Steve Russell :
Two wars for the American West

The older war is known collectively as the Indian wars. The second is a continuation of the bloodiest conflict in the history of the nation, the Civil War.

stand off at standing rock

Native Americans, based at the Sacred Stone Spiritual Camp, in stand-off during protest against Dakota Access Pipeline which is crossing treaty lands. Image from Bronx Climate Justice North.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | September 5, 2016

Two wars are simmering in the Western United States, both thought to have ended long ago and both making a job with the federal government a potential assignment to the front lines. An interactive map, published by High Country News,  shows how dangerous it is these days to work for one of the government agencies managing public land.

The older war is known by a collective description, the Indian wars. The newer war is the one so far causing more danger to government employees. It’s a continuation of the bloodiest conflict in the history of the nation, the Civil War.
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Lamar W. Hankins :
Donald Trump, white resentment, racism,
and a ‘great’ America

More than 40 years of racist actions and comments demonstrate what we normally call racism.

Donald Trump treatment cc

Donald Trump. Creative Commons image.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | August 6, 2016

I have been aware of white resentment toward blacks since at least 1954, but this presidential election campaign brought back a memory from 1958, when I was in junior high school. I was active then in the Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF). During a discussion group one day, led by an adult youth leader from our church, we talked about race and race relations, though I don’t remember how we got on that topic.

The MYF leader worked at the Gulf Oil refinery in Port Arthur. Neither of the local refineries (the other one was Texaco) hired black employees then. The MYF leader argued against letting blacks work at the refinery because they would compete for his job. He did not want the competition. He had a family to support and would never favor any changes that might threaten his job. Though some of us challenged our leader about his clearly racist views, he saw nothing wrong with denying blacks such opportunities, which were a privilege that white people had, but not blacks.
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David McReynolds :
Donald Trump, the unexpected guest
with my curry

When I found my young friend, the attorney, was considering voting for Trump, it suggested to me that Trump might win.

Donald Trump mouth open

Feed me! Grab from No Holds Barred / YouTube / Creative Commons.

By David McReynolds | The Rag Blog | July 15, 2016

NEW YORK — A few weeks ago a couple of friends invited me to dinner at a nice little place, Heart of India, on Second Avenue and Fifth Street. One friend is a multi-talented master of film, and the other is a lawyer. I got to the restaurant early, and the first one to arrive was the young lawyer.

We were making idle conversation, waiting for the final friend. I was rambling on about how I had never seen any candidate so totally shredded as Donald Trump. The late night show, The Daily Show, every comic strip, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Daily News.
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Jeff Shero Nightbyrd :
Should we disarm the police?

A policeman who kills becomes prosecutor, judge, and executioner without facts and a trial.

Rat Cover sm

This cover of RAT, the New York undergrounder which Jeff edited, is from the August 12-26, 1969 issue. There’s also a new RAT website.

By Jeff Shero Nightbyrd | The Rag Blog | July 15, 2016

Five policemen were assassinated in Dallas. No surprise. In America on average 25 blacks are killed by police a month. And Dallas exists in a sort of negative vortex, a predictor of violent trends.

Once again, there’s been great hand-wringing over America as a twisted violent culture. But in fact violence has dropped precipitously over the last two decades. Despite more gun ownership, victims of non-fatal violent crime have dropped from 7,976 per hundred thousand to 2,254 per hundred thousand. In 1993, seven people were killed, today the figure is 3.6.
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Johnny Hazard :
Police attack striking teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico

Eight people were killed in Nochistlán and other parts of Oaxaca in protest-related incidents Sunday.

Hazard teachers protest oaxaca

Cops attack teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico. Image via Democracy Now!

By Johnny Hazard | The Rag Blog | June 21, 2016

MEXICO CITY — Armed federal police attacked striking teachers in Nochistlán, Oaxaca,  Sunday, June 19, in one of the gravest of a series of similar incidents since teachers in six states went on strike a month ago, supported by teachers, families, and activists in most other states and in Mexico City.

At least nine people were killed in Nochistlán and other parts of Oaxaca in protest-related incidents Sunday, with  53 civilians and 50 police officers reported injured, and more protests and arrests occurred in Mexico City on Monday.

Upon learning of the violence in Oaxaca, teachers occupied the streets around Televisa, principal television network and promoter of the dismantling of public education and the firing of teachers.
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Harry Targ :
Planning a 21st Century ‘New World Order’

The Post calls for a return to the post-World War II global policy that benefited banks, multinational corporations, and the military-industrial complex.

Obama visits Vietnam

Obama declared an end to the longstanding U.S. arms embargo during his visit to Vietnam. Screen grab from YouTube / Creative Commons.

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | June 14, 2016

From a May 21, 2016 Washington Post editorial:

HARDLY A day goes by without evidence that the liberal international order of the past seven decades is being eroded. China and Russia are attempting to fashion a world in their own illiberal image… This poses an enormous trial for the next U.S. president. We say trial because no matter who takes the Oval Office, it will demand courage and difficult decisions to save the liberal international order. As a new report from the Center for a New American Security points out, this order is worth saving, and it is worth reminding ourselves why: It generated unprecedented global prosperity, lifting billions of people out of poverty; democratic government, once rare, spread to more than 100 nations; and for seven decades there has been no cataclysmic war among the great powers. No wonder U.S. engagement with the world enjoyed a bipartisan consensus.

