LAMAR HANKINS | REFLECTIONS | An old lawyer’s thoughts on Trump’s 34 New York convictions

Donald Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey / Flickr / Public Domain.

By Lamar Hankins | The Rag Blog | June 13, 2024

[Listen to Thorne Dreyer’s interview with Lamar Hankins on Rag Radio, Friday, June 14, 2024, 2-3 p.m., on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin, and streamed at KOOP.org.]

I followed Trump’s trial in New York half-heartedly. I am not drawn to spectacles as I once might have been. For good or bad, I vacillate on the matter of electoral politics. I find them particularly tedious, especially the presidential sweepstakes. This is not because of old age having turned me cynical — even though I will be 80 later this year. I am as involved with political issues as I was 60 years ago during the civil rights and Vietnam War era. Human rights, colonialism, war, political hypocrisy, equal rights under law, the Bill of Rights, and many other social and political issues concern me deeply.

I began turning against electoral politics at the national level in 1992 because of the hypocrisy and callousness of Bill Clinton. I became unwilling to give myself over to the level of dishonesty required of many mass movements, including political ones. I have friends who are active in political parties, and I admire their tenacity and character. I gravitate instead toward organizations that focus on specific ills I would like to eliminate or ameliorate.

While political parties are not to my liking, I have never lost faith in democracy.

While political parties are not to my liking, I have never lost faith in democracy and the compromises that are necessary conditions of living together in community or, at least, proximity. But I never believed in what Hubert Humphrey would have called “the fundamental goodness of America” (in the words of journalist James Traub’s biography of Humphrey). I believe we should be honest about our history. We should feel shame when we accuse others of being colonizers because that is exactly what we did to the indigenous people we found on the North American continent when we “discovered” it. We continue to try to control political outcomes in other countries, usually to satisfy the desires of economic elites. And the internment of Japanese-Americans is difficult to forgive, as is our historic antisemitism and ethnocentrism, along with the several inexcusable wars we have spawned during my lifetime.

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RICHARD CROXDALE | REMEMBRANCE | Doyle Niemann

Photo by Alan Pogue | The Rag Blog.

By Richard Croxdale | The Rag Blog | June 2, 2024

[Originally posted May 28, 2024, in the People’s History in Texas Substack and cross-posted to The Rag Blog.]

Doyle Niemann passed on May 1 of this year in Maryland.  Doyle worked on The Rag in Austin, Space City! in Houston, and the The Great Speckled Bird in Atlanta.  In Prince George’s County, Maryland, Doyle was a school board member, Mount Rainier City County Member, Maryland state delegate, health care advocate, and an Assistant State’s Attorney for Prince George’s County.  As the representative for District 47 in the Maryland House of Delegates for three terms, Doyle was a champion for progressive values, equality, social justice, and environmental protection.

People’s History in Texas (PHIT) interviewed Doyle at the Rag Reunion in 2005 as part of our three-part documentary on The Rag.  He was a delightful interview. Doyle was insightful and funny and an acute observer of his times.  I wish I had gotten to Austin earlier, so that I could have met Doyle earlier in my life.  Doyle was a good person.  He will be missed.  PHIT is happy to have collected his stories of his time in Austin.

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ROBERT COTTRELL | ALTERNATIVE MEDIA | Looking Back at ‘The Village Voice’: ‘The Freaks Came Out to Write’

By Robert Cottrell | The Rag Blog | May 8, 2024

[Robert Cottrell will be Thorne Dreyer’s guest on Rag Radio, Friday, May 10, 2-3 p.m. on KOOP-FM 91.7-FM in Austin, and streamed on KOOP.org, where they will discuss the Voice and this review.]

Tricia Romano’s intriguing oral history, The Freaks Came Out to Write: The Definitive History of the Voice, the Radical Paper that Changed American Culture (2024), relates the rise and fall of one of America’s earliest and most influential alternative publications. Presented in generally chronological fashion, this lengthy tome relates general shifts that the Voice, its initial intended audience — lower Manhattan — and the nation experienced during a six-decade span beginning with the mid-1950s. Both well-known figures and others, undoubtedly not easily recognizable to readers of The Rag Blog, including the author of this piece, and the goings-on at the Voice enliven the 530 pages of Romano’s endearing but often critical tribute.

The first issue of the Village Voice, 12-pages long and selling for five cents an issue, was published by psychologist Ed Fancher, freelance writer Dan Wolf, and author Norman Mailer, all combat veterans, on October 26, 1955. Acclaimed for his WWII novel, The Naked and the Dead, Mailer desired that the Voice, which Fancher considered “a religious thing,” prove “outrageous” and afford “a little speed to that moral and sexual revolution which is yet to come upon us.” His introductory column informed the Voice’s audience, “I will become an (sic) habitual assassin-and-lover columnist who will have something superficial or vicious or inaccurate to say about many of the things under the sun, and who knows but what some of the night.” Regulars soon included Mailer, jazz critic Nat Hentoff, and cartoonist Jules Feiffer, while James Baldwin, E.E. Cummings, Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller, Katherine Anne Porter, Ezra Pound, and Martin Luther King Jr., contributed to the paper.

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ALICE EMBREE | AUSTIN HISTORY | Save University Junior High

Portion of ‘Heart and Soul’ mural by Raul Valdez.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | May 6, 2024

This article originally appeared in Alice Embree’s Substack.

AUSTIN — I attended University Junior High (UJH) as did my mother-in-law and my sister.  I was a ninth-grade student during a pivotal year in UJH history, 1958-59.  It was the year UJH desegregated.  I wasn’t an activist then, but I could sense that the times were changing.

