Johnny Hazard :
Marathon three-day protest at Bellas Artes
in Mexico City

‘Plantón’ at cultural center plaza remembers 43 disappeared education students.

hazard bellas artes 1

Photo by Citlali Téllez /

By Johnny Hazard | The Rag Blog | July 2, 2015

MEXICO CITY —  Nine months after the forced disappearance of 43 education students, a three-mile march culminated in the “plantón” known as “43 x 43 por Ayotzinapa,” a three-day occupation of the plaza of Bellas Artes, the principal museum and cultural center in Mexico, which is adjacent to the Alameda Central.

This June 26-28 action began the day after the opening of a major exhibition of works by Michaelangelo and DaVinci. The cultural and political events took place before a captive audience of 10,000 gallery visitors on Saturday and many more on Sunday.
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David P. Hamilton :
Mapping the Middle East mess

The artificial boundaries after the British and French carved up the region are increasingly irrelevant.

sykes-picot map of 1916

Sykes-Picot map of 1916: “A” goes to France, “B” to Britain. Image from the National Archives / Public Domain.

By David P. Hamilton | The Rag Blog | June 29, 2015

“One day during the [Versailles] Peace Conference [ending WWI], Arnold Toynbee, an adviser to the British delegation, had to deliver some papers to the prime minister. “Lloyd George had forgotten my presence and had begun to think aloud. ‘Mesopotamia, yes, oil, irrigation, we must have Mesopotamia; Palestine, yes, the Holy Land, Zionism, we must have Palestine; Syria, h’m, what is there in Syria? Let the French have that.’”
Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan, p. 381

It took more than the musings of British Prime Minister Lloyd George to make it happen, but that’s more or less how the current countries of the Middle East were created. Their boundaries were essentially drawn by the British and French after WWI to suit their own interests.

The Ottoman Empire, having joined the wrong side in the war, was being dismembered by the victorious European colonialists. The British forces occupied Baghdad and controlled the valleys of the Tigres and Euphrates Rivers. Hence, they got the oil, which they knew to be there in abundance, plus Palestine for sentimental reasons. The French got the leftovers, primarily the coastal regions where the French-speaking Maronite Christians lived plus a bunch of desert to the east.
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Marilyn Katz :
Whose race, and gender, is it anyway?

Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal trigger an important conversation about identity and society.

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Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair.

By Marilyn Katz | The Rag Blog | June 27, 2015

CHICAGO — Gender and race are not static but socially-created identities that can and should be questioned.

So much has been said in recent weeks about Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal and the porous boundaries of gender and race. But neither the questions nor answers are definitive.

As most everyone who is digitally aware knows, Jenner says she is a woman. Former NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal says she “identif[ies] as black.”
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Kate Braun :
Summer Solstice brings the longest day,
shortest night

Light and dark are opposites that represent the balance we strive for in our daily lives.

sun and moon art

Sun and moon wall sculpture. Image from Breathing Space.

By Kate Braun | The Rag Blog | June 20, 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015, is the Summer Solstice. This is the longest day and the shortest night in the year. Lady Moon is in her first quarter in Leo, a fixed Sun sign; Lord Sun is in Cancer, a cardinal water sign. Balance is shifting!

Instead of seeing Lord Sun’s power manifesting more and more as each day brings more daylight time, from now until the Winter Solstice (December 21, 2015) we shall see less daylight each day. Remember that Light does not automatically represent Good, that Dark does not automatically represent Evil. Like the Yin-Yang sign ([), light and dark are the opposites that, in the proper proportions, give a visual representation of the balance we strive for in our daily lives.
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | ‘Hustle’ is Brit series where lovable rascals con greedy, rich bastards

A fine cast, tricky plots, and snappy dialogue make this program a fun, compelling pleasure.

hustle 2

Hustle is a compelling pleasure.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | June 3, 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.]

Hustle is a lively British con-men-vs.-slimy-aristocrats series that ran for eight seasons and 48 episodes, from 2004 to 2014. Four series and 24 episodes air on Netflix, and many are free on YouTube, such as this one.

Hustle follows a group of con artists who specialize in “long cons” — extended deceptions which require greater commitment, but which return a higher reward than simple confidence tricks. First the “marks” think they are getting away with something, and then the tables are turned.
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Steve Russell :
Use writing talent without losing it

The acid test of good writing is how it sounds when read aloud. When you write like an artist, people would pay to hear your words recited.

snoopy writing 2

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | June 2, 2015

This goes out to young people who are articulate in the written form of English and therefore perhaps a dying breed. It was inspired when one of my editors hurled a really painful remark my way. He said I write like a lawyer.

A legal education will seriously bollix your writing. People think lawyers are trying to be too subtle, to make every word choice carry too much freight.
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Jonah Raskin :
Stormy Weather: A Rag Blog interview with Bryan Burrough, author of ‘Days of Rage’

“The underground is not a place but a way of life. You can be underground most anywhere, from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Hermosa Beach, California.” — Bryan Burrough


Days of Rage is Bryan Burrough’s sixth book.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | June 1, 2015

Bryan Burroughs has probably written the book about America’s radical underground at least for our time. Researching Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence, he talked to dozens and dozens of people, read almost all the literature, and studied the salient documents.

Days of Rage is Burrough’s sixth book. Previous works include Public Enemies (2004) that was made into a gangster film with Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as FBI agent Melvin Purvis.
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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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