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.

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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.

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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.

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

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.

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

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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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCASTS | Hall of Fame singer Maryann Price; Ellen Sweets, author of ‘Stirring It Up with Molly Ivins’

Maryann Price sang with Dan Hicks, The Kinks, and Asleep at the Wheel; Ellen Sweets is a prize-winning journalist recently returned from Cuba.

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Maryann Price, front left, with Christy Palumbo Foster and, in back, Rag Radio’s Tracey Schulz, left, and Thorne Dreyer in the studios of KOOP-FM in Austin, Texas, March 20, 2015. Photo by Roger Baker / The Rag Blog.

Interviews by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | March 23, 2015

Recent guests on Rag Radio are Austin singer and recording artist Maryann Price, a member of the Western Swing Hall of Fame and the Texas Music Hall of Fame, and award-winning journalist Ellen Sweets, author of Stirring It Up with Molly Ivins.

Listen to the podcasts of these shows below.


Rag Radio is a weekly hour-long syndicated radio program produced and hosted by Rag Blog editor Thorne Dreyer. The show is produced in the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM, a cooperatively-run all-volunteer community radio station in Austin, Texas, and is first broadcast and streamed live on KOOP every Friday from 2-3 p.m. (CDT).


Maryann Price

Maryann Price was the voice behind iconic bands Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, The Kinks, and Asleep at the Wheel. She is also known for leading her own jazz trio and as one half of the eclectic duo Ethyl’n Methyl, along with Asleep at the Wheel alumnus Chris O’Connell. She and Christy Palumbo Foster, who backs her up on guitar and vocals, also perform four songs live on the show.
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Alyce Guynn :
VERSE | One White Crow

white crow flying

By Alyce Guynn | The Rag Blog | March 23, 2015

In a snow storm of silence, quiet wraps itself around her
a smothering blanket taming ghostly shadows that claim the night

So as not to drown in the chill of the soundless shore
she stuffs the suffocating Silence into a bottle
corks it, hurls it out to sea hoping to reach a willing soul

As soon as she set the bottle free, watched it
bobbing on the emancipating white capped waves
a lightning volt infuses her spine
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Dick J. Reavis :
Former civil rights activist and political street vendor Charlie Saulsberry is dead at 70

Charlie, who was well-known around the UT campus in late-’60s Austin, ‘was a lefty, but always a heretic.’

charlie saulsberry by Miriam Lizcano

Charlie Saulsberry. Drawing by Miriam Lizcano / The Rag Blog.

By Dick J. Reavis | The Rag Blog | March 22, 2015

Charlie Saulsberry, 70, a familiar figure on the UT-Austin campus during the late ‘60s, died Monday, March 16, in Alabama. Strokes and kidney failure brought about his death.

Saulsberry was known to thousands of UT students because every weekday on a Guadalupe Street sidewalk just steps outside the University Co-Op bookstore, he laid out a variety of books, pamphlets, and cause buttons, and spent the day selling them to passerby. His books and pamphlets included titles like How the United States Got Involved in Vietnam and Red Star Over China. His buttons carried slogans like “War Is a Drag!”

During the three semesters that he ran the makeshift stand, he jibed and conversed with hundreds of students who remember him if only because an impediment caused him to cut short the last syllables of words he spoke. To engage in a conversation with Charlie one had to lend an ear, but those who listened to him benefitted because he was a self-taught and unique commentator in a milieu of polarized and stylized opinion. He was a lefty, but always a heretic.
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Lamar W. Hankins :
FILM | Oscar-winning ‘Citizenfour’ documents one citizen’s sacrifice for our liberty

Laura Pointras tells Snowden’s story in an engaging account that is both enlightening and unsettling.

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By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | March 22, 2015

Citizen Four is the name used by 29-year-old Edward Joseph Snowden when he first contacted Laura Poitras in January 2013. Poitras was making a film about post-9/11 surveillance when she began receiving encrypted emails from Snowden, though she didn’t know who was sending the messages at the time. In 2012, she had received a MacArthur Genius Fellowship and is a 2014 co-recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Poitras has done a trilogy of films since 9/11. My Country, My Country focuses on the Iraq War and received an Academy Award nomination in 2007. The Oath, nominated for two Emmy awards, is about the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo. Citizenfour — Poitras’ latest documentary — tells the story of how Edward Snowden came to provide detailed information about our government’s secret surveillance program. It recently received an Oscar for Best Documentary, as well as over three dozen other film awards before the Oscar.
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Kate Braun :
On Friday, March 20, we celebrate the
Vernal Equinox

Day and night hours are equal and the focus is all about recognizing the various balances in your life.

Balancing act elephant

Balance your act on the Equinox.

