Alan Waldman :
14 songs and arias that have impacted my life

Being an atheist, I probably won’t have a funeral, but here’s what you can do to remember me.

Alan Waldman sm crp

Alan Waldman: Facing the music. Houston, 2014.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | April 17, 2016

I have always detested guns. Recently my friend Tucker Teutsch, 73 year-old brother of Texas music icon Joe “King” Carasco,” accidentally shot himself to death. It got me thinking…

I last touched a gun 59 years ago when fellow 12-year-old Texas Jewboy Richard (pre-“Kinky”) Friedman and I shot little .22 rifles at paper targets at his parents’ childrens’ summer camp, Echo Hill Ranch, near Kerrville, Texas. It was fun, but I won’t touch one again.

For many years I have asked my wife Sharon to play two songs at my funeral: John Lennon’s Imagine, which perfectly expresses my world view, and Manfred Mann’s My Name is Jack, which is a delightful fantasy view from 1968 of how I thought I would like to have lived my life.
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Steve Russell :
Antonin Scalia was a Federalist, sort of,

and therefore would not approve of President Obama making a lame duck appointment to replace him, right? Wrong.

Antonin Scalia DonkeyHotey

The late Justice Antonin Scalia. Caricature by DonkeyHotey / Flickr.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | March 31, 2016

Once upon a time, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, there was a patriotic organization of lawyers and academics called the Federalist Society. They were alarmed by federal court decisions that appeared to favor non-white persons and prefer human persons over corporate persons.

Over the years, they gained virtual veto power over judicial appointments by one of the major political parties and they opened chapters in every major law school, to catch new lawyers before deviant ideas could take hold. By 2012, four justices of the Supreme Court were Federalist Society members — Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito.
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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCASTS | Julia Mickenberg, Rich Reddick & Kate Catterall; Leng Wong & Anu Naimpally; scott crow; Jim Hightower; and The Melancholy Ramblers!

We dive into higher ed, live on the Asian-American hyphen, get anarchic, go populist, and dig us some honky-tonk.

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Kate Catterall, Rich Reddick, and Julia Mickenberg in the KOOP studios, March 25, 2013. Photos by Roger Baker / The Rag Blog.

Interviews by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | March 31, 2016

The following podcasts are from recent Rag Radio shows with host Thorne Dreyer. The syndicated Rag Radio program, produced in the studios of Austin’s cooperatively-run KOOP-FM, 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 Future of Higher Education’: Julia Mickenberg, Rich Reddick & Kate Catterall

Julia Mickenberg koop studioUT-Austin professors Julia Mickenberg, Rich Reddick, and Kate Catterall teach a unique grant-funded experimental collaborative course at the University of Texas at Austin called “The History and Future of Higher Education” that was inspired by the goal “to make UT the smallest big university in the world.”  We discuss this innovative course and the larger questions of higher education in America.

Read the full show description and download the podcast of our March 25, 2016 Rag Radio interview with Julia Mickenberg, Rich Reddick, and Kate Catterall, here — or listen to it here:

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Lamar W. Hankins :
Republicans’ rejection of the Constitution is a disservice to America

They have been distorting the history of the Supreme Court nomination process to justify
their political desires.

Merrick Garland and Obama

President Obama announces the nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. Public Domain photo.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | March 27, 2016

The Supreme Court nomination process is being fought out between Republicans and Democrats, with no thought given to its effect on the biggest plurality in the country — independents.

Neither a Republican nor a Democrat, I am an independent.  For the last 24 years, I have voted for candidates all over the ballot.  I have voted in both Republican and Democratic Party primaries.  I find the range of views within both of the major parties incoherently disparate.  But what concerns me today is that the intransigence of one of those parties’ elected officials is denying me and all other independents (as well as most Americans) a properly functioning federal government.
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | In the Brit mystery series ‘Grantchester’ a vicar and a village cop solve numerous murders and other crimes

The estimable Robson Green stars in this rural whodunnit, whose exciting second season returns to P.B.S. on Sunday, March 27.


By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | March 26, 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.]

Grantchester is yet again one of those smart, well-made, excellently performed British procedural cop shows, this one set in the small Cambridgeshire village of the same name, back in 1953. James Norton stars as Anglican priest (and former Scots Guards officer) Sidney Chambers who develops a sideline in sleuthing, with the initially reluctant help of Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (the always wonderful Robson Green). The series is based on The Grantchester Mysteries collections of short stories, written by James Runcie. His father was a WWII tank commander and later the Archbishop of Canterbury.
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Henry Mecredy :
The Edsel tragedy

Ford was able to command vast numbers of person-hours of labor but these creative efforts went entirely unmanifested in social good.

1958 Edsel Roundup crp

1958 Edsel Roundup. By Josephew at en.wikipedia / Creative Commons.

By Henry Mecredy | The Rag Blog | March 24, 2016

The Edsel, a car introduced by Ford in 1958, is famous in postwar American history as a costly failure. It sold poorly and its production was cancelled after little more than two years; it is written about even in the 21st Century as a cautionary case study. The Edsel fiasco has stimulated a large literature with abundant ironies, interesting personal and corporate stories, a few nice jokes (“Every Day Something Else Leaks”), and even some sober business reflections. All of these ignore some actually important points.

According to a number of histories and contemporary articles, the Edsel was conceived as a tool to wrest away from General Motors and Chrysler a significant portion of the so-called mid-price auto market. It was intended, in other words, to substitute the Edsel for cars already in production; already fulfilling the exact role for which the Edsel was designed.
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Marilyn Katz :
Chicago activists should be commended, not scolded, for shutting down Donald Trump’s rally

Peaceful resistance doesn’t egg on Trump’s supporters: It forces them to back down.

