Category Archives: RagBlog

Alan Pogue :
My General Theory of Relative Violence

The economic philosophy of violence & the cultural/historical development of violence in the U.S.

The Cross and the M-16. “In 1968, on the Army base in Chu Lai while I was still a chaplain’s assistant. By this time I knew I was in an Imperialist Army of Occupation so I set this photo up and had a fellow soldier take the picture.”

By Alan Pogue | The Rag Blog | April 11, 2018


Alan Pogue and Lamar W. Hankins will be Thorne Dreyer‘s guests on the syndicated Rag Radio show, Friday, April 13, 2018, first airing from 2-3 p.m. (CT) on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin, and streamed live: http://www.koop.org/listen-now. They will discuss Pogue’s article, below, and Hankins’ recent Rag Blog article, “Arguing about the Second Amendment is a waste of time” — and their somewhat divergent views on gun violence and gun control.


[Noted documentary photographer Alan Pogue is a fifth generation Texan. His ancestors came to the Texas coast, to McKinney’s Trading Post, from Dublin, Ireland, in 1840. The trading post later became Corpus Christi. He attended Catholic schools and was an altar boy for 13 years.

Alan has worked with peace and justice organizations in Austin and around the world since he returned from Vietnam in 1968 where he was a chaplain’s assistant and a combat medic. He is a Texas Department of Public Safety certified instructor for the License to Carry. He has saved several people from rape and murder on the streets of Austin. Once a combat medic, always a combat medic. See Alan’s Rag Blog article, “My history with violence.”]


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Harry Targ :
What gives me hope about this ‘Enough is Enough’ movement

These young people have begun to ‘teach their parents well.’

March for our Lives rally in Austin, Texas, March 24, 2018. Photo by James Retherford / The Rag Blog.

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | April 10, 2018

I experienced the new youth movement following the Parkland massacre vicariously: through television, radio, and social media. I stayed at home Saturday, March 24, periodically sampling the television accounts of the massive rallies all over the country and the world against guns, gun violence, and the gun manufacturers and their lobbyists who prey on the celebration of fear and violence. I even shed a tear when I saw one placard with the sign “teach your parents well.”

While I have had bursts of enthusiasm before when women marched for their rights, masses mobilized against war, and many stepped up to say no to police violence and mass incarceration, I was touched emotionally even more this time around. On reflection, I think, my optimism, my interest in being involved, and my sense of purpose has been energized by several features of this new movement.
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | Brit detectives solve murders on Caribbean island in ‘Death in Paradise’

Ben Miller, Kris Marshall, and Ardol O’Hanlon change out as top cops in excellent tropical killer series.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | April 8, 2018

[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.]


For the past eight years a nice little murder mystery series, Death in Paradise, has been piling up corpses on a fictional Caribbean island. So far 56 episodes (seven seasons) have unspooled on the exotic French tropical isle of St. Marie, filmed on Guadeloupe. The series began airing in 2011 with Ben Miles as the British chief detective. In Season 4 he was replaced by lanky Kris Marshall and then again in Season 6 by Irish comic Ardal O’Hanlon (playing it straight).
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Alice Embree :
The Census weapon

The Electoral College is the smoking gun for a rigged system in presidential politics.

U.S. Census envelope. Screen grab.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | April 7, 2018


See ‘Notes From a Dying Age’
Verse by Alice Embree, Below.


The Trump administration wants to insert a question about citizenship into the 2020 U.S. Census. Since the Census will be the basis for allocating congressional districts, federal funding, and determining votes in the Electoral College, it is no small matter.

A number of state attorneys general are gearing up to challenge this census change. They argue that a question on citizenship will produce an undercount based on the chilling effect, or more bluntly the I.C.E. effect, of an answer that might put you or your family members at jeopardy of deportation.
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Lamar W. Hankins :
Arguing about the Second Amendment
is a waste of time

Reasonable gun regulation is completely compatible with the Supreme Court’s understanding of the Second Amendment.

