Steve Russell :
Donald Trump and the great
transgender menace

This president picks on the least powerful because all that matters for him is winning.

Danica Roem, newly-elected transgender member of the Virginia House of Delegates, at protest against Trump’s trans military ban at the White House, July 26, 2017. Photo by Ted Eytan / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | November 15, 2017

Why attack the powerless, beyond the exhilaration of winning? I don’t even get the exhilaration of playing poker with a stacked deck. I enjoy trading stocks because I know that on the other side of every trade I make is a person who has at least as much information as I have, is probably at least as smart as me, and is willing to bet real money that I’m wrong.

The stereotype says Indians are not competitive. To buy that, you must have never seen an informal horse race on the rez or attended a stickball game. We play to win, but that does not mean we play to run over people who have no chance.

The talking heads on the tube are speculating that there must have been some precipitating incident that led President Trump to change the military policy on allowing transgender persons to serve. The idea is that a sudden policy change by Twitter without consulting the people affected must mean there was some incident in training or in operations that created an anecdotal argument for changing the policy.
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Jay D. Jurie :
Workers’ demonstrations at Magic Kingdom just opening salvo

Jay Jurie reports from the front lines of the labor movement.

By Jay D. Jurie | The Rag Blog | November 15, 2017

ORLANDO, Florida — While representing over a third of workers in the middle of the 20th Century, unions today represent only a little over 10 percent of the total workforce. According to numerous sources, reasons for this decline include the shift from manufacturing and heavy industry to a high technology knowledge industry and an expanded service sector. Workplaces have become more dispersed and decentralized and employers have become increasingly centralized and reliant on cheap labor.

Growth of the public sector undercut unions by providing job security and relatively good benefits while simultaneously restricting union activity. Anti-union legislation such as the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, accompanied by state “right to work” laws, further weakened organized labor. A variety of comparatively less recognized factors have contributed to the decline of unions.
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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCASTS | Interviews with Katya Sabaroff Taylor, Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez & Gregg Barrios, Veterans for Peace, Terry DuBose & Alan Pogue, Tom Cleaver & Alice Embree, Guy Forsyth, Jonathan Lerner, Jim Hightower, Kerry Awn & the Uranium Savages, Bruce Melton, Glenn Smith, Steve Early & Nick Licata

This all-star array of guests includes a populist icon, Vietnam vets reflecting on the war, a climate change scholar, a founder of the Weather Underground, and legendary Austin musicians performing live.

Kerry Awn, center in Astros cap, and the historic Austin band, the Uranium Savages, in the KOOP studios, Sept. 1, 2017. Host Dreyer hovers at the right. Photo by Roger Baker / The Rag Blog.

Interviews by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | November 14, 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.

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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Glenn W. Smith :
SPORT | World Series moment: A national anthem in mime

The Yuli Gurriel-Yu Darvish story made this World Series even more glorious.

Future Astros celebrate at World Series Victory Parade in Houston,
Nov. 3, 2017. Photo by whittlz / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Glenn W. Smith | The Rag Blog | November 7, 2017

There was an inspiring American moment in the first inning of the seventh game of the 2017 World Series. Well, to this fan there were many. But, one stands out.

Before stepping to the plate for his first at bat, Astro Yuli Gurriel paused, and with a look of contrition in his eyes, tipped his helmet to Dodger pitcher Yu Darvish. Darvish then stepped to the front of the mound and nodded in recognition of Gurriel’s gesture.

After hitting a home run off Darvish in game three of the series, Gurriel, who defected from Cuba in 2016, returned to the Astro dugout and made a racist gesture mocking Darvish. It was caught on camera. Gurriel has been suspended for the first five games of the 2018 season.
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Jonah Raskin :
BOOKS | Katya Sabaroff Taylor: ‘Prison Wisdom: Writing with Inmates’

This jam-packed volume features several hundred poems, stories, sketches, and drawings by prisoners.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | October 23, 2017

In April 1968, shortly before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nina Sabaroff, a young radical journalist, joined Liberation News Service (LNS), and, for the next three years, belonged to the LNS collective.
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Henry Mecredy :
BOOKS | ‘The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America’

Rick Wartzman reviews the socioeconomic history of the U.S. since World War II with empathy for the employee class.

By Henry Mecredy | The Rag Blog | October 18, 2017

[The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America by Rick Wartzman (May 30, 2017: PublicAffairs); Hardcover; 432 pp; $30.00.]

In this readable though longish book, Wartzman reviews the socioeconomic history of the U.S. over the decades since World War II, using four major corporations as his examples. Along the way he introduces several corporate heads with idiosyncracies ranging from charming to alarming.

It’s not a very nice picture since, as is well known, this period brought prosperity followed by decline to the average American. In more than a coincidence it brought prominence followed ultimately by powerlessness to the U.S. labor establishment.
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Steve Russell :
Truth in an age of post-factual politics

Since the arrival of The Donald, U.S. politics is a fact-free zone. The truth simply no longer matters.

