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:, and here:
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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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Lamar W. Hankins :
1968: A personal retrospective 50 years later

It both challenged and strengthened my desire to make this a better world, and it caused me to wonder if a better world was even possible.

Demonstrators form human pyramid at Chicago’s Grant Park during 1968 Democratic Convention. Historical image from Sky Dancing.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | January 31, 2018

There was one year — 50 years ago — that had more impact on me than any other year in my 73-year life. To say 1968 was a seminal year in the formation of my adult life would be an understatement. It both challenged and strengthened my desire to make this a better world, and it caused me to wonder if a better world was even possible.

But I also learned that there are many good and decent people in the world — and maybe they outnumber the exploiters, the greedy, the self-centered, the unfriendly, the racists, the war-mongers, the mean, the back-stabbers, the hypocrites, the dissembling, the dishonest.
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Philip L. Russell :
2017: Peña Nieto’s swan song

“Mexico’s crisis manifests as violence, but it is rooted in the corruption and weakness of the state.” — Max Fisher, Amanda Taub, and Dalia Martínez, 2018

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, 2017. Image from Flickr /
Creative Commons.

By Philip L. Russell | The Rag Blog | January 30, 2018

Philip Russell will join Thorne Dreyer on Rag Radio, Friday, February 9, 2018, to discuss this article and the Peña Nieto presidency. Rag Radio is a syndicated radio program that first airs on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and is streamed live here.

Philip Russell writes about Mexico for The Rag Blog. This is the fourth in his series about the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto.

The good news for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) is that during 2017 — his last full year in office — his approval ratings doubled.

This was in part due to his not making any major missteps relating to the big events of the year — two strong earthquakes and the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Peña Nieto’s improved approval ratings were also due to, as The New York Times reported in December, his administration’s spending nearly $2 billion to buy ads extolling various agencies of his government. Of course there’s a quid pro quo. Media outlets which refrain from or soften criticism of government receive an ad revenue stream. Critical media don’t receive government ads.
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Steve Russell :
Calculating our losses: Hugh Masekela, Rosie the Riveter, Ursula K. Le Guin

Some days, everything you need to know from the newspaper is in the obituaries.

Creative Commons Images of Hugh Masekela and Ursula K. Le Guin. Original Westinghouse Rosie from the National Museum
of American History.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | January 27, 2018

Some days, everything you need to know from the newspaper is in the obituaries. So it was on the day we lost Ursula Kroeber Le Guin, Hugh Masekela, and Rosie the Riveter. To notice this sad news is to gaze back over the three powerful social trends that remade the world after World War II.

It’s a fine bit of irony that these three waves of change swept away the handiwork of the totalitarians offered by the right in the person of Adolf Hitler and by the left in the man charged with turning the Bolshevik Revolution into a governing praxis, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin. Both Hitler and Stalin promised to remake the world in ways that did not happen after the German and Russian bloodbaths.
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Anne Lewis :
Report from the weeds: My struggles with the pharmaceutical pusherman

I see myself in some virtual Kafka novel.

“I see myself in some virtual Kafka novel.” Illustration from Kafka’s “Give It Up” by Peter Kuper / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Anne Lewis | The Rag Blog | January 18, 2018

January 10 4:53 p.m.

Today I found myself suddenly unable to afford Jim’s basic medications.

Rasagiline went from $24.38 to $716.00
Myrbetriq from $16.50 to $524
Rytary from $16.00 to $473
Namzaric from $19.68 to $209.50

And the other six medications he needs to preserve life and a modicum of well being at least doubled.

I spent three hours on the phone with drug companies, insurance companies, physicians and got everything from “there’s not much else out there” to “separate into its components” to “we’ll send you paperwork so you can apply to foundations” to “request a tier modification to (my personal favorite) “you were paying too little last month.”

Blindsided, frustrated, furious, powerless, I post to Facebook. Three days later I have 50 shares, 111 reactions, groups of See More comments – more than any film, any political revelation, any death or celebration I’ve posted in the past. There’s something worrisome about misery finding such a response. I puzzle through the comments.
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Bruce Melton :
Climate change 2017: What happened and what it means

Unfortunately, new record-breaking science has made at least as much noise as Trump.

The Thomas Fire, viewed from Via Real, just east of Lambert Road and the Bella Vista Polo Club, in Summerland, California, on December 11, 2017. Photo by Doc Searls.

By Bruce Melton | Truthout | January 10, 2018

Bruce Melton will discuss the latest in climate change, including material contained in this article, as Thorne Dreyer‘s guest on Rag Radio, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, from 2-3 p.m. (CT) on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin, and streamed live on the Internet.

This article by longtime Rag Blog contributor and Rag Radio climate change analyst was first published at Truthout on Dec. 30, 2017.

How many more billions of dollars in damages will it take? How many more lives? It’s obvious; all the climate extremes we have been experiencing lately are indeed caused by climate change. Our climate is already far too dangerous. Scientists have been warning us for 30 years, but still they can’t say for sure.
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Steve Russell :
Is gun violence our manifest destiny?

The last war on U.S. soil ended in 1848, unless you count the NRA v. common sense.

William Huddle’s 1886 painting shows Mexican Gen. Santa Anna surrendering to the wounded Sam Houston after the Battle of San Jacinto. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | December 11, 2017

Steve Russell wrote the following article for The Rag Blog as a companion piece to his December 15, 2017 Newsweek cover story which is now posted online: “America and Guns: To Understand that Deadly Obsession, Come to Texas.” Steve, a retired Texas trial judge who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, was a staff writer for Austin’s pioneering underground newspaper, The Rag, and now for its digital age rebirth.

Seth Thornton probably expected a cakewalk on April 24, 1846. He was to reconnoiter upriver while Croghan Ker took a similar patrol downriver from the site where their commander, Zachary Taylor, had planted the American flag on the north bank of the Rio Grande.

Ker found nothing.
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | ‘Flashpoint’ is an engaging Toronto SWAT-type thriller

CBS aired 75 edge-of-your-seat episodes of this emotional, well-written Canadian series.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | December 9, 2017

[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.]

Flashpoint has been nominated for 86 Canadian and international awards and has brought home 22 of the suckers. It is a very well-written TV program. CBS aired five seasons and 75 episodes from 2008-2012, and Netflix discs offers a season of 13 of them.

The series focuses on a fictional elite tactical unit, the Strategic Response Unit (SRU), within a Canadian metropolitan police force (styled on Toronto’s Emergency Task Force). The SRU is tasked to resolve extreme situations that regular officers are not trained to handle, including hostage-taking, bomb threats, and heavily armed criminals, etc.
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