Stepping up to the plate. Image from Ed Christman / Flickr.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | April 5, 2018


Lamar W. Hankins and Alan Pogue are Thorne Dreyer‘s guests on the syndicated Rag Radio show, first airing Friday, April 13, 2018, from 2-3 p.m. (CT) on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin, and streamed live: http://www.koop.org/listen-now. They will discuss Hankins’ article, below, and Pogue’s recent Rag Blog article, “My General Theory of Relative Violence” — and their somewhat divergent views on gun violence and gun control.


For those who have taken time to look into the history of the Second Amendment (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”), it is apparent that the Supreme Court in its 2008 Heller decision did a poor job in understanding what the founders meant by “militia.”

Some historic research suggests that the purpose of the militias in colonial times was primarily two-fold: to capture runaway slaves and return them to their owners; and to kill or enslave the native inhabitants of this land, pushing those who survived into enclaves mostly west of the Mississippi River. But whatever the case may be, that matter is resolved for now. We should be focusing instead on gun safety/gun control regulation that is constitutional.
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Alice Embree :
‘The Rag’ in Paris

Manuel Suzarte, a doctoral student at the Sorbonne, presents a paper in Paris. On screen is the March 6, 1967 issue of The Rag.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | April 1, 2018

“The Rag in Paris,” was the subject line of an e-mail from Chilean doctoral student Manuel Suzarte. He is pictured at a table. Projected on a screen behind him is an image of the cover of the March 6, 1967 Rag with the headline, “Chileans Leave in Protest.” Suzarte, a Sorbonne student, was presenting a paper in Paris, France.

In late November 2015, Manuel Suzarte followed up on a lead and asked The Rag Blog for my contact information. His thesis focused on the interaction of leftist students from the U.S. and Chile, particularly in the years preceding Salvador Allende’s 1970 election as President of Chile.
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Steve Russell :
Your money and your life: The politics of
VA medical care

VA motto at he Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. Image from JeffOnWire / Flickr.

Paleoconservatives have a long-range plan to destroy Medicare and Medicaid without attacking them directly.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | March 31, 2018

Editor’s Note:  The Rag Blog published Steve Russell’s article, “Your Money and Your Life,” on March 31. The article claimed that the Koch brothers funded a fake veterans organization to agitate for privatization of VA medical care. We noted that when Democratic politicians made that claim, The Washington Post slapped them down by “fact checking” the claim as deserving of “three Pinocchios.”

A week later, on April 7, The Washington Post published an article titled. “How a Koch-backed veterans group gained influence in Trump’s Washington.”  The central claim was that the Koch brothers funded a fake veterans organization to agitate for privatization of VA medical care.

Pinocchio was out watering his Astroturf and could not be reached for comment.


In the revolving door that is the Trump administration, you can no longer keep track of the players without a program, and it almost requires a personal interest to motivate inquiry beyond Stormy and Summer and Karen. Karen? I was expecting Autumn or maybe Cyclone.

Since I do intend to bypass President Trump’s treatment of women — excepting the women who serve in the armed forces — I should confess my personal interest in the Department of Veterans Affairs, formerly known as the Veterans Administration and still called the VA. I am a Vietnam era veteran of the Air Force with a service-connected disability rated 60 percent. My son is a veteran of the Marine Corps and the Air Force Reserve and is medically retired from the Army after two combat tours in Iraq. His service-connected disability is 100 percent.
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Shepherd Bliss :
Thousands of students protest gun violence

California students carried signs like, ‘I should be writing my term paper instead of my will.’

Memorial arranged by the eighth grade class at SunRidge Charter School in Sebastopol, CA. Photo by Bill Shortbridge / The Rag Blog.

By Shepherd Bliss | The Rag Blog | March 15, 2018

SONOMA COUNTY, California — Driving through small-town Sebastopol on March 14 toward the Senior Center, this 73-year-old noticed groups of young students with signs gathering on downtown street corners and waving to motorists. These active participants in direct democracy joined thousands who walked out of schools across the U.S. and the world, organized by the Women’s March Youth branch.

