Category Archives: RagBlog

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.
  • Read and watch the videos of the stories in this series here.

  • 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The Republican Party has been replaced by a personality cult that runs right over history, economics, and political science.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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Jonah Raskin :
BOOKS | Don Cox’s caustic memoir of the Black Panthers

Heyday is brave to have published this book, which blows the lid off the BPP.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | March 7, 2019

Mention the two words “Black Panther” to anyone under the age of 40, and they’re likely to think, right off the bat, of the 2018 action, adventure film Black Panther. They’re not likely to think of the Black Panthers of the Sixties, who were superheroes to a generation or two of Americans, both black and white, and who were as deeply flawed as any tragic heroes in any film.

Don Cox’s Just Another Nigger: My Life in the Black Panther Party ($28), which has just been published by Heyday in Berkeley, will not replace Ryan Coogler’s movie, Black Panther in the pantheon of popular American culture, but it will dispel many if not all of the myths that have surrounded the Black Panther Party (BPP) and its two founders, Huey Newton, who was killed in Oakland in a drug deal gone awry in 1989, and Bobby Seale, who is still alive and a shadow of his former self, though he performs very funny stand-up comedy.
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Evan Hearn :
MEDIA | Jussie Smollett, and why mainstream media needs to stand its ground

The media’s reaction has been depressingly predictable.

Jussie Smollett, 2018. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

By Evan Hearn | The Rag Blog | February 27, 2019

On January 29, actor Jussie Smollett made headlines after he claimed to be the victim of an assault. According to Smollett’s initial descriptions, he was accosted by two assailants who taunted him with racist and homophobic slurs, told him “this is MAGA country,” and left him with a rope around his neck. Now, Smollett is suspected of having staged the assault, and is awaiting trial for multiple felony charges.

The media’s reaction has been depressingly predictable. After initial reports of the attack, media outlets like CNN and MSNBC aired outpourings of support for Smollett, condemnation of his attackers, and commentary on the troubled state of our nation. Even Fox News published a handful of perfunctory articles covering the incident and the immediate follow-ups by the Chicago police department.
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Richard Croxdale :
BOOKS | Debs Graphic bio is perfect vehicle to tell his story

Eugene V. Debs created and constantly evolved new approaches to the battle against capital and injustice.

By Richard Croxdale | The Rag Blog | February 22, 2019

Paul Buhle, Steve Max, Dave Nance, and Noah Van Sciver have produced a new and delightful biography of Eugene Victor Debs, the iconic American socialist, told in a comic book format, although these days, the proper term is graphic book. The book, Eugene V. Debs: A Graphic Biography was published by Verso.

For Debs, who created and constantly evolved new approaches to the battle against capital and injustice, approaches that were always peculiarly American, a graphic book is the perfect vehicle to tell his biography.
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Steve Russell :
Three swings and three misses

The news last week tells me it’s time to confess some doozies.

caricature of Alex Acosta

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta. Caricature by DonkeyHotey / Flickr.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | February 12, 2019

My method of practicing the pundit trade is to own my errors, and the news last week tells me it’s time to confess some doozies.

I wrote a piece for The Rag Blog on June 18, 2017, where I questioned the wisdom of impeaching Donald Trump based on running down his cabinet in the order of succession. In my evaluation of each Trumpian appointment, I mentioned matters that made the overall result predictable as night follows day. That overall result was a pack of billionaires with their hands in the public till, corruption on a level unknown since Warren Harding.
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