debs created and constantly evolved new approaches to the battle against capital and injustice.

By Richard Croxdale | The Rag Blog | February 22, 2019

Paul Buhle, Steve Max, Dave Nance, and Noah Van Sciver have produced a new and delightful biography of Eugene Victor Debs, the iconic American socialist, told in a comic book format, although these days, the proper term is graphic book. The book, Eugene V. Debs: A Graphic Biography was published by Verso.

For Debs, who created and constantly evolved new approaches to the battle against capital and injustice, approaches that were always peculiarly American, a graphic book is the perfect vehicle to tell his biography.
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Steve Russell :
Three swings and three misses

The news last week tells me it’s time to confess some doozies.

caricature of Alex Acosta

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta. Caricature by DonkeyHotey / Flickr.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | February 12, 2019

My method of practicing the pundit trade is to own my errors, and the news last week tells me it’s time to confess some doozies.

I wrote a piece for The Rag Blog on June 18, 2017, where I questioned the wisdom of impeaching Donald Trump based on running down his cabinet in the order of succession. In my evaluation of each Trumpian appointment, I mentioned matters that made the overall result predictable as night follows day. That overall result was a pack of billionaires with their hands in the public till, corruption on a level unknown since Warren Harding.
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Steve Rossignol :
A tale of baseball, socialism, and oil

The playful gist was that the Internationale would be the new national anthem played at baseball games.

Corsicana Daily Sun, August 12, 1924, p. 9.

By Steve Rossignol | The Rag Blog | February 1, 2019

Rag Blog author Steve Rossignol recently retired as an IBEW electric worker.  He turned his attention to the rich vein of union and socialist history in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana to ensure that this earlier period of insurgency would be remembered.  A century ago, both the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the Socialist Party were active in Texas and adjoining states.

William Covington Hall, a Wobbly labor organizer who led the East Texas Lumber Workers in their strike at Grabow, Louisiana, in 1912, was a writer, poet, labor organizer, and socialist. Steve’s research came to our attention when Steve asked for help to place a marker on Covington Hall’s unmarked grave. We asked him to write something about the Wobblies and Socialists in Texas. He did and is still working on the Covington Hall article.

During the Seventies and Eighties in Austin and the Hill Country, our socialist meetings and encampments would sometimes be punctuated by the singing of those old socialist songs, especially the Internationale.  Invariably at the conclusion of that venerable hymn of the proletariat, Travis would shout out, “Play ball!” — the playful gist of the comment implying that the Internationale would be the new national anthem played at baseball games.

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Murray Polner :
Bipartisan wars

(There’s no there there.)

Left-wing journalist I.F. Stone cited our enormous military bureaucracy.

By Murray Polner | The Rag Blog | January 10, 2019

“Try to calm down, America. Whatever RussiaGate (and the Greater Middle East] ultimately turns out to be, it won’t be anything worth a single drop of American or Russian blood” — or anyone else’s.” — Thomas L. Knapp, The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism

Even if our erratic and mendacious president follows through and actually withdraws a few thousand soldiers from Syria and ultimately Afghanistan, I remain fixated on the silence of Democrats, especially about our foreign policies and what we’ve done, few of them explained or debated in our never-ending imperial wars.

But a few years ago I thought I glimpsed a peak at what we do and why, when, on January 3, 2017, I watched Senator Charles (Chuck, since he left friendly Brooklyn for Washington) Schumer belittle Donald Trump on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC-TV show that the President was “being really dumb ” for refusing to accept the “Intelligence Community’s” allegations about Russian interference in our 2016 election.
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Dick J. Reavis :
An immodest proposal

Here’s a day when we can all say, ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire.’

Image by DonkeyHotey / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Dick J. Reavis | The Rag Blog | January 10, 2019

June 14 is Donald Trump’s birthday and it deserves celebration — as National Liars Day. On that day, we, his detractors, could or should tell lies so grandiose that co-workers and friends would halt our narratives, saying “No, that can’t be true! You’re making this up.”

Tellers of “fake news” would or will then confess that “Of course I’m lying. This is Trump’s birthday. We have to emulate him.”

