Thorne Dreyer :
The life and times of leftist journalist
Jack A. Smith (1934-2017)

Including a personal memoir from the former Guardian editor, plus the Rag Radio interview.

Jack A. Smith (1934-2017)

By Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | July 20, 2017

Below, see “Jack A. Smith: My life and times at The Guardian,” originally published by The Rag Blog in August 2012, and listen to Thorne Dreyer’s 2012 Rag Radio interview with Smith.


On July 10, Jack Smith’s wife, Donna Goodman, sent us the following message:

I wanted to let you know that Jack Smith, my life partner and the creator and editor of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter and Calendar, has died… I know you and he did an interview together not so long ago. We read it together when the family gathered after his death.

Jack A. Smith died of complications of COPD in New Paltz, New York, on June 29, 2017.

Jack Smith started out as a reporter for United Press International, but UPI fired him when he was indicted for refusing the draft (he spent nine months in federal prison). He later wrote for and then edited the prominent leftist newspaper, The Guardian (not the liberal British daily), in the 1960s-1980s, and was, as I wrote in 2012, “one of the most important figures in progressive journalism in the 20th century.”
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Lamar W. Hankins :
Hypocrisy: Outrage over Russian meddling, but what about the U.S.’ global history?

Overthrowing elected governments is the most extreme form of interference in election results.

After the military overthrew Manuel Zelaya, Hillary Clinton wouldn’t call it a coup. State Department photo by Michael Gross.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | July 15, 2017

Hypocrisy seems to be as much a part of American life as apple pie or Thanksgiving. And hypocrisy is prominent once again in the reactions of Americans, especially the political class, to the FBI.’s investigation into Russian interference in the most essential feature of our democratic system — free elections.

Seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed Russian hacking into computer files related to the presidential election of 2016. I abhor Russian interference in our elections as much as any American (with the exclusion of President Donald Trump and his minions, who won’t forthrightly acknowledge that it occurred), but I cannot forget how our beloved country has interfered in the free elections of numerous other countries over the years.
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David P. Hamilton :
Emmanuel Macron, ‘centrist’ revolutionary

He combined social liberalism — covering all the identity politics bases — with neoliberal economics.

Election posters for Macron and Le Pen, La Clusaz, France. Photo by David r jenkins / Wikimedia Commons.

By David P. Hamilton | The Rag Blog | June 21, 2017

PARIS — Emmanuel Macron has totally changed the landscape of French politics. Previously, French politics was characterized by a right-left spectrum of several parties, two of which, Socialists on the left and Republicans in the right, contended for leadership. The center of this spectrum was relatively poorly represented. The only self-proclaimed centrist in the 2012 presidential election, Francois Bayrou, get only 9% of the vote.

The usual result of presidential elections was for the Socialists to run against the Republicans. These previously dominant parties remained relatively ideologically distinct. When they had to rule together, as when Socialist president Mitterrand was saddled with a rightest prime minister Chirac, it was considered an aberration.
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Chellis Glendinning :
Psychohistory in the Age of Trump

Comparisons between Nazi Germany and Trump´s U.S.-in-process abound these days.

Trump salutes. Donald in Reno, Nevada, January 10, 2016.
Photo by Darron Birgenheier / Flickr.

By Chellis Glendinning | The Rag Blog | June 21, 2017

CHUQUISACA, Bolivia — As befits the times, I have been studying Nikolaus Wachsmann´s KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps and re-reading Uprooted Minds: Surviving the Politics of Terror in the Americas, by Nancy Caro Hollander.

As a resident of Bolivia, I’ve also had the chance to befriend Latin American activists who were jailed and tortured, or fled, during the dictatorships of the 1970s-’80s, including one man who was among very few to escape a massacre committed by the same battalion that years earlier had murdered Che Guevara (“Interview with a Revolutionary,” Wild Culture, 27 Nov 2016) and another who fled directly from being tortured, his jaw broken and blood soaking his shirt, to the airport to escape to Sweden.
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Lamar W. Hankins :
American culture: Appropriated, revised,
and invented

There is virtually no part of our culture that is not borrowed from somewhere else.

