Mariann Garner-Wizard Vasquez :
Akwasi Evans: poet, publisher, and
born rebel

Publisher of Austin community newspaper, ‘NOKOA: The Observer,’ is dead at 70.

Akwasi Evans with bullhorn. Image courtesy SouthPop.

By Mariann Garner-Wizard Vasquez | The Rag Blog | June 19, 2019

Also see “METRO EVENT: Akwasi Evans: Speaking Truth to Power: A Tribute,” on The Rag Blog for more details.

Akwasi Evans, an Austin activist and community publisher for half of his 70 years, passed away from complications of prostate cancer on April 18, 2019, at his Austin home. An online obituary covers the basics of early life, family, and his life and work in Austin.

Other obits and news of Evans’ death appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, Austin Chronicle, KUT-FM, and a piece by his longtime friend, golf partner, fellow publisher, and radio co-host Tommy Wyatt in The Villager.

Each report brings to light new perspectives on Evans’ service to his chosen community. At his funeral, over 200 family, friends, and political associates, people from all walks of life, heard him eulogized by Dr. Nelson Linder, president of Austin’s NAACP, and eight ministers. Yet it’s not enough. Akwasi’s passing leaves a huge hole in Austin’s progressive community, and filling it seems highly unlikely, as he was a uniquely dedicated man who called himself a born rebel.
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Anne Lewis :
STORY & VIDEO PODCAST | Asylum, terror, and the future #2: Happy 18th Birthday

Based on case stories of Jennifer Harbury…

ASYLUM, TERROR, and the FUTURE #2 Happy 18th Birthday from Anne Lewis on Vimeo.

By Anne Lewis | The Rag Blog | June 11, 2019

Saturday morning at the greyhound bus station in Harlingen — yard sale a block down the street — a homeless woman paces back and forth in front of the station; bird calls and Bank of America building in the background. We are told that we cannot film inside.

This is one of the places where families are left after detention in hieleras — if they have relatives who will sponsor them. Volunteers pick them up at the bus stations along the border, assess their medical needs, take care of them in shelters, provide them with information about help along the way, and return them to the station for their trip north and east and west.
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Steve Rossignol :
A marker for Covington Hall

William Covington Hall was a major organizer of the IWW in Texas and Louisiana.

Covington Hall marker. Photo by Steve Rossignol / The Rag Blog.

By Steve Rossignol | The Rag Blog | June 6, 2019

William Covington Hall stands out in southern socialist and labor history as one of the paramount organizers of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Texas and Louisiana. Writer, poet, labor organizer, orator, newspaper editor — Covington Hall is perhaps best remembered for his efforts to organize lumber workers in the East Texas and Western Louisiana piney woods in the first two decades of the 20th Century.

But for all his notoriety during those years, Covington Hall died in relative obscurity on February 21, 1952. For the longest time the location of his gravesite was unknown and unmarked[i]. It was time to resolve the oversight.
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Ed Felien :
China has already won the Trade War

Trump is playing a short game, and China is (as always) playing a long game.

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, November 2017. Image from
Wikimedia Commons.

By Ed Felien | The Rag Blog | May 22, 2019

A trade war is when a country raises tariffs (taxes) on a product coming into the country. The business selling that cheaper foreign product then has to pass that tariff (tax) onto the consumer, and this can make the product cost the same as an American-made product.

Big retailers like Walmart and Target have been lured to China to produce their goods. They’ve invested billions in creating a manufacturing infrastructure. The Chinese provided Special Economic Zones where U.S. capitalists could build factories, hire workers at low wages, and the workers even agreed to a no strike pledge. The only hitch in all this was that the Chinese government owned 52% of the factory.
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Anne Lewis :
STORY & VIDEO PODCAST | Asylum, terror, and the future #1: Asylum claim

Based on case stories of Jennifer Harbury…

Asylum, Terror, and the Future #1 Asylum Claim from Anne Lewis on Vimeo.