The only competition Liars Day has is from April Fools Day, and it is for kids. Liars Day combines childishness with braggadocio, just as our president does with every Tweet.
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Alice Embree :
Remembering Dennis Fitzgerald: Underground journalist and veteran activist

Fitzgerald was a founder of The Rag in Austin and Houston’s Space City!

Dennis Fitzgerald, Space City! days. Image from
Jessica Kent / Facebook.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | December 17, 2018

Dennis Fitgerald passed away on December 9, 2018, in British Columbia, Canada, where he had lived for several decades. Dennis graced ‘60s Texas activism with a wry wit and a talent for journalism. When the Rag reunion of 2005 came together, his written memoir stood out for its sweet tone of humility:

I was privileged to be in the delivery room at the birth of The Rag. ‘Breathe, breathe, breathe!’ It was a long, hard labor. But what a beautiful child she was. For just over a year, I changed my share of dirty diapers and delighted in watching her first tentative steps. And then we both had other places to go.

The Rag was where my friends and I tried to figure out who we were. We were hardly more than kids, taking our own first steps into the “real” world, and trying to make sense of the fact that there was so much there that affronted our ideals. Things were a lot meaner and shallower than they were supposed to be. That wasn’t anything we were prepared to conform to, nor, given our idealistic bent, anything that we could in good conscience ignore.

We were a group that found each other and clicked because we shared a common, albeit kind of fuzzy, notion about what was right and what was wrong and what was really important. But we didn’t have a home for all that; we fit with each other, but we didn’t seem to fit anywhere else. The Rag was our owner-built home, a place of safety and purpose, where we could define who we were and get on with the job of saving the world from itself.

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Sharon Shelton :
BOOKS | Mariann Wizard’s ‘Tempted
to Tell All’

This time-tested poet/activist writes with irony, outrage, ardor, and not a little humor.

By Sharon Shelton | The Rag Blog | December 6, 2018

Mariann Garner-Wizard introduces her latest book of poetry, Tempted to Tell All, with a quote from Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger about the power of poems to “spill out” secrets that can enable the poor to win their “ten-thousand-year brain war” with the rich. This collection, written during the last months of Mariann’s over 50 years in Austin and the three years since she moved away, unapologetically spills out these secrets — and more.

Whether “tearing aside the curtain” to champion social justice, commemorating friends and fellow revolutionaries who have passed on, celebrating love and passion, contemplating life’s meaning, or simply reflecting on the importance of living in the moment, this time-tested poet/activist writes with irony, outrage, ardor, and not a little humor.
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Alice Embree :
Celebrating the life of Terry J. Dubose

Leader of Vietnam Vets Against the War will be honored on December 1 at Scholz Garten.

Terry Dubose speaks at anti-war rally at Fort Hood, Texas, in 1971. Photo from The Rag and the book, Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | November 20, 2018

AUSTIN — Terry J. Dubose passed away on October 29, 2018, at the age of 74. His life will be honored on Saturday, December 1, 2018, at Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto, Austin, Texas, from 2-4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, a remembrance can be posted to Terry’s Facebook page and gifts made to the Terry J. Dubose Scholarship Fund at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science.

Terry was quiet and thoughtful. He grew up in the cotton country of Brownfield, Texas, and graduated from Hardin-Simmons in Abilene. Despite good grades, he couldn’t get a job without a draft deferment in hand. He enlisted in the Army, serving between 1966-1969, and was deployed to Vietnam as a first lieutenant.
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Murray Polner :
‘The wish to find out’

Are there honest and independent observers still available to sort out the truth?

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Caricatures
by DonkeyHotey.

By Murray Polner | The Rag Blog | September 19, 2018

I think blaming the Russians for hacking our 2016 elections may well be legitimate though I still find it hard to believe that Trump “colluded” politically with Russians for any other reason than to make more and more money. As the renowned philosopher Bertrand Russell wisely concluded in 1922 in Free Thought and Propaganda, “What we need is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out.”

There are, however, some skeptics.

The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group of former U.S. intelligence officials who once discredited Colin Powell’s claim at the UN that Saddam had WMDs, has now issued a widely-ignored document dubbed VIPS50, insisting that no one hacked the Democratic Party’s emails in 2016 but they were instead leaks, perhaps aimed at defeating Bernie Sanders.
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