Kate Braun :
Samhain, aka Halloween, is a time of transformation

Shorter days and longer nights prompt us to turn our focus inward, to reflect and ponder.

black cat

Those trick-or-treating cats. Image from The Spooky Isles.

By Kate Braun | The Rag Blog | October 28, 2014

“Cat monsters on the sidewalk / Cat witches in the air / Those trick-or-treating cats / Are around everywhere”

Friday, October 31, 2014, is Samhain, aka Halloween, All Hallows Eve, Third Harvest. On the Wheel of Life, this celebration marks the last of the year’s festivals. Mother Earth shall lie fallow, preparing for the coming year and the life it will bring forth. It is a time of transformation, a sort of spiritual hibernation during the “time of no time” that will last until Yule, the Winter Solstice.

We sense the changing seasons. Shorter days and longer nights prompt us to turn our focus inward, to reflect and ponder. In the Long Ago, Samhain was when the harvest was completed and garden tools were cleaned, oiled, and stored away; when no more crops would be harvested; when families hunkered down around the fireplace and listened to grandmother’s tales of the family history. So it is with your Samhain festivities: honor the past and let your remembrances open the door to your future.
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Mike Davis graphic vertical
Metro Event Thursday! The Rag Blog presents ‘City of Quartz‘ author Mike Davis on ‘Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster.’
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Johnny Hazard :
Government evasion continues in Guerrero massacre case

Parents of the ‘disappeared’ warn of more drastic actions if no results in 48 hours.

saving, slaying mexico crop

Enrique Peña Nieto’s “Saving Mexico” Time magazine cover has angered many (a change.org petition has more than 12,000 signatures). “Slaying Mexico” was more fitting for one Twitter user. Image from Fox News Latino.

By Johnny Hazard | The Rag Blog | October 27, 2014

MEXICO CITY — On Wednesday, October 23, after a day of marches including one with hundreds of thousands of participants in Mexico City, parents of the 43 missing education students kidnapped by police in Iguala, Guerrero, on September 26 issued an ultimatum: if there were no real results in 48 hours, they would take more drastic actions.

The 48 hours passed with no governmental action except the apparent resignation of Ángel Aguirre, governor of Guerrero. “Apparent,” because he really asked for a leave of absence, a common tactic for Mexican politicians who want to see if they will be favored eventually by a forgive and forget policy. Carlos Navarrete, president of Aguirre’s (formerly) center-left party, the Partido de la Revolución Democrática, defended the governor effusively till the day before his resignation.
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Tom Hayden :
Battling Ebola: Cuba leads while U.S. lags

The U.S. has 550 military personnel in Africa on counterterrorism missions while over 5,000 Africans have succumbed to the non-military threat of Ebola.

cuban doctors

Cuban doctors on their way to West Africa to fight Ebola, October 2014. Photo by EFE via telesur.

By Tom Hayden | The Rag Blog | October 26, 2014

In what a New York Times editorial called “Cuba’s Impressive Role on Ebola” [Oct. 19], hundreds of Cuban doctors and nurses are being dispatched to West Africa to battle Ebola, train medical personnel, and create isolation and treatment centers. The Cubans are playing “the most robust role” of any country in battling the Ebola plague, which has erupted virulently because of a broad failure, according to the Times, “to produce medicines and vaccines for diseases that afflict poor countries.”

The U.S. has 550 military personnel in Africa on counterterrorism missions while over 5,000 Africans have succumbed to the non-military threat of Ebola. Cuba is taking action in part because Ebola, unchecked, will spread to the Caribbean, but also out a consistent sense of humanitarian duty which Washington fails to comprehend.
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Bill Meacham :
IDEAS | Mental parasites

Just as a parasitical lancet fluke can direct an ant to climb up a blade of grass, we are unknowingly manipulated by cultural memes.

ant on leaf of grass

Ant on leaf of grass. Free will or “fluke” of nature? Image from The Telegraph.

By Bill Meacham | The Rag Blog | October 21, 2014

What if your brain were taken over by a parasite and made you want something you would not ordinarily want? What if it took over your second-order thinking and made you want to want that thing? Would your will then be free?

This is not so far-fetched a scenario as it might seem. There are numerous examples of parasites infecting the brains of animals to make those animals act contrary to their own well-being. Here is one:
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Harry Targ :
On democracy: ‘Can we talk?’

The United States’ political system, we are told repeatedly, is the gold standard for the world.

corporate rule

Image from Philosophers for Change.

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | October 21, 2014

Through her decades of entertaining on stage and screen, [Joan] Rivers developed numerous classic bits and catchphrases, but three small words stand above the rest: “Can we talk?” (Kelli Bender @kbendernyc, 09/04/2014, also at People.com)

I never liked comedienne Joan Rivers who died recently. But her famous one-line introduction to talk show interviewers and stand-up performances is a powerful reminder that certain subjects might be dangerous to discuss in polite company. Whether the United States’ political system is a democratic one is such a subject.

Everything we Americans have learned since infancy suggests that the United States is a democracy. In fact, the United States political system, we are told repeatedly, is the gold standard for the world.
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Murray Polner :
Silent rabbis

Arthur Hertzberg believed that the quasi-religious reverence for Israel, right or wrong, tainted the beauty and grandeur of Judaism.

Protest in Manhattan over Israel's action in Gaza

New York Jews say “No!” to the Israeli occupation, August 2011.