As I got closer to the students, a variety of feelings, thoughts, and memories emerged. Tears of appreciation began to drip from my eyes, as I learned why they were protesting.
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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCASTS | Interviews with Bill Minutaglio, Alice Embree, James Cole & Nicole Stasek, Harry Targ, Bruce Melton, Roy Casagranda & Glenn Smith, Alex Coke, Spencer Perskin & Shawn Siegel, and Lee Carter

Our guests include the author of a cool new book about Timothy Leary, health justice and climate change activists, a Virginia Democratic Socialist, an acclaimed jazz musician, and classic Austin rockers.

Rag Radio host Thorne Dreyer, left, and author Bill Minutaglio in the KOOP studios, Feb. 2, 2018. Photo by Roger Baker / The Rag Blog.

Interviews by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | February 7, 2018

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.

The show first airs Fridays, 2-3 p.m. (CT) on KOOP, 91.7-FM in Austin, and streams here: http://www.koop.org/listen-now, and here: http://www.radiofreeamerica.com/show/rag-radio-koop-radio.
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Alan Waldman :
FILM | Alan Waldman’s 20 favorite movies seen in 2017

Plus his pick of TV shows, American & foreign, best stand-up specials, and, gulp, porn stars!

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | February 6, 2018

The year 2017 was a pretty good one for movies. Half of the ones I liked best were foreign — 30% British. World War II featured in four of them. Two featured dogs, one centered on an eagle, and another was set in a zoo.  I didn’t see the big Oscar-candidate films that came out at the end of the year but am really looking forward to The Post, The Leisure Seeker, Darkest Hour, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

As usual, I saw lots of good, smart TV. Many of them were reviewed in my Rag Blog column and appear in my book, 89 Smart, Foreign TV Series). I list this year’s small screen crop (78 series) below, along with 16 stand-up comedy specials wife Sharon and I enjoyed — and a little something extra.
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Jonah Raskin :
INTERVIEW | Are those typewriters still smoking?

Jonah interviews John Campbell McMillan, author of ‘Smoking Typewriters,’ the definitive work on the ’60s underground press.

Historian John McMillian and his Oxford Press book about the Underground Press of the ’60s.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | February 5, 2018

An associate professor of history at Georgia State University in Atlanta, with degrees from Harvard and Columbia, John Campbell McMillan is the author of the best book about the underground press. Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America (Oxford University Press) looks at the past though the lens of the present and the present though the lens of the past.

Written with real elegance and a keen appreciation of rebel journalists and reporters, McMillan’s book has appealed to both students and teachers and elicited praise from Tom Hayden, Susan Brownmiller — the author of a distinguished memoir about the Sixties — and Todd Gitlin, the author of the classic, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage.
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Bruce Melton :
Feedbacks kick in: 2017 is second warmest without El Niño influence

‘Recent observations strongly suggest that climate change may soon push some systems past tipping points, with global implications.’

“Mean” is the statistical term for “average. The “running mean” averages each successive periods like, January through December, February though January, March through February, etc. The 12-month running mean shows the peak of El Nino in early 2017 at about 1.34 C.

By Bruce Melton | The Rag Blog | February 1, 2018


Listen to the podcast of Thorne Dreyer’s January 11, 2018 Rag Radio interview with Bruce Melton on Climate Change 2017, here.


Global temperature 2017

NOAA, the UK Met, and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) have all stated that 2017 was third warmest. But these three organizations use data that only averages temperature in the Arctic out to 150 miles from reporting stations. This is a big problem when thousands of miles of Arctic Ocean have no weather reporting stations and we know from those reporting stations that the Arctic is warming at least twice the global rate.

In 2010, NASA began using a polar temperature averaging approach that looks out 750 miles from reporting stations to better capture polar warming. The result is that other estimates are biased warm and therefore the reason why NASA ranks 2017 second warmest instead of third.
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