By Anne Lewis | The Rag Blog | May 15, 2019

Read this article in Spanish.

The problem, of course, lies with the realities concealed from us. This has always been the case… In the end, however, this is our government, and torture is being utilized in our names and supported by our tax dollars. We are responsible.

AUSTIN — Last February I was at a party to celebrate a return visit to Austin of radical labor attorney Larry Daves. Jennifer Harbury from Weslaco began to talk about what was going on at the U.S./Mexico border. I had a camera there to perhaps film Larry, but the camera stayed in its case. Afterwards, I kicked myself for not filming Jennifer. Her ability to express a wailing narrative of human misery with total lack of sentimentality was devastating. I was overwhelmed.

Jennifer’s husband, Efrain Barnaca Velasquez, a Mayan resistance fighter, “disappeared” in March 1992. He was tortured for two and a half years and murdered by CIA-paid, School of the Americas-trained members of the Guatemalan army. Jennifer exposed her husband’s torturers to the world and then wrote about it.
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Steve Russell :
The danger of a constitutional crisis

Mr. Trump’s relation to history is ignorance or disregard  — which one does not matter.

President Andrew Jackson promised to remove Indians west of the Mississippi. Art from Pictorial Life of Andrew Jackson,1847. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | May 8, 2019

The Republican Party has been replaced by a personality cult that runs right over history, economics, and political science. It is a first principle of winning democratic elections that you consolidate your base and immediately reach out to expand it.

Mr. Trump is in the second half of his first term and he has governed in the interest of his base, threatened his political opponents with jail, and urged his supporters to believe that any election he does not win will be illegitimate. He has accused Robert Mueller of an attempted coup d’état. He was not attempting an analogy. He meant an illegitimate movement that must be opposed violently if necessary. The president of the United States is priming his supporters for civil war.
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Alice Embree :
BOOKS | ‘The Dilsberg Engagement: Love, Dissent and Reprisals’ by Danielle Jaussaud

The author has provided a gripping description of GI resistance in Germany.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | May 6, 2019

[Danielle Jaussaud and Alice Embree will join Thorne Dreyer on Rag Radio, Friday, May 31, 2-3 p.m. (CT), on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin. The show will be streamed live at and by Radio Free America.]

Danielle Jaussaud has written a masterful tale of romance and resistance. The Dilsberg Engagement: Love, Dissent and Reprisals is now available on Amazon.

It is a true story written with the cadence of a mystery, compelling you to keep on turning the pages. You are given a brief taste of what is to come with a scene set in Kaiserslautern, Germany, in 1973. A charismatic GI has smuggled secret documents off a U.S. Army base. The author then takes you back two years, describing how she met Mike McDougal in Morocco. Their relationship evolves from traveling companions to lovers, and then to collaborators, when Mike decides to release classified military information.
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Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher Jr. :
POLITICS | A left strategy for the 2020 elections and beyond

Election campaigns are not a bothersome sideshow, but are at the center of our work.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in Phoenix, Arizona in 2016.
Photo by Greg Skidmore. Twitter.

By Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher Jr. | The Rag Blog via Truthout | April 25, 2019

As the 2020 presidential campaigns begin in 2019, nearly everyone on the left knows the stakes are high. The defeat of Donald Trump and the ejection of his right-wing and white supremacist populist bloc from the centers of political power is a tactical goal of some urgency not only for Democrats but also for leftists. The outcome of the upcoming election will have a direct effect on thwarting right-wing populism and the clear and present danger of incipient fascism and war.

The removal of Trump’s bloc would also remove a stubborn obstacle to a range of urgent progressive reforms much needed at the grassroots  — Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, no new wars and interventions, a $15 minimum wage, and so on. Given how unlikely Trump’s resignation or impeachment is, the election of the candidate running on the Democratic Party line seems like the likeliest path toward his removal.
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Jonah Raskin :
TRAVEL | Three days in LA: Tales of a reluctant tourist

It’s clear that there’s little if anything natural about LA.

