Tom Hayden :
It’s time to act against escalation in Iraq and Iran

We must support diplomacy while pointing out there is no military solution.

us military trainers iraq

U.S. military trainers with Iraqi soldiers in January 2015. Photo by Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP.

By Tom Hayden | The Rag Blog | January 3, 2014

Peace and justice activists should — at the very least — send messages now to members of Congress and to 2016 candidates telling them that they will be held accountable if the new Iraq War turns into a quagmire and the diplomatic process with Iran breaks down.

First, Iraq. It would be a terrible mistake if any peace activists sit out the fight over whether Congress should authorize the next phase of the Iraq War. Currently many activists are insisting on a diplomatic resolution and are opposed to any congressional authorization for the use of military force.
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Michael Klonsky :
An insurgent movement wins in Chicago

An alliance of union activists, teachers, and community-based organizations took Rahm and his machine candidates to the woodshed.

Mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia: A big smile. Photo from the Chicago Tribune.

By Michael Klonsky | Special to The Rag Blog | March 2, 2015

“We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Chuy Garcia quotes Fanny Lou Hamer in his election-night speech

CHICAGO — We used to have party primaries in Chicago. But after Harold Washington defeated Jane Byrne and Rich Daley in the 1983 Democratic primary, and went on to become the city’s first black mayor, they changed the rules. No longer would it be possible for a black or Latino candidate to split the white vote in a primary and win a three-way primary with less than 50% of the vote.

As a result, Chicago’s Democratic Party machine candidates have dominated the electoral scene with mayors like Rich Daley and Rahm Emanuel, with millions in their pockets, locking up City Hall and bringing in with them a gaggle of eager yes-men into the City Council. But change is in the air and it’s coming fast.
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Jeff Shero Nightbyrd :
My heart attack and some lessons I learned

My recent experience with triple bypass open heart surgery taught me a lot about how to stay healthy.

jeff post-op photo laura rose tannous nichols

Post-op Jeff in May 2014. Photo by Laura Rose Tannous Nichols.

By Jeff Shero Nightbyrd | The Rag Blog | February 25, 2015

Rag Radio logo small[Jeff Nightbyrd will be Thorne Dreyer’s guest on Rag Radio, Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, 2-3 p.m. (CST), on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and streamed live. Jeff will discuss issues related to this article.]

Last year I had open heart, triple bypass surgery. Kind of takes the wind out of your sails. But I am recovering remarkably well so the prognosis is another 20 years of normal energetic life instead of sudden death. Because this surgery is becoming common — there will be more than 150,000 such procedures in the U.S. this year — some of you or your loved ones will be facing this scary reality. So I thought I would share some helpful lessons I learned the hard way.

Your heart

Your heart will beat about 42 million times this year. That’s a stunning amount of work. An average person can fill up 12 swimming pools with blood in a year. OK, I just made up that statistic but you get the idea. In the time you took to read this far your heart has pumped about a gallon of blood.
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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCAST | Bob McChesney on our media crisis – and on ‘post-capitalist democracy’

In his important new book, the influential media critic is ‘Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century.’

robert mcchesney

Bob McChesney was Thorne Dreyer’s guest on Rag Radio, Friday, February 20, 2015.

Interview by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | January 24, 2015

Our guest on Rag Radio is Robert W. McChesney, one of the most widely read and honored communication scholars in the world today. On the show we discuss issues related to McChesney’s important new book, Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century: Media, Politics, and the Struggle for Post-Capitalist Democracy.

