Bob Simmons :
Elevators Reunion: (I Done Got) Levitation
at Psych Fest 2015

Like Icarus, the 13th Floor Elevators, a band that should have a special alcove in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, flew too close to the sun.


Tommy Hall of the 13th Floor Elevators at Levitation 2015. Photo by Bob Simmons / The Rag Blog.

Text and photos by Bob Simmons | The Rag Blog | May 22, 2015

Sitting in the shiny Airstream trailer looking at Tommy Hall and seeing him for the first time since 1968, in what, like 46 years? We are at the 2015 Reverberation “Psych Fest” in Austin, with its nearly 70 bands, 20,000 people, and one or two old hippies for use to compare and contrast. And who would do that better than Tommy, a walking talking true cultural artifact if there ever was one.

I am awash in remembrance of what it was like all those years ago when the 13th Floor Elevators were encouraging their fans to “let it happen to you.” As a student at UT in the 60s I admit gladly that I was one of those who decided to indeed let it happen, in fact, to work actively to make it happen to me and anyone else who would listen. “Proselytizing ‘R Us,” some cynics might have said. But hey, if it worked for the Beatles, Jimi, and everyone in Golden Gate Park, why not for us? Pass the sacrament Jack. Just put the little Janis blotter stamp on your tongue and let nature take its course.
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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCASTS | Interviews with Burt Neuborne, Rev. Jim Rigby, Jesse Sublett, Barbara Hines, and Professor Dumpster

On these podcasts we discuss the first amendment, religion in a secular society, organized crime in ’60s Austin, immigrant rights and family detention, and sustainability through performance art!

jesse sublett koop sm

Author and musician Jesse Sublett in the studios of KOOP Radio in Austin, Texas, April 24, 2015. Photo by Roger Baker / The Rag Blog.

Interviews by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | May 22, 2014

Rag Radio has an international audience and has become an influential platform for interviews with leading figures in politics, current events, literature, and cutting-edge culture. The following podcasts are from recent Rag Radio shows that have not previously been posted to The Rag Blog.

First Amendment Scholar Burt Neuborne, Author of ‘Madison’s Music’

burt neuborneRead the show description and download the podcast of our May 8, 2015 Rag Radio show with Burt Neuborne here — or listen to it here:

Rev Jim Rigby on ‘The Role of Religion in a Secular State’

jim rigby 2015 sm crpRead the show description and download the podcast of our May 1, 2015 Rag Radio interview with Rev. Jim Rigby here — or listen to it here:

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Lamar W. Hankins :
Move to Amend vs. the Supreme Court

We must put corporations in their place and acknowledge that money is a commodity, not speech.

corporations are not people

Image from Move to Amend.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | May 19, 2015

For five years, ever since the illogical and corporatist Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which reaffirmed that corporations have the personal rights of citizens and held that money is speech, I have wanted to find an effective way to correct the damage those five Supreme Court Justices did to our system of government and our Constitution.

Recently, I found what I was looking for. I heard David Cobb speak about the the slow rise of corporate rights in this country — rights that are mistaken, but threaten to overcome the Constitutional framework devised by James Madison and others in 1787 and ratified in 1789. Corporations were once granted limited privileges, which have morphed into nearly unlimited rights conferred by an extremist judiciary that disregards the foundations of our democratic republic — a republic created by real people, not artificial entities.
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Michael James :
The beach house, south to Mexico, and a
rainbow victory, 1983

From this tiny spot on the edge of the earth I ventured out into the world, seeking adventures and trying to make Mother Earth a better place.

michael 26 - 13

Beach house interior with thumb piano, Hank Williams,and an empty bottle of Cerveza Victoria from Nicaragua. Photos by Michael James from his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James’ Pictures from the Long Haul.

By Michael James | The Rag Blog | May 12, 2015

[In this series, Michael James is sharing images from his rich past, accompanied by reflections about — and inspired by — those images. These photos will be included in his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James’ Pictures from the Long Haul.]