The Washington Post editorial quoted above clearly articulates the dominant view held by U.S. foreign policy elites for the years ahead. It in effect constitutes a synthesis of the “neocon” and the “liberal interventionist” wings of the ruling class. In my judgment, with all our attention on primaries, who goes to which bathrooms, and other mystifications, a New Cold War is being planned. Only this time it will have even greater consequences for global violence and devastation of the environment than the first one.
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Lamar W. Hankins :
How Christians misunderstand atheists

I have never met an atheist who did not accept the scientific method, which explains why the god hypothesis fails for these people.

Philosophy and Christian Art Ridgway - Huntington

Young woman attempts to convert wizened philosopher. Engraving by W. Ridgway after Daniel Huntington’s 1868 painting, “Philosophy and Christian Art.” Public Domain.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | June 14, 2016

Journalist and author Christopher Hitchens died of cancer of the esophagus in 2011. One fear of dying that he expressed before that inevitability was that some Christians would claim he had a deathbed conversion to their religion, as happened with other prominent freethinkers, such as Charles Darwin and Thomas Paine. Sure enough, something of that has come to pass.

Larry Alex Taunton, called a “creep” and “religious fanatic” by writer Nick Cohen in an article in The Guardian, claimed in his book, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist, that Hitchens may have been on his way to conversion when he died. Taunton’s claim is based on several months of traveling with Hitchens discussing Taunton’s Christian beliefs and reading from the bible. Hitchens’ interest in certain portions of the bible seems to be the only evidence that Taunton can muster to support the claim. If only there had been a bit more time, suggests Taunton, perhaps there would have been a full-scale, public conversion.
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Kate Braun :
The Summer Solstice is marked by a Mead
or Honey Moon

This is a fertility festival for crops and animals as well as humans.

Solstice_fire_Montana

Solstice fire in Montana. Public domain image.

By Kate Braun | The Rag Blog | June 13, 2016

“Summer is coming, summer is coming, I know it, I know it…”

Monday, June 20, 2016, is the Summer Solstice, aka Litha, Midsummer. There is a Full Moon on this day, a Mead or Honey Moon. This is a Fire Festival, so be sure to have fire burning for your celebration and put blue, green, and yellow candles on your table or altar. This Solstice is when the Holly King, king of the waning year, triumphs. It is time to notice the steadily waning daylight time, time to prepare for withdrawal into the dark time when energies will be best put toward meditation and renewal.

Use the colors White, Red, Golden Yellow, Green, Blue, and Tan in your decorations and attire. Serve your guests a menu including any orange and yellow foods, fresh fruits (especially oranges and lemons) and veggies, summer squash, pumpernickel bread. Flaming foods and foods prepared over a fire are also appropriate. Traditional drinks are ale, mead, and fresh fruit juice (although mimosas wouldn’t be amiss).
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | Excellent Brit cop series ‘Above Suspicion’ is gripping, intelligent viewing

Craggy vet Ciarán Hinds and perky young Kelly Reilley lead a squad of detectives in queen of crime Lynda La Plante’s latest white-knuckle thriller.

Above Suspicion

Above Suspicion is gripping, intelligent viewing.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | June 12, 2016

[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.]

All four two- and three-part Above Suspicion stories are available on Netflix and YouTube, and they are well worth discovering. The series aired from 2009-2012 and then was cancelled. Here’s the beginning of an episode.

The series is based on the novels Above Suspicion, The Red Dahlia, Deadly Intent, and Silent Scream by Lynda La Plante, who has won six major awards and three other nominations for Prime Suspect and Prime Suspect 3 but who’s also written Trial & Retribution, The Commander, Bella Mafia, Widows, Framed, Prime Suspect 2, two movies and nine other TV series.
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James McEnteer :
Look ma, no wheels: Weak end at Bernie’s

Political bites and random nibbles.

Political shark

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

By James McEnteer | The Rag Blog | June 8, 2016

On September 11, 2001, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, et. al., were either negligent about or complicit in the terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Americans. There is no third alternative. We require a thorough judicial proceeding to determine which it was. Fifteen years later we still need to know.

Which presidential campaign will promise to find the truth?
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Dave Zirin :
SPORT | ‘I Just Wanted to Be Free’: The radical reverberations of Muhammad Ali

He redefined what it meant to be tough and collectivized the very idea of courage.

Muhammad Ali 1966 sm

Muhammad Ali in 1966. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

By Dave Zirin | The Rag Blog | June 5, 2016

The reverberations. Not the rumbles, the reverberations. The death of Muhammad Ali will undoubtedly move people’s minds to his epic boxing matches against Joe Frazier and George Foreman, or there will be retrospectives about his epic “rumbles” against racism and war.

But it’s the reverberations that we have to understand in order to see Muhammad Ali as what he remains: the most important athlete to ever live. It’s the reverberations that are our best defense against real-time efforts to pull out his political teeth and turn him into a harmless icon suitable for mass consumption.
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Mariann Wizard Vasquez :
Out There: My first dispatch from Belize

I’m starting to get a glimmer of the ‘colonial fatalism’ that decrees, ‘That’s just how things are.’

WizardBelize2shot

Changing prayer flags of cleanliness.

By Mariann Wizard Vasquez* | The Rag Blog | May 28, 2016

SAN IGNACIO TOWN, Cayo, Belize, C.A. — It’s the smallest things that begin to impress upon my First World consciousness just what it is to live in the Third World. Take, for example, the lowly clothespin.

In Belize, where sunshine is one of the most abundant (and least exploited) resources, everyone hangs their clothes and household linens out to dry. Porches, verandas, patios, and yards of rich and poor alike ripple with sheets and towels, the mister’s briefs and the missus’ dainties, school uniforms and superhero T-shirts, constantly-changing prayer flags of devout cleanliness. Except during the rainy season, the system works fine.
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