By Kate Braun | The Rag Blog | March 17, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015, is the Vernal Equinox. Day and night hours are equal on this day, and the focus is all about recognizing the various balances in your life as well as observing the balance of nighttime and daytime.

Decorate using the colors pink, yellow, and green. All pastel colors are good, but pink, yellow, and green are the more important. Prepare a menu that may include eggs and foods using eggs; hot cross buns; leafy green veggies; dairy foods; pumpkin and sunflower seeds; pine nuts, sprouts, cheeses, ham, and chocolate.
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Johnny Hazard :
Parents of missing Mexican students take action

A new report by an expert within the Mexican government casts further doubt on the credibility of the official story.

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Mother of one the 43 disappeared students at el Monumento a la Madre in Mexico City on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2015. Photo by Valeria González / The Rag Blog.

By Johnny Hazard | Special to The Rag Blog | March 17, 2015

Austin with Ayotzinapa: From March 18-20, a group representing the parents of the 43 students kidnapped in late September in Guerrero, Mexico, will be in Austin to speak about their children’s experiences and about the human rights violations occurring in Mexico. There will be a number of events at several venues. Find out more here.


MEXICO CITY — On Tuesday, March 10, parents and supporters of the 43 missing students blocked Avenida Chapultepec in front of the headquarters of Televisa, the dominant television network, and demanded air time to respond to what they call lies about their children.

A new report by Jorge Arturo Talavera, an expert from a government entity, the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) — but obviously working on his own time — casts further doubt on the credibility of the official story that the missing students were  detained by the police in Iguala and handed over to a drug gang which burned them to death.
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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCAST | Jim Hightower on
‘the growing populist rebellion against our corporate plutocracy’

We also talk about the U.S. Postal Service and grassroots efforts by workers and supporters to fight back against privatization.

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Jim Hightower on Rag Radio, Friday, March 6, 2015. Photos by Roger Baker / The Rag Blog.

Interview by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | March 12, 2015

Progressive populist writer and radio commentator Jim Hightower, for years a major force on the populist left, is our guest on Rag Radio. On the show we talk about our “authoritarian corporate plutocracy” and what Hightower sees as a growing “populist rebellion” in the United States.

We discuss issues raised in his recent article, published at the Hightower Lowdown, entitled, “What Occupy, the Climate March and #BlackLivesMatter have in common — and why that should inspire us all.” Jim talks about the rise of an authoritarian plutocracy in the United States — and what he sees as “diverse rebellions by those battling everything from poverty wages to police brutality, from fracking to bank fraud, [that] are fundamentally altering the nature, language, content, and context of America’s political dialogue and dynamics.”

And he believes those diverse rebellions are seeing common cause and are coming together into a larger grassroots populist movement.

We also talk about the unique importance of the U.S. Postal Service and grassroots efforts by the postal union and community groups to fight back against privatization.


Download the podcast of our March 6, 2015, Rag Radio interview with Jim Hightower here — or listen to it here:

 
Rag Radio is a weekly hour-long syndicated radio program produced and hosted by Rag Blog editor Thorne Dreyer. The show is produced in the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM, a cooperatively-run all-volunteer community radio station in Austin, Texas, and is first broadcast and streamed live on KOOP every Friday from 2-3 p.m. (CDT).


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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCAST | Heart attack survivor Jeff Shero Nightbyrd on how not to have one!

Jeff, who had triple bypass surgery, talks about heart health, holistic health, and our health care system.

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Jeff Nightbyrd on Rag Radio at the KOOP studios in Austin, February 27, 2015. Photos by Roger Baker / The Rag Blog.

Interview by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | March 12, 2015

Jeff Shero Nightbyrd, who was a major figure in the ’60s New Left and underground press movements, is our guest on Rag Radio. Jeff, our long-time friend and colleague, had a serious heart attack in 2014, and underwent triple bypass open heart surgery, which he discussed in a widely-read Rag Blog article.

On the show Jeff discusses his personal experience and some lessons he learned about heart health that he hopes will help others who might have a heart attack or who would like to avoid having one.


Download the podcast of our February 27, 2015, Rag Radio interview with Jeff Shero Nightbyrd here — or listen to it here:

 
Rag Radio is a weekly hour-long syndicated radio program produced and hosted by Rag Blog editor Thorne Dreyer. The show is produced in the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM, a cooperatively-run all-volunteer community radio station in Austin, Texas, and is first broadcast and streamed live on KOOP every Friday from 2-3 p.m. (CDT).


Jeff provides an intimate picture of his personal experience — with his heart attack, surgery, and recovery — while also offering some extremely useful insight into heart health, holistic health, and, in a larger sense, the strengths and weaknesses of our health care system. Jeff, who travels widely, also talks about health care in other parts of the world, especially Ecuador, where he recently spent time, and Cuba.
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