The “beach house” was my bachelor pad on the edge of the earth, a secluded hideaway crib with a close-to-nature vibe. In the early ’80s I lived in this space, situated near the end of the Loyola Avenue alley at the edge of the Great Lake Michigan. During my years there I did some growing up; by the end of the decade I had grown beyond it.
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Tom Hayden :
There may be an alternative to Obama’s pro-corporate trade deal

It seems unlikely, but should Obama decide to extricate himself from an inconvenient initiative, here’s a way out.

tpp protest

Protest at TPP negotiations in New York on January 26, 2015 Photo by Cindy Trinh; Puppet by Elliot Crown. Image from Systemic Disorder.

By Tom Hayden | The Rag Blog | May 10, 2014

President Obama’s recent progressive initiatives — pursuing diplomacy with Iran, opening relations with Cuba, protecting undocumented immigrants, lifting the federal minimum wage, extending Medicaid benefits to millions of uninsured Americans, imposing tough regulations on coal — are facing furious Republican opposition on every front. That’s why it’s peculiar that he persists in pushing pro-corporate trade agreements over the objections of a majority of Democrats, unions, and environmentalists.

The Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic trade agreements (TPP and TTIP) are being negotiated in secrecy, presumably because they include elements of a corporate agenda that would be rejected if ever debated in public, according to the expert opinion of Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
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Kate Braun :
Celebrate the fire festival Beltane, aka May Day

Beltane has to do with heat, romance, passion, survival, spontaneity, food, fertility, and joining.

fairies and fireflies

Fairies astride fireflies celebrate Beltane. Image from Astral Society.

By Kate Braun | The Rag Blog | April 29, 2015

We celebrate the season of Beltane, also called Roodmas, May Day, and Walpurgisnacht, on April 30 or May 1. This is a minor celebration on the Wheel of Life and will probably not be indicated on your calendar.

Beltane is a festival having to do with heat, romance, passion, survival, spontaneity, food, fertility, and joining. It is a fire festival; having candles burning will provide a symbolic bonfire if you don’t have the space for outdoor celebrating with a blazing fire in a cauldron or chiminea.

While all colors may be used in your decorations, make sure to include white, dark green, and red. Serve your guests a buffet including, but not limited to, dairy foods, red fruits such as strawberries and cherries, green salads that incorporate herbs such as parsley, oat cakes, breads, and sangria.
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | ‘Scott & Bailey’ is a gripping Manchester cop series headed by three smart, strong women

Lesley Sharp, Suranne Jones, and Amelia Bullmore are deft as police inspectors great at their jobs but shaky in their personal lives.

scott & bailey

Leslie Sharp, left, and Suranne Jones in British policier Scott & Bailey.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | April 28, 2015

[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.]

Recently most U.S. public broadcasting stations have been airing the 30 excellent episodes (from four seasons) of Scott & Bailey that were shot over the past five years. Netflix offers 14 episodes from the first two seasons and you can watch this episode on YouTube.

This British policier’s main characters are Detective Constable Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) and Detective Constable Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones), both of whom are members of the Major Incident Team of the fictional Manchester Metropolitan Police, headed by Detective Chief Inspector Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore). Based on an original idea by Jones and Sally Lindsay, Scott & Bailey was commissioned after the concept was brought to acclaimed TV writer Sally Wainwright (major awards for Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax).
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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCAST | An exclusive interview with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

‘This country is moving very fast toward an oligarchic form of society where a small number of people have incredible wealth and incredible economic power.’

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Give peace a chance: Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to an overflow crowd at an Austin union hall, March 31, 2015. Photo by Alan Pogue / The Rag Blog.

Interview by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | April 21, 2015

UPDATE: On Thursday, April 30, after weeks of speculation, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) officially announced his candidacy for president of the United States. Sanders is the first candidate to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

Sanders told the Associated Press: “People should not underestimate me. I’ve run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates and, you know, I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country.”

AUSTIN — This special Rag Radio podcast features an exclusive 30-minute interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a leading progressive voice in the U.S. Senate who discusses with us his potential presidential candidacy and what he calls the “grotesque level of income and wealth inequality” in this country.

The second part of the show is a discussion with Rag Radio political analyst Glenn W. Smith, a progressive Democratic strategist and director of Progress Texas PAC.