By Murray Polner | The Rag Blog | October 21, 2014

One of the smartest, most courageous and provocative rabbis I ever knew was Arthur Hertzberg, raised in a Hasidic family, a congregational rabbi, historian of Jewish life and Zionism, university professor, a member of the Zionist Jewish Agency who once publicly rebuked Prime Minister Golda Meir for her pro-Vietnam War views, and regularly criticized Israel’s occupation and settlement policies.

Hertzberg, who died in 2006, also took on American Jews for their unquestioning worship of Israel, wondering as well if Zionism and Judaism were identical. Judaism, he once told me (he wrote a regular column in a magazine I edited) was a faith of universal morality, not a nationality. The quasi-religious reverence for Israel, right or wrong, tainted the beauty and grandeur of Judaism. Too many rabbis, he wrote (in an article which inspired me to write a book about American rabbis), resembled “institutional executives” and were “entertainers” in sparsely attended non-Orthodox synagogues.
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Thorne Dreyer :
PODCAST | Author Michael Harris on the Digital Revolution and ‘The End of Absence’

Journalist and editor Harris, our guest on Rag Radio, discusses ‘Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection.’

michael harris 1

Michael Harris was our guest on Rag Radio, September 26, 2014.

Interview by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | October 20, 2014

Our guest on Rag Radio, journalist Michael Harris, is a magazine editor and the author of the critically-acclaimed The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection.

On the show we discuss the nature of the digital revolution in relation to earlier transformative communication events —  like the invention of the Gutenberg printing press and the 20th century television invasion.

And Harris recounts a personal epiphany, his “overload moment,” when, sitting in front of his computer, he looked up and realized he had more than a dozen windows open on two computer monitors and was engaged in multiple email conversations and text messages.
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Johnny Hazard :
Thousands of public university students in Mexico City go out on strike

They are protesting the police killings and forced disappearances of students in the Mexican
state of Guerrero.

hazard mexico city rally marlo

Thousands of striking university students and representatives of social organizations demonstrate in Mexico City, Wednesday, October 14, 2014. Photo by Mario Marlo / Somoselmedio.org

By Johnny Hazard | The Rag Blog | October 16, 2014

MEXICO CITY — Students at most public universities in the Mexico City metropolitan area are on strike for 24 to 48 hours. The student strike is part of the continuing protests against the September 26 police killings of five and forced disappearance of 43 students from the teacher preparation school in Ayotzinapa, Tixtla, Guerrero.

The students were ambushed — some shot, some kidnapped — by local police in Iguala, Guerrero, on September 25 and 26. On Tuesday, federal officials announced that, based on DNA evidence, at least some of the mass graves — which, according to cops who have been detained in connection with the crimes, contain the bodies of the students — in fact contain other corpses.
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Ken Wachsberger :
My friend Davey Brinn

The first time I remember his face it had a smile directed toward me and I smiled back. From then on, when we saw each other we smiled.

Davey Brinn 1 sm

Davey Brinn. Photo courtesy Lisa Belli.

By Ken Wachsberger | The Rag Blog | October 16, 2014

My friend Davey Brinn died. It’s been over a year, closer to 18 months, but I just found out. We hadn’t seen each other for over 20 years. Somewhere along the way we lost touch with each other. Then we reconnected. Our reunion was only via email but it was one of my best days of this millennium. I wanted to see him — in my mind I started making plans. But I didn’t. And then he died.

Life plays funny tricks on you if you take it for granted. I thought I was pretty good in that regard. I slipped up on that one.
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Ron Jacobs :
BOOKS | Redefining urban renewal: Squatting
in Europe

‘The City is Ours’ examines both politically and socially the squatters’ movement in Europe over the past 40 years and provides a template for the movement’s future.

the city is ours

Essays on the squatters’ movement in Europe.

By Ron Jacobs | The Rag Blog | October 15, 2014

[The City is Ours: Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present, edited by Bart van der Steen, Ask Katzeff, and Leendert van Hoogenhuijze (September 2014: PM Press); Paperback; 336 pp; $21.95.]

British novelist Doris Lessing wrote a novel titled The Good Terrorist. The story revolves around an autonomous leftist cell in London that decides to step up their participation in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism by providing material support to the IRA. Eventually, the cell moves on to taking their own armed actions, which result in the death of one of their members.

The main character in the novel, a woman named Alice, has political and moral disagreements with the course she and her comrades have taken but remains committed to the course of action. The cell’s living quarters is in a squatted building in London. Unlike her fellow squatters, Alice takes an active interest in making the squat a livable quarters. Lessing’s descriptions of the squat and the work undertaken to make it livable are why I mention this work of fiction.
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Johnny Hazard :
In Mexico, massacres are the order of the day

While the U.S. government lauds its Mexican counterpart, a new mass grave appears to contain bodies of ‘disappeared’ education students.

sept 30 mexico demo

Students of the Instituto Politécnico Nacional are shown marching on Friday, September 30. 2014. They took over part of this highway, known as Circuito Interior, en route to various government buildings. Photo by Luis Ramírez Tamayo.

By Johnny Hazard | The Rag Blog | October 8, 2014

MEXICO CITY — By now many in the U.S. and most in Mexico have seen the evidence of what we feared: Mass graves were discovered Saturday that appear to contain the bodies of almost half of the about 50 education students murdered or “disappeared” since September 26 in Iguala, Guerrero.

Most were students of a “rural normal,” a teacher preparation school in Tixtla, Guerrero, in southwest Mexico. (Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Ixtapa are famous places in Guerrero, but the state as a whole is one of the poorest places in Latin America and was home to two major guerrilla movements in the 1970s.)
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