Category Archives: RagBlog

Marilyn Katz :
Read the small print…

Nearly 200 members of Congress could’ve signed on to a bill criminalizing free speech and legitimizing Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Image from HuffPost.

By Marilyn Katz | The Rag Blog | July 27, 2017

Democratic legislators have been busy lately fighting efforts by President Trump and Republican legislators to bulldoze millions of Americans out of health care, overturn the rule of law, and trample foreign policy.

So it might be little wonder that few congressmen — even liberals like Joe Kennedy, Claire McCaskill, or would-be presidential nominee Kirsten Gillibrand — took the time to read the details of S720 and HR 1697, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, when presented to them by Senators Ben Cardin, Chuck Schumer, and Peter Roskam as legislation that would simply protect Israel from the impact of a growing world-wide Boycott, Sanction and Divestment (BDS) movement.
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Steve Early :
BOOKS | Nick Licata’s ‘Becoming a Citizen Activist’ a guidebook for progressive politics

Former Seattle City Councilor’s book offers pointers for taking Bernie Sanders’ revolution to the local level.

By Steve Early | The Rag Blog | July 25, 2017


Reviewer Steve Early and author Nick Licata will talk about “Rebel Cities in the era of Trump” as Thorne Dreyer‘s guests on Rag Radio, Friday, July 28, 2-3 p.m. (CT) on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and streamed live here.

Steve Early and Nick Licata will also be featured at “A Tale of Two Rebel Cities,” a book party and discussion at Scholz Biergarten in Austin on Thursday, July 27, 7-9 p.m. For more information, go here.


[Becoming a Citizen Activist: Stories, Strategies & Advice for Changing Our World by Nick Licata (January 5, 2016: Sasquatch Books; Hardcover; 224 pp.]

As the 2016 political season drew to an end, hundreds, if not thousands, who had been “feeling the Bern” started turning their eye to local politics.

Many would heed the call of Minnesota Congressman and Sanders supporter Keith Ellison:
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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCASTS | Interviews with the late left-wing journalist Jack A. Smith, photojournalist David Bacon, and gay movement leaders Ray Hill & Suzy Shelor

Smith edited the influential Guardian (U.S.) in the ’60s-’80s; Bacon authored ‘In the Fields of the North’; Hill is a pioneer of the gay movement and Shelor heads Queer Rights ATX.

Rag Radio host Thorne Dreyer with Suzy Shelor of Queer Rights ATX in the KOOP studios, July 8, 2017. Photo by Roger Baker / The Rag Blog.

Interviews by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | July 25, 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.


Jack A. Smith (1934-2017): Influential Left-Wing Journalist & Political Activist

Jack A. Smith died of complications of COPD in New Paltz, New York, on June 29, 2017. On Friday, July 21, we reprised our August 3, 2012 exclusive interview with Smith. Jack, our longtime friend and colleague, was one of the most important figures in progressive journalism in the 20th century. In his early life a radical pacifist who spent nine months in federal prison for refusing induction, Jack Smith edited The Guardian in the 1960s-1980s. The Guardian was the largest circulation independent left-wing paper in the United States. In his later years, Smith lived in the Hudson Valley, north of New York City, where he remained politically active, organizing demonstrations and publishing the monthly Hudson Valley Activist. Newsletter which had a circulation in the thousands.
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Larry Piltz :
VERSE | TRUE HOMELAND

American Bird of Prey by DonkeyHotey / Flickr.

TRUE HOMELAND

Why is this sweet world we live in
so torn between chaos and Zen
with extremes at either end
like enemies and lifelong friends
starvation and stock dividends
a young child’s death yet love transcends
are we really blowing in these winds
with not that much on which to depend
can we compromise in a scale of ten
must our safe place be a lion’s den
and our safe word something to defend
must we wait around for the worst to begin
if peace breaks out don’t we all win
there’s a lot to learn if we don’t pretend
that chaos comes from some original sin
what starts the wars again and again
who stands to gain from this which men
they must not care we all are kin
nor care about the shape we’re in
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | ‘800 Words’ is a fun Aussie-Kiwi comedy-drama

The top-watched series features enjoyable characters & situations with an Aussie family trying to fit in to a New Zealand town.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | July 24, 2017

Australian-New Zealand TV series 800 Words is a hit
with all demos.

[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.]

Last year PBS stations ran the first eight-episode season of the top-watched Australian-New Zealand TV series 800 Words; the second season has aired down there and a third season has been ordered. At imdb.com more than 91.3% of 601 viewers gave it thumbs up and 25.1% rated it a perfect 10.
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David P. Hamilton :
NATO: An obituary

Who will follow the capitalist class clown car into future military adventures to protect the profits of fossil energy tycoons?

In the face of Trump’s clown car, Cold War rationales may no longer hold NATO together. Cartoon by Carlos3653  / Wikimedia Commons.

By David P. Hamilton | The Rag Blog | July 23, 2017

PARIS — NATO died recently. Over the past few months, its decline was rapid. Its death has yet to be reported in corporate media. It died because, as principally a vehicle for U.S. imperialism, it required U.S. leadership.

Once that fell into the hands of a cabal of incompetents, no NATO country was any longer willing to follow this capitalist class clown car into future military adventures to protect the profits of fossil energy tycoons.
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Henry Mecredy :
BOOKS | Tracy Kidder: ‘The Soul of a New Machine’ revisited

It’s a fine tale of a product development project that unfolds in secrecy, in a mild paranoia born of corporate competition.

By Henry Mecredy | The Rag Blog | July 22, 2017

Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d
Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre
Instead copy’d some things already made
And squander’d thus their own creative fire
                                     —Gray/Mecredy

[The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder (July 1981: Little, Brown and Company).]

This Pulitzer-winning 1981 book is a delightful account of the development of an electronic product by a design team in the late seventies, at a now-defunct company called Data General. It’s a fine tale of a product development project that unfolds in secrecy, haste, and a kind of mild paranoia born of corporate competition.
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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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