Download the podcast of our hour-long January 20, 2015, Rag Radio interview with Bob McChesney 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).

blowing the roof offAmong topics discussed on the show are the significance and likely fate of net neutrality, the commercialization of the Internet, and the future of our endangered print media and, for that matter, of serious journalism itself; the crippling effect of income inequality and the importance of grassroots activism in countering organized wealth in our society; the continuing encroachment of for-profit corporations into the public sector; and what a “post-capitalist democracy” might look like.
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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCASTS | Recent shows include lively, timely interviews and musical performance

Listen to podcasts of shows with Dale Watson & Rosie Flores; Jonah Raskin; Victor Pickard; Paul Krassner, David Hamilton & Steve Weissman; Gus Speth; Powell St. John & Spencer Perskin; Jesse Dayton; Philip Russell & Johnny Hazard; Erika Wurth & Tim Kuhner; Raj Patel & Tom Philpott; Tom Hayden & Carl Davidson; Ed Ward; and Mike Davis!

dale watson & rosie flores rag radio 2015 sm

Honky-tonk legend Dale Watson and ‘Rockabilly Filly’ Rosie Flores in the KOOP studios in Austin, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Photo by Roger Baker / The Rag Blog.

Interviews by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | February 18, 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.

Rag Radio logoRag Radio is a weekly hour-long syndicated radio program produced and hosted by Rag Blog editor Thorne Dreyer. Rag Radio 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 live on KOOP every Friday from 2-3 p.m. (CST) and streamed live on the web. All Rag Radio shows are posted as podcasts at the Internet Archive. Find out more about Rag Radio here.
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Harry Targ :
Should we make more war? Where? How?

Obama’s foreign policy reflects the contradictory approaches of U.S. leadership since the country’s emergence as a superpower.

captain america ponders

How to play it: A fan dressed as Captain America at the 2014 World Cup. Image from New Statesman / Getty.

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | February 17, 2015

Both unity and contradiction are reflected in the history of United States foreign policy from the industrial revolution to the present. The unity of policy in time and space is reflected in the drive to maximize the opportunities for U.S. capital to expand; to acquire more and more wealth, and to seize land, extract resources, and accumulate profits derived from cheaper and cheaper labor.

An example of a significant historical moment reflecting this unity can be seen in the 1890s as the United States seized former Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and the Philippine Islands. Over the next 30 years the U.S. military invaded and occupied Caribbean, Central American, and Latin American countries at least 30 times.
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Chellis Glendinning :
The third inauguration: Evo Morales and nine years of paradox in Bolivia

‘Evo is a loaf of bread fresh from the oven,’ he said. ‘We’ll find out how it tastes.’

evo shhh

Shhhh! Don’t tell them how it turns out. Image from LibertadDigital.

By Chellis Glendinning | The Rag Blog | February 16, 2014

La Paz, 22 January 2006. Evo Morales Ayma was born Aymara and poor in the department of Oruro. For lunch he and his father would scrounge the thin meat from orange peels cast from the windows of passing autobuses, and his most ambitious childhood dream was to ride in a bus.

During his life he worked as a baker, bricklayer, farmer, trumpet player, and soldier; then rose up through the ranks of coca farmer unions to become a leader of El Comité de Coordinación de las Seis Federaciones and finally of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS).

It is for such humble beginnings that his election to the presidency of the poorest country in South America was of so much interest to Tom Hayden that he convinced me to travel to the transmit del mando in 2006. The truth is I didn’t want to go, although I admit that I was impressed: between the election and the inauguration Evo was already traveling the globe lining up potential allies — and doing so garbed in the ratty old red-and-blue pullover that he became known for. His vice president had been a guerrillero in the Tupak Katari Guerrilla Army, and his First Lady would be his sister, a vegetable vendor.
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Jonah Raskin :
NBC’s Brian Williams and the causalities of war

Brian Williams helped to further wound the already wounded U.S. news media. Healing those wounds will take a long time.

brian williams

Brian Williams fudged the facts. Image from ET Canada.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | February 10, 2015

Most of us exaggerate and embellish at some time or another. We say that we run faster and further than we have actually run. We claim to be better, richer, wiser, and more experienced than we are.

It seems to be part of the human DNA, though news anchors and reporters aren’t supposed to magnify their roles in the making and unmaking of contemporary history. They’re supposed to hew to the facts and tell the truth.

So it came as something of a shock recently when it was revealed that Brian Williams, NBC’s anchor and the managing editor of the nightly news, had fudged the facts about his experiences in war-torn Iraq. He did it again and again for more than a decade as though no one would catch him, as though he was invincible.
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James McEnteer :
The Tardy Boys and the Secret of the
Haunted Castle

After a while the castle lifted off from the planet
and we shot into the galaxy.

gillette castle haunted

Gillette Castle during a bad trip! Tricked up image from Pinterest.