<> on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago demonstrators at Trump rally in Chicago on March 11, 2016. Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images / In These Times.

By Marilyn Katz | The Rag Blog | March 23, 2016

CHICAGO — Something strange is happening here, and it merits a serious discussion. In the week that has passed since Chicago shut up Trump, both the mainstream and other media have seen a rush of articles criticizing not Donald Trump but the protestors who shut his rally at the University of Illinois-Chicago down, defending Trump’s First Amendment rights but not those of the demonstrators.

Writers from David Moberg and Clancy Segal on the Left, to moderate Ron Grossman of the Chicago Tribune, to right-wing ideologue Charles Krauthammer strangely agree on one thing: that the anti-Trump demonstrations and “violence” will turn off American voters and move them into The Donald’s camp.
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Carl Davidson :
Does the U.S. really have six political parties?

The major parties in the U.S. are not ideological parties in the European sense, but are constantly changing coalitions.

donkey elephants masks

Image from Activist Post.

By Carl Davidson | The Rag Blog | March 21, 2016

Successful strategic thinking starts with gaining knowledge, particularly gaining adequate knowledge of the big picture; of all the political and economic forces involved… It’s not a one-shot deal. Since both Heaven and Earth are always changing, strategic thinking must always be kept up to date, reassessed and revised.

This statement was part of the opening to a widely-circulated article I wrote about two years ago, “Strategic Thinking on the U.S. Six Party System.” It’s time to take my own advice, and reassess the working hypothesis I put forward back then.

For the most part, the strategic picture holds. I suggested setting aside the traditional “two party system” frame, which obscures far more than it reveals, and making use of a “six party” model instead. The new hypothesis, I suggested, had far more explanatory power regarding the events unfolding before us.
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Johnny Hazard :
The Mexico City area has been hit by a
major ozone crisis

One reason: Mexico City’s 10 million people simply won’t give up their cars.

Mexico City smog

Photos from Yamile Requena.‎

By Johnny Hazard | The Rag Blog | March 20, 2015

Leer este artículo en español

MEXICO CITY — After a couple of days of unusually cold, windy, and rainy weather made pollution levels drop, Mexico City has faced an ozone alert since Sunday, March 13. The causes:

  • March is the beginning of the hot, dry season.
  • Leaders of the right-wing PAN political party won an injunction in July against Hoy no circula, the program that, for decades, forced certain cars to stay parked one day a week to reduce traffic and pollution. While the injunction really only forced changes in the program, city officials decided to cancel it almost completely, allowing more than 600,000 more cars per day on the road.

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Kate Braun :
The Spring Equinox falls on Palm Sunday
this year

The Zodiac begins its cycle as Lord Sun moves into Aries, sign of the Ram.

spring equinox 2013

Satellite image of the Earth at the spring equinox on March 20, 2013. Image from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) /

By Kate Braun | The Rag Blog | March 19, 2016

The Vernal or Spring Equinox, also known as Ostara and Lady Day, falls on Sunday, March 20, 2016. This date is also International Astrology Day, and this year it is the date of Palm Sunday. The Zodiac begins its cycle as Lord Sun moves into Aries, sign of the Ram, a Cardinal Masculine Fire sign.

Use the colors pink, yellow, light green, and all pastels in your dress and decorations. Incorporate representations of eggs and rabbits as well as living plants into your decorations; Mother Earth is awakening from her winter’s nap and life begins anew. Clusters of wild flowers would also be appropriate for this season.
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Marilyn Katz :
Stopping Trump: The Chicago model

Faced not with the threat of violence but lack of control of the message or the montage, Trump retreated.

Donald Trump Speaks

Donald Trump with mouth open. YouTube grab of video by Redsilverj / Creative Commons image.

By Marilyn Katz | The Rag Blog | March 15, 2016

CHICAGO — Congratulations to the people of Chicago — young and old, Black, Latino, Asian and White, Muslim, Christian and Jewish. They did what neither his competitors nor the Republican Party have been able to do — still the voice and the vitriol of Donald Trump.

The protestors, a loose amalgam of labor, women, immigration, students, and Black Lives Matter activists, didn’t do it through violence, or shouting. No dirty tricks — just the old fashioned way. They organized.

It all began early this week with an online petition to the University of Illinois-Chicago to deny Trump the use of the publicly-supported facility on the basis that the rally posed a threat to the security and safety of students. This tactic, in turn, led to two others. First, using their extensive email lists, they encouraged us to secure tickets through Eventbrite. It ensured that opponents of Trumps’ racist, anti-choice, anti-immigrant policies and statements could secure seats in the pavilion.
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Jimmy Lohman :
Trump rallies: The case for silent protest

This is not about ‘freedom of speech.’ It is about proper tactics for confronting an enormous evil.

Trump Rally Protest in Chicago sm

Chaos at Trump rally at UIC Pavilion, Chicago, March 11, 2016, after announcement that Donald Trump was postponing his appearance. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

By Jimmy Lohman | The Rag Blog | March 15, 2016

It is a mistake to shout down Trump and disrupt his rallies. Outside the rallies, anything goes: as we used to chant, “The streets belong to the people.” But inside, opposition to the horrific specter of Trumpism is best served by silent protest.

Trump is no longer just a “threat.” He has transformed the political landscape by galvanizing a massive national constituency that thrives on racial hatred, sham phobias, and nationalistic mania. Of course, confronting Trump’s neofascist tidal wave is a moral imperative, but his ascendancy also creates the opportunity for an even greater groundswell for a progressive forward-seeking alternative. The attractiveness of that alternative runs the risk of being undermined by protest actions that alienate the average American or in any way play into the aspiring Fuhrer’s hand.
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