Kate Braun :
On Winter Solstice, holly invites good fortune
for the coming year

This is a time to celebrate newness: a new moon cycle, a new spiritual cycle, a shift of energy.

winter solstice

Winter Solstice. Image from Indian Country Today.

By Kate Braun | The Rag Blog | December 19, 2014

“Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu / Ve al kulam / Salaam Aleinu
ve al kol ha olam / Salaam”

Sunday, December 21, is Winter Solstice, which you may also call Yule or Yuletide. Lady Moon is new on December 21; a new cycle is beginning. Fix a sprig of holly hear the front door; this invites good fortune for the coming year. Including holly, ivy, and mistletoe in your decorations also invites Nature Sprites to join your celebrating.

The longest night and shortest day of the year, this is a time to celebrate newness: a new moon cycle, a new spiritual cycle, a shift of energy, a welcome to more daylight time. This is a fire festival. Yule signifies the return of Lord Sun and fire reinforces his growth. Burn candles, have a Yule Log, cook over open flames outdoors, whatever is easiest for you to do to incorporate fire energy into your celebrations.
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Tom Hayden :
The U.S.-Cuba deal is a victory for the
Cuban Revolution

The embargo is going to be hollowed out from within, with American tourist and investment dollars permitted to flow.

Cuba Peace Concert

Cubans celebrate. Image from AP.

By Tom Hayden | The Rag Blog | December 17, 2014

No one in the mainstream media will acknowledge it, but the normalization of American relations with Havana, symbolized by release of prisoners today, is a huge success for the Cuban Revolution.

The hostile U.S. policy, euphemistically known as “regime change,” has been thwarted. The Cuban Communist Party is confidently in power. The Castros have navigated through all the challenges of the years. In Latin America and the United Nations, Cuba is accepted, and the United States is isolated.

It is quite legitimate for American progressives to criticize various flaws and failures of the Cuban Revolution. But the media and the right are overflowing with such commentary. Only the left can recall, narrate, and applaud the long resistance of tiny Cuba to the northern Goliath.
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Ed Felien :
In Minneapolis, demonstrators protest
institutional racism

They ask city government to stand at the side of poor people and people of color, rather than standing over them with a club.

demonstrators in minneapolis

Hands up, don’t shoot: Demonstrators in Minneapolis. Image
from myfox9.com.

By Ed Felien | The Rag Blog | December 11, 2014

[Demonstrations in reaction to police killings of young unarmed black men are spreading across the country. Their message: “Black Lives Matter.” Rag Blog contributor Ed Felien reports on events in Minneapolis.]

MINNEAPOLIS — For a couple of hours on Thursday, December 3, an action by a hundred or more brave souls was being televised live. It was thrilling. They began at a Burger King restaurant at 34th and Nicollet with a demonstration calling attention to the need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and, then, they marched down the freeway entrance to 35W and down 35W to City Hall.

Their protest turned to police brutality and, in particular, the refusal of grand juries to indict police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black young men: Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island.
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Michael James :
Coin, Durango & Hannibal: On the road with Jesse James, 1979

By noon Jesse and I were on the road, rolling west toward Durango, Colorado, to visit my ex-pro-football-playing friend David Meggyesy.

michael jesse 8 sm

Truck and Arrow at Cedar Crest, Colorado, 1979. Photos by Michael James from his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James’ Pictures from the Long Haul.

By Michael James | The Rag Blog | December 10, 2014

[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.]

It’s late summer 1979; I’m on the road with Jesse James. He’s my first-born. Born into the organization and newspaper Rising Up Angry, his mom Stormy and I named him Jesse Hampton Nathanial William Floyd Robin James, after social bandits, insurrectionists, radicals, and revolutionaries. When we set out on our adventure, Jesse was nine and I was 37.
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Lamar W. Hankins :
A problem with authority

By the age of 20, I was aware of the frequent exercise of authority in illegitimate, violent, corrupt, and otherwise abusive ways.

eric garner

Eric Garner’s last moments. Screen grab from video.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | December 9, 2014

The recent cases in both Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City concerning the failure of grand juries to indict police officers for killing Michael Brown and Eric Garner, both African-American, led me to think about authority figures in our society and how we respond to them.

In the New York case, Eric Garner tried to discuss the situation before he was swarmed by several officers and suffocated to death in an action that the medical examiner ruled a homicide. In Missouri, Michael Brown was less cordial and reacted in a way that most adults know is highly likely to escalate what, from its inception, was a problem encounter with the police officer.
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Philip L. Russell :
A third of the way: Peña Nieto’s first two years

Sluggish economy, drug cartel crime, controversial reforms, student murders and ensuing mass demonstrations mark Peña Nieto’s presidency.

enrique pena nieto

Mexico’s Enrigue Peña Nieto: A troubled presidency. Reuters photo.

By Philip L. Russell | The Rag Blog | December 8, 2014

853px-Rag_radio2Philip Russell will discuss the state of Mexico and the Peña Nieto presidency on Rag Radio, Friday, Dec. 12, 2-3 p.m. (CT), on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and streamed live here. Joining Russell on the show will be Rag Blog Mexico City correspondent Johnny Hazard, who has been covering the demonstrations in Mexico.

Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, took office in December 2012 after receiving 38 percent of the vote in a media-driven, copiously funded, one-round election. Media hype spilled over from sympathetic Mexican TV networks to the international press. The Economist coined the phrase “Mexico’s Moment,” declaring that Mexico’s time had come.
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Tom Hayden :
BOOKS | A political realignment over climate? A reflection on Naomi Klein

If Klein is half-right, most Democrats may choose climate justice over their irrational ties to corporate and confederate Democrats.

this changes everything

By Tom Hayden | The Rag Blog | December 8, 2014

Naomi Klein doesn’t say much about California in her brilliant must-read, This Changes Everything, Capitalism vs. The Climate. Yet California may be the place which indeed “changes everything,” assuming that such a utopian goal is even possible. At the very least California is the laboratory of the solar, renewables, and conservation r/evolution of the last few decades, for better and for worse.

Klein’s book is a great correction to the recent drift of environmentalism — she calls it market environmentalism — but perhaps another correction is needed soon, given the California experience.
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Harry Targ :
Contradictions in this political moment

It’s unclear what the contradiction between reaction and resistance will bring in the months ahead.

I'm paying attention

Attentive Moral Monday protester in Raleigh, N.C., in July 2013. Photo by Ted Buckner / Wikimedia Commons.

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | December 7, 2014

On contradictions

Political philosophers influenced by the writings of Marx and Engels emphasize the connections among all social processes, the opposing characteristics embedded in them, and how social dynamics are intrinsically conflictive leading to new and different futures.

For most activists this means that politics and history are complicated. Before drawing premature conclusions about what is going on and what to do about it, thoughtful reflection on the multiple dimensions of causes and effects and effects and causes are needed. No more is this so than in coming to grips with the political “time of day” in which we live.
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Jonah Raskin :
Happy Birthday, ‘High Times’

‘High Times’ has always had to walk a fine line because the cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana has been and still is illegal by federal law.

high times 40th cover

High Times: 40 years and still… smoking.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | November 22, 2014

The High Times 40th-anniversary party took place at 95 Delancey Street in New York on the next-to-the last Thursday in October. I went because I’ve written for High Times since the early 1980s, under my own name and under an alias, too, including Joe Delicado. HT also published my paperback book, Marijuanaland: Dispatches from an American War, which might be called gonzo reporting in the tradition of Hunter S. Thompson, though I don’t claim to be anywhere near as good as Thompson.

By coincidence I was in New York at the same time as the party and close by, too; 95 Delancey was a 10-minute walk from the apartment where I was staying and where I’d smoked a pipe or two of New York State weed. To get into the party you had to be on the list.
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Alan Waldman :
‘Foyle’s War’ is a smart English mystery series set during and just after WWII

Michael Kitchen is an unflappable British top cop who solves wartime crimes and post-war
spy shenanigans.

foyles war

Michael Kitchen is Chief Superintendent Foyle.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | November 19, 2014

[In his weekly 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 and/or Netflix, and some episodes are on YouTube.]

Set in the South English coastal town of Hastings during World War II, and in London shortly thereafter, Foyle’s War is a compelling crime drama that follows police inspector Christopher Foyle and his team as they solve a range of military and civilian crimes.
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Johnny Hazard :
From the streets of Mexico: ‘Fue el estado’ (‘The government did it’)

President Peña Nieto has decried incidents of inconsequential or fabricated violence by
protesters without mentioning government-perpetrated atrocities.

fue el estado crop

Graphic from La Pinche Canela / Tumblr.

By Johnny Hazard | The Rag Blog | November 19, 2014

“We have been tolerant — excessively tolerant, according to some critics. But everything has its limit.”
— then-president Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, one month before orchestrating the massacre of October 2, 1968

“We have worked through dialogue, but this too has its point of tolerance, and that is when the rights of others are affected.”
— Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, lead cabinet official,
November 14, 2014

MEXICO CITY — The drama of the police murder of six students and others in Iguala, Mexico, the disappearance of 43 education students and the subsequent cover-up at all levels of government continues.

The federal government’s attempt to provoke a catharsis and an end to the controversy by releasing certain (unverified) details of the atrocity has not had the desired effect. The Friday afternoon (November 7, 2014) release, timed so that people would just go on with their weekend, didn’t work, either; supporters of the students in Guerrero responded by setting fire to the headquarters of various political parties and government agencies.
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Paul Krassner :
The six dumbest decisions of my life

We’re talking really dangerous dumb decisions that continue to make me humble.

tiger by tail 2

And then there’s this…

By Paul Krassner | The Rag Blog | November 12, 2014

I’m talking here about seriously dumb decisions, not those minor regrets like that time in 1970 when Esquire magazine assigned me to fly to New Mexico where director Monte Hellman was filming Two-Lane Blacktop, about street-racing. Among the actors was a pair of musicians, James Taylor as a driver, and Dennis Wilson as a mechanic. They both agreed to be interviewed, besides screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer and others.

During a conversation with Taylor about not laughing at jokes, he said, “My brother once told me a joke that made me laugh.”
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