Steve Bannon, back at Breitbart News, is backing convicted felon Michael Grimm for Congress. Caricature by DonkeyHotey / Flickr.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | October 16, 2017

Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) was not happy being questioned by a TV reporter for NY1, Michael Scotto, about a pending investigation into Grimm’s campaign fundraising. Grimm walked away and Scotto had signed off… but the camera was still running when Grimm returned, and told Scotto, “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again and I’ll throw you off this fucking balcony.”

He was speaking of the balcony in the United States Capitol and threatening the reporter with a 48-foot fall ending with a sudden stop on a marble floor. Survival would be chancy.

The video became confused with both men talking until Grimm ended the conversation, “No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.” Apparently noticing the camera was rolling, Grimm hurried away.
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Murray Polner :
The Vietnam War: An American crime

Vietnam was ‘the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.’

North Vietnamese prisoner awaits interrogation, 1967. Photo by PFC / David Epstein / Wikimedia Commons.

By Murray Polner | The Rag Blog | October 12, 2017

Our government has no right to send American boys to their death in any battlefield in the absence of a declaration of war… and no war has been declared in Southeast Asia, and until a war is declared, it is unconstitutional to send American boys to their death in South Vietnam or anywhere else in Southeast Asia. I don’t know why we think, just because we’re mighty, that we have the right to substitute might for right. And that’s the American policy in Southeast Asia.

Senator Wayne Morse, who with Senator Ernest Gruening, was one of only two senators who voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which gave the U.S. and President Lyndon B. Johnson a free hand to wage war.

More than half a million U.S. troops were sent to serve in what was in reality a civil war. B-52s dropped as many or more bombs on rural North Vietnam than they did on Nazi Germany. 58,209 American servicemen and women were killed, a disproportionate number of them conscripts, and 153,303 were wounded, many forever damaged in body and mind. Millions of Southeast Asians died or suffered grievous wounds.
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Lamar W. Hankins :
Nineteen fifty-four: A fable

Bobby raised his hand and asked his teacher, Mrs. Miller, ‘Is God the same as the sun?’

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | October 10, 2017

It was an unusual year, 1954. The U.S. Supreme Court held that separate schooling for blacks and whites was unequal for blacks, mostly because the quality of segregated education seriously disadvantaged black children. Sen. Joseph McCarthy was censured by the United States Senate for his Communist witch hunts. French colonialism in Vietnam was defeated in the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Elvis Presley cut his first commercial record.

But none of these things made much impact on 10-year old Bobby LeFlore Lewis, if he even heard about them. What did affect him was a small action by Congress that seemed just strange to him. Bobby’s teacher told his class that now there were two new words that he had to recite when saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Congress had added the words “under God” to the Pledge, placed between “one nation” and “indivisible.”
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Steve Russell :
Making peace between Rocket Man
and the Dotard

Solving the North Korea problem requires our best understanding of everybody’s needs.

Rocket Man. Graphic art by DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy /
Creative Commons.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | September 27, 2017

Two grown men are publicly calling each other names, a childish spat that rises from annoying to alarming because both Kim Jong Un and Donald J. Trump have nuclear weapons.

When I watch the news lately, I only have to close my eyes and I’m back in rural Oklahoma about the time the Korean War ended, fussing with my cousins.

My grandmother yells: You kids settle down!

She is met by a collective whine: He started it!
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Maxine Phillips :
BOOKS | ‘Johnny Appleseed: Green Spirit of the Frontier’

Paul Buhle and Noah Van Sciver’s graphic history tells a tale very relevant to our time.

By Maxine Phillips | The Rag Blog | September 25, 2017

[Johnny Appleseed: Green Spirit of the Frontier, a graphic history written by Paul Buhle and illustrated by Noah Van Sciver (September 5, 2017: Fantagraphics Books); Hardcover; 112 pp; $19.99.]

Before there was organic farming, there was… organic farming. Before Rachel Carson, Bill McKibbon, or Michael Pollan, there was… Johnny Appleseed.

Appleseed, as he is known in myth, was born John Chapman in Leominster, Massachusetts, on September 26, 1774, and of all the figures of the U.S. frontier, real or imagined, from Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone (real) to John Henry and Paul Bunyan (imagined), he is perhaps the most suited to our climate-imperiled times.
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Jonah Raskin :
Marijuana madness: From Harry Anslinger to Jeff Sessions

Marijuana has been a heated political issue in the United States for more than 100 years.

Gustin Reichbach in the ’60s. Judge Reichbach, who died in 2012, was a proponent of medical marijuana. Image from Gustin L. Reichbach Papers / University at Buffalo Libraries.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | September 21, 2017

Three months before he died of pancreatic cancer in July 2012, Judge Gustin L. Reichbach published an op-ed piece in The New York Times in which he said that “marijuana is the only medicine that gives me some relief from nausea, stimulates my appetite, and makes it easier to fall asleep.” He added, “friends have chosen, at some personal risk, to provide the substance.”

What Reichbach did not say in his op-ed piece, but that almost all of his friends and family members knew, was that he had smoked marijuana for decades, before he was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, and that he enjoyed getting “high” and getting “stoned,” to borrow the vernacular.
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