By James McEnteer | The Rag Blog | February 9, 2015

The spring of 1967 was gorgeous in Connecticut. We’d been going crazy the entire school year. The college was buzzed, high on drugs and youth and the ’60s. Now we could finally get back into nature, busting out lush and verdant around us, bright flowers here and there among the trees coming back to life. Connecticut’s back roads wind around villages, woods and water. Ian and I got in the car and took off into it all. It was way too nice to go to class.

In wooded hills above the Connecticut River we came to the gate of Gillette Castle State Park. A locked chain hanging across the road had a sign that said: “Closed for the Season.” The road disappeared ahead into the green woods. We parked the car and followed it. Intense smells of the forest waking up woke us up.
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | ‘Artful Detective’ is highly enjoyable Canadian historical mystery series

Set in Toronto, circa 1895-1901, and featuring a clever police inspector who often invents techniques to fight crime, this long-running skein is a real treat.

artful detective crop

Detective Inspector William Murdoch devises forensic techniques that were radical for the time.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | February 8, 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.]

Originally titled “Murdoch Mysteries,” but currently called “The Artful Detective,” on the Ovation cable channel, this turn-of-the century police inspector series is great fun, not only for the clever crime cases but because its plots weave in famous historical figures.

In some of its 112 episodes over eight seasons (airing 2008-2015 — 103 of which had been shown in the U.S. as of October 2014 — we met Arthur Conan Doyle, Buffalo Bill Cody, Harry Houdini, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Emma Goldman, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill, Annie Oakley, H G Wells, Jack London, Queen Victoria, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Henry Ford, and possibly the real Jack the Ripper.
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James Retherford :
LITERATURE | Wild things

Jonah Raskin’s ‘A Terrible Beauty: The Wilderness of American Literature’ is a fresh look at American letters from the bottom up.

Arrival of the Developers

Arrival of the developers! “Kindred Spirits” by Asher Durand, 1849.

By James Retherford | The Rag Blog | February 4, 2015

Like a true nature’s child
We were born
Born to be wild
Steppenwolf, “Born to be Wild”

Native Americans in Sonoma County … tell me that their ancestors didn’t understand how and why white men were able to cut down sacred forests and not be struck down dead. Global warming, they tell me, is nature’s revenge.
— Jonah Raskin, A Terrible Beauty

in a world gone crazy
Everything seems hazy
I’m a wild one
Ooh yeah I’m a wild one
— Iggy Pop, “Real Wild Child”

To many, and I do not necessarily exclude myself from this group, American literature, taken as a whole, can seem like something of an oxymoron, and its feckless treatment at the hands of friends and frenemies has done little to dispel the notion.

Lampooned and lambasted, fawned upon and mythologized, deconstructed and reconstructed and unreconstructed again and again, so much mind-numbing jargon has been heaped upon the corpus of American letters that the subject has all but drowned in critical excess. Even America’s own writers have been guilty of piling on.
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Jack A. Smith :
Have Obama and the Democrats actually
become liberals?

Wow, this is like Christmas every day for the next two years! Of course, none of it will happen.

President Barack Obama In Boston For Fundraising Event At Symphony Hall

The fire-breathing Obama with Elizabeth Warren at the 2015 State of the Union Address. Photo from Getty Images.

By Jack A. Smith | The Rag Blog | February 4, 2015

Has the 2015 center-right Democratic Party transmuted literally overnight into its old center-left visage of the mid-1960s — the party of Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, poverty programs, voting rights, desegregation, and more?

As he begins his seventh year in office, with negligible accomplishments behind him, President Barack Obama suddenly appears to have transformed into the candidate liberal voters thought they had elected in November 2008 — the candidate of “Yes we can!” and “Change we can believe in.” The liberal Nation weekly even headlined its editorial in the February 6 edition: “Obama Gets His Mojo Back.”
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