Photo by Jean-Francois Bourdic.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | April 18, 2019

“Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyper-real and of simulation. It’s no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.” — Jean Baudrillard, Simulation and Simulacra, 1981


You don’t have to be a French philosopher like Jean Baudrillard to grasp the unreality of LA. Indeed, the outlook that once belonged largely to Parisian intellectuals is now commonplace. “I don’t think anything in LA is real or natural,” quipped a young mother with a real baby in a real baby carriage. She and I were walking around the real canals in Venice, a short distance from the Pacific Ocean. I was admiring the arrangement of water and land and houses, too, that must cost a fortune. She was a stranger, at least to me, but she looked savvy so I couldn’t help but ask her about the canals.

To my naked eye they looked too regular, too predictable, and too shapely to be made by nature, but I wasn’t sure. Much the same might be said of LA itself, which strikes me as the capital of the artificial, though Las Vegas with its neon and glitter isn’t far away and offers stiff competition.
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Elaine J. Cohen :
Pilgrims’ process

Japanese pilgrims bearing 30,000 paper cranes visit WWII internment site, meet up with Austin Sanctuary Movement.

Japanese-American Memorial Pilgrimage to Crystal City. Photo by Kimiko Marr / The Rag Blog.

By Elaine J. Cohen | The Rag Blog | April 4, 2019

AUSTIN — It has been over two years since I wrote about immigrant detention. The French have an expression, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I just reviewed the Rag Blog posts I wrote in 2015 and 2016 and comparing them to the situation today feels masochistic. Agent Orange’s anti-immigrant vitriol has been so often repeated (and re-tweeted) that even if one has a psychic barrier to protect one from Fox Not News, the cruelty creeps under the door like some 21st century mustard gas.

And we are still in the trenches.

And yet.

This Monday I made the drive north on Cameron, which then became Dessau and turned West on Wells Branch to visit St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, where my friends Hilda and Ivan have been living in Sanctuary for too long. I’m glad I made the drive because I met an extraordinary group of people who had come to Texas to make a pilgrimage to Crystal City, Texas, one of the U.S. Department of Justice internment camps that held Japanese-Americans during World War II and even after the war had ended.

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The Rag Blog :
The New Journalism Project launches NJP Publishing

Rag Blog publisher announces new book publishing effort.

By The Rag Blog | The Rag Blog | March 29, 2019

The New Journalism Project (NJP), publisher of The Rag Blog and sponsor of Rag Radio, is spreading its wings with an expanded publishing effort. NJP has sponsored The Rag Blog and Rag Radio for more than a decade, but its first venture into publishing was Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper, published in 2016. The book met with wide national acclaim.

We plan to build on the success of Celebrating The Rag by launching NJP Publishing. We can contribute editorial expertise, production skills, and a promotion platform to this effort. In the 2019 pilot phase, NJP Publishing will publish both established and emerging writers, with an initial focus on amplifying women’s voices.

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Rabbi Arthur Waskow :
Facing two different forms of anti-Semitism

We must resist White Nationalism and reach out in solidarity to the communities it attacks.

Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, August 12, 2017. Photo by Anthony Crider / Wikimedia Commons.

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow | The Rag Blog | March 14, 2019

An old Jewish saying goes, “Why did God give us two thumbs? So we could say — ‘On the one hand!’ and then, ‘On the other hand!’”

Through much of the history of Jewish thought and the evolution of Jewish values, in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) and rabbinic discussion ever since, Jews have often faced the need to choose between what at first seem to be irreconcilable alternatives — two “goods” or two “bads.”

We face what seems to be such a choice now, about responding to what seem like two different forms of anti-Semitism. One is the pervasive danger to Jews among many other communities of a hypermasculinist White-Nationalist wave of policy and rhetoric coming from some places of great power in American life, and the other is the occasional use of expressions that to many of us feel like ant-Semitic motifs, coming from members and leaders of groups in American society that are under systematic attack from centers of great power — groups toward which many of us feel deep empathy and hope to act in solidarity.
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