Download the podcast of our March 27, 2015, Rag Radio interviews with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and political analyst Glenn W. Smith here — or listen to the show using this player:

Rag Radio is a syndicated weekly radio show, hosted by Thorne Dreyer, that originates on Austin’s cooperatively-run KOOP 91.7-FM.

Bernie Sanders joined us by telephone from Washington, D.C., in advance of his recent Austin visit which was highlighted by a March 31 “Bernie Sanders Town Meeting” that was by all accounts a rousing success.
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Jean Trounstine :
Taking my students to prison

A man smiled widely and pressed his face against
the slit.’That’s my brother,’ Sofia said, her eyes
filling with tears.

Trounstine students 1

Students look behind the bars at Billerica House of Correction.

By Jean Trounstine | The Rag Blog | April 9, 2015

Every semester my students from Voices Behind Bars, a class I teach at Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts, go to prison. They used to visit state institutions but now that the Massachusetts state prisons do not offer tours (perhaps because it is a hassle to have outsiders trooping through them and criticizing what they see), the students take a tour of Billerica House of Correction, where they experience confinement to some degree and listen for an hour to an incarcerated man talk about his life and what it is like to be behind bars.

Originally, the Middlesex House of Correction, which was built in 1929, housed 300 men. Now it has more than 1,100, after a $37 million dollar expansion which prison officials say was to accommodate the closing of the Cambridge Jail — not without objection from activists and community members who opposed more prison building (actually costing $43 million per The Lowell Sun.)
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | ‘Vicious’ is hilarious British sitcom starring two of world’s greatest actors

Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jakobi play two aging gay men who have roomed together and humorously sniped at each other for 48 years.

vicious poster

Sir Ian McKellen, left, and Sir Derek Jakobi star in ‘Vicious.’

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | March 31, 2015

[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.]

In the wonderful 2014-2015 British sitcom, Vicious, Freddie (Sir Ian McKellen) and Stuart (Sir Derek Jakobi) are an old gay couple who have lived together for 48 years in their Covent Garden flat. Their lives now revolve around frequently entertaining quirky guests, hurling caustic insults at each other at every opportunity, and making sure that their aged dog Balthazar is still breathing.

Although they hold onto petty slights for decades, we can still see that beneath all their vicious codependent fighting they maintain a deep love for each other.
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Harry Targ :
The cost-cutting approach to higher education

Though some reform ideas have merit, the real problem is lack of funding from the government.

mitch daniels commencement

Reform advocate: Purdue University President Mitch Daniels at commencement exercises for Purdue North Central, 2014. Image

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | March 25, 2015

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — Purdue University President Mitch Daniels testified March 17, 2015, before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Workforce on what he calls higher education reform. He also spoke during that week to the American Council on Education and the Brookings Institute.

A centerpiece of his recommendations was “income share agreements” whereby students partner with investors, particularly alumni, who would provide funds for their education in exchange “for a small share of the student’s future income.”
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Shepherd Bliss :
Glass half full? Sour Grapes in ‘Wine Country’

Overexpansion of vineyards in California’s Sonoma County threatens the environment and rural residents’ quality of life.

bliss - winery site

Aerial shot of the proposed site in the vulnerable Laguna de Santa Rosa in Sonoma County. Photo courtesy

By Shepherd Bliss | The Rag Blog | March 25, 2015

SEBASTOPOL, California — Sonoma County’s premium wine industry in the San Francisco North Bay has become a magnet that attracts developers from around the country, across oceans, and nearby. They move heavy industrial operations into rural areas and expand them to become event centers and commercial bottling operations.

Under the pretense that they are merely agriculture, rather than alcohol-producing factories, large wineries seek to avoid Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Such wineries overuse precious, limited resources — such as water, air, and land — which threatens the environment and the quality of life in our semi-rural region. The contiguous Napa, Lake, and Mendocino Counties have also recently experienced overexpansion of wineries and vineyards, as well as growing efforts by residents to reign them in. In Napa, large wineries are already trucking in water and trucking out wastewater.
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