Woody Guthrie: “I steal from everyone.” Photo by Al Aumuller / New York World-Telegram and the Sun / Public Domain.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | June 20, 2017

To paraphrase something the musicologist Charles Seeger once said (as reported by his son Pete Seeger), “Plagiarism is basic to all culture.” He might as well have said, “Appropriation is basic to all culture.”

In fact, Pete Seeger spent a good deal of his 94 years learning music from a variety of cultures and teaching others the songs and tunes he encountered in his travels. Without Pete’s work, I may never have heard Cuban songs. Certainly, without his work and that of Zilphia Horton, Guy Carawan, and Frank Hamilton altering an old Negro spiritual, we might not have had what came to be called the anthem of the civil rights movement in this country, “We Shall Overcome,” which has been heard in other struggles around the world, such as in South Africa’s Soweto Township, in Tiananmen Square, and North Korea.
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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCASTS | We talk politics, community, and resistance; discuss some important new books; enjoy some great live music… and much more!

Our guests are Bill Ayers & Bernardine Dohrn; Rev. Jim Rigby & Glenn Smith; Corey Dolgon; Julia Mickenberg; Scott Braddock; Jonathan Tilove; Roy Casagranda; Powell St. John & Charlie Prichard; Gordon Lafer; Eddie Wilson & Jesse Sublett; Eliza Gilkyson; Bob Libal & Alice Embree; David Messier; Jim Hightower & Beverly Shaw.

Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn on Rag Radio. Photo by Carlos Lowry / The Rag Blog.

Interviews by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | June 20, 2017

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.


Bill Ayers & Bernardine Dohrn: ‘Demand the Impossible!’

Legendary activists and educators Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn are interviewed by Rag Radio host Thorne Dreyer and writer/activist Alice Embree. They discuss Bill’s new book, Demand the Impossible!: A Radical Manifesto, and how it addresses the problems we face at this dramatic juncture in history.  Vijay Prashad calls Bill Ayers “the philosopher of the revolutionary spirit,” and Angela Davis writes that Demand the Impossible! “is a book that should be read by everyone who believes that ‘another world is possible.'”

Read the full show description and download the podcast of our June 16, 2017 Rag Radio show with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, here — or listen to it here:


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Roger Baker :
The emerging split within the U.S.
Democratic Party

The Perez wing, which is not hostile to Bernie Sanders, seems ready to discuss class oppression.

Tom Perez and Bernie Sanders at an April rally in Mesa, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr.

By Roger Baker | The Rag Blog | June 20, 2017

The Hill, which is widely read by Washington politicians and is rather centrist-liberal in character, reports on the split at the link just below.

This angry split within the Democratic Party is basically between the Hillary Clinton/Debbie Wasserman Schultz/corporate media wing of the Dems and, on the other side, the new DNC leadership wing led by Tom Perez, which is not openly hostile to Bernie Sanders (that would be hard, since Bernie is now the most popular US politician). The Perez wing seems to be ready to discuss class oppression issues, to some degree.
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James McEnteer :
Chained together in Hell: Manuel Noriega and George H.W. Bush

No one was blinder to the criminality of Noriega, who was on the CIA payroll, than George Herbert Walker Bush.

Two for the ages: Noriega and Bush. Images from Wikimedia Commons.

By James McEnteer | The Rag Blog | June 19, 2017

QUITO, Ecuador — Manuel Noriega, former president of Panama, died in prison May 28 at 83 after decades in custody. What exactly was his crime? He was a monster who turned on his enabler: George Herbert Walker Bush. Though Bush, 92, is not yet technically dead, he and Noriega will soon be chained together in Hell for all eternity.

George H.W. Bush was born not merely into wealth and privilege but into the elite financial fraternity that built the modern American national security state. His father, Prescott, along with Allen and John Foster Dulles, invested heavily in Nazi Germany, before and after the rise of Hitler. Under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the U.S. government seized the Union Banking Corporation for harboring millions in Nazi money. Prescott Bush was one of the bank’s six directors. Other companies Prescott was involved with also had their assets seized by the government.
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Steve Russell :
The downside to impeaching Trump

Rogue’s Gallery: We should all look at the presidential bullpen in constitutional order.

Sweethearts! Would Pence be better? Photo by Steve Baker / Flickr.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | June 18, 2017

The investigations are scattered among the House, the Senate, and now a special prosecutor, and the rampant obstruction brings on periodic cases of Watergate déjà vu. It is becoming less and less likely that Donald J. Trump can keep the sticky stuff in the bottle. I think it’s probable that The Donald is guilty of impeachable offenses, but, like Watergate, it’s not so much the crime as the cover-up.

“High crimes and misdemeanors” are on their face broader than felonies, as Bill Clinton found out. In many states, Clinton’s perjury would not have been a felony because it did not touch a material issue in an official proceeding. If Congress were not dominated by Republicans, it would be possible (legal) to impeach Trump on the ground that he’s an inveterate liar in public matters who brings disrepute to the office.
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Harry Targ :
The political time of day: Neoliberalism, resistance, and a left yearning to grow

Progressives today must mobilize against Trumpism while articulating an alternative
political and economic analysis.

Trump time: slightly askew. Image from m01229 / Flickr.

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | May 30, 2017

The rift within the Democratic Party was on full display at the California Democratic Party Convention on May 19 in Sacramento, California. Progressives joined members of National Nurses United, protesting the Democratic Party establishment’s refusal to support [a] single payer health care system. Rather than follow through with Democratic rhetoric that health care is a human right, establishment Democrats have responded to voters by scolding and attacking them.
— Michael Sainato, “Tom Perez Bombs Speech, California Dem Chair Tells Protesters ‘Shut the F* Up,’” Observer, May 20, 2017.

The new Trump administration is embroiled in a series of crises, with new ones emerging on almost a daily basis. The president is bombastic, ill-informed, and narcissistic. In response to his critics he engages in dangerous and unconventional efforts to transform the dominant narrative about his incompetence. He has authorized ruthless bombings in Syria and Afghanistan and threatened war against enemies such as North Korea.

More recently, in his diplomatic trip to the Middle East and Europe, he has reached a deal to sell $110 billion in weaponry to a Saudi Arabian regime which supports terrorism throughout the Middle East and a devastating bombing campaign against Yemen. And at home he has appointed cabinet members and advisors with long histories of white supremacy and anti-Semitism (almost in defiance of accepted minimal qualifications for public office).
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | ‘The Detectorists’ is a sly, deadpan Britcom with many unexpected laughs

Two odd Brit zanies with metal detectors lead a fun cast in this ribald rural romp.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | May 29, 2017

[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.]

Mackenzie Crook, who performed in the three Pirates of the Caribbean flicks, Game of Thrones, and the original British version of The Office, wrote and directed all 13 episodes of the droll English sitcom The Detectorists, which won the 2015 BAFTA Best Scripted Comedy award. It also garnered his brilliant co-star Toby Jones a 2016 BAFTA Best Comedy Performer nomination and the 2015 Broadcasting Press Guild Best Actor Award. It’s very funny stuff that sneaks up on you from the side.
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Marilyn Katz :
To impeach or not to impeach? That is not
the question.

Like a horrific accident on the highway, Trump now serves as a dangerous distraction.

Donald Trump. Carictature by DonkeyHotey / Creative Commons.

By Marilyn Katz | The Rag Blog | May 29, 1917

CHICAGO — The daily revelations of the entanglement of Trump’s entourage have Republicans squirming and Democrats salivating at the smell of blood in the water. Former boogeymen like the CIA and the FBI have suddenly become heroes to liberals. After years of relative quietude, Russia has emerged once again as the evil empire, as if we were living in the height of the Cold War.

Even progressives have not been immune, with thoughtful In These Times writers like Kate Aronoff and Jeff Alson spending their considerable brain power on weighing the danger, in the case of Alson, and benefit, as Aronoff sees it, of impeachment.

While the speculation is entertaining — and great for the bookmakers in Vegas — for progressives and others who take care about the future of the nation and the world, this almost singular focus on Trump and impeachment is both mistaken and dangerous. Like a horrific accident on the highway that commands everyone’s attention, Trump now serves as a dangerous distraction.
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