Now the times may be changing again, as the historic structure and it’s landmark murals are threatened with demolition.

I feel fortunate to have maintained a friendship with one of the African American students who transferred to UJH.  It has allowed me a glimpse into what it was like from her perspective.  Saundra Kirk wrote this account:

Top-down integration reached my level in 1958, just in time for me and other transfer students from Kealing Junior High in East Austin to attend the 9th grade at University Junior High School. So, Vicky Kirk (as I was called then) along with friends, Sandra Anderson, James Means, Lois Lyons, and Clarence Holmes became token black students amidst a large student body of white and Hispanic children.

Our ninth-grade experience was pleasant and relatively uneventful, until toward the end of the school year, when our principal, Marshal Ashley, called the black students into his office for a quiet meeting. He told us that we were lucky because we would have a certain day off from school. But, we knew that was the day our other classmates would attend the long-anticipated senior picnic in Zilker Park. At that time, blacks were not welcome in Zilker Park, and Barton Springs was still not integrated. — Saundra Kirk

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JONAH RASKIN | STUDENT PROTEST | Columbia protests now and in 1968

Demonstration on University of Texas campus, April 27, 2024. Creative Commons image.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | May 3, 2024

This article was originally published at CounterPunch and was cross-posted to The Rag Blog by the author.

The student protests on the campus of Columbia University this April have reminded me of the protests that took place there 56 years ago. Along with about  700 or so other men and women, I was arrested and jailed at the Tombs in Manhattan. Those arrests didn’t curtail student protests. Indeed, there were demonstrations later that year and again in 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972. When push comes to shove, Columbia has called on the police again and again and the police have arrived in force and have made arrests.

The current president of Columbia, Minouche Shafik, an Egyptian-born American economist and a baroness, has surely not acted on her own impulses to establish what she might call “Law and Order.” Rather, she has surely followed the orders, the prayers and wishes of trustees, deep pockets, and alumni who have wanted to see demonstrators punished for exercising freedom of speech and for practicing old-fashioned American civil disobedience.

Robert Kraft, the New England Patriots CEO, and a major financial contributor to Columbia —and my classmate — recently said, “I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken.” He also said,  “I believe in free speech, say whatever you want, but pay the consequences.”  That doesn’t sound like free speech, not if it comes with a price tag. Back then, the protests were largely about Vietnam. Now, they’re largely about Gaza and Israel. The names have changed, but the underlying story is much the same. Shouldn’t students today have a significant role to play when and where it comes to university investment?

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MICHAEL MEEROPOL | REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS | First, they came for abortion, now they’ve come for in vitro fertilization

Alabama Supreme Court. Photo by Jeffrey Reed / Creative Commons

By Michael Meeropol | The Rag Blog | April 22, 2024

The following is an expanded version of a commentary delivered by Michael Meeropol, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Western New England University, over WAMC-FM on March 1, 2024. It has been adapted for The Rag Blog by the author.

Michael Meeropol will be Thorne Dreyer’s guest on Rag Radio at 2 p.m. Friday, April 26, 2024, on KPFT 91.7-FM in Austin and streamed at KPFT.org. Post-broadcast, listen to the podcast of this show anytime, here.


By now it is hard to be outraged by the actions of Trump and his minions.  However, the decision by the Alabama Supreme Court which in effect shut down In Vitro Fertilization availability in that state was so shamelessly supportive of extreme right-wing Christian interpretations of the word of God it took my breath away.

But there is a silver lining.  That ruling has set off shock waves in the so-called Right to Life Movement because the MAGA extremist Chief Justice, Tom Parker, made explicit the “Christian Nationalist” ideas behind that decision:

Parker wrote:

Human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself. [Alabama’s Sanctity of Life statute] recognizes that this is true of unborn human life no less than it is of all other human life–that even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory.[i]

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LAMAR HANKINS | POLICE AUDITORS | How police deny us our rights:  A view from YouTube

Photojournalist told to stop shooting a Miami police action, refused, and was forcefully arrested. Photo by Thomas Hawk / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Lamar Hankins | The Rag Blog | March 20, 2023

In 40 years as an attorney, I have encountered the police in many contexts.  I have received three warnings and two tickets for speeding or car malfunctions; I have worked with police as a city attorney, including in municipal court; I have prosecuted disciplinary actions against individual officers on behalf of their Police Chief; I have advised officers who were under threat from a federal prosecutor; I have defended officers who were being fired; I have cross-examined officers who arrested my civilian clients; I have looked at a large number of driving under the influence videos recorded by police cameras; I have challenged individual officers who perjured themselves in testimony before courts; I have read reports from all over the country about police abuse. 

But while I have been aware since I was young that police often deny us our constitutional rights, I never observed them as they did so (except for those cases that made national news) until I discovered recently a category of videos on YouTube, where police officers (and I am using this term to mean all members of law enforcement) can be seen doing their jobs in real time.  

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IVAN KOOP KUPER | NOSTALGIA | The Summer of ’72: A look back after more than 50 years.

Coming of age in Houston, Texas, with The Rolling Stones

Photo by John M. Lomax (John Lomax III), first published in underground newspaper Space City!, June 29, 1972, and later in the book Exploring Space City! published by the New Journalism Project in 2021.


By Ivan Koop Kuper | The Rag Blog | January 26, 2024

There was a feeling of excitement throughout the city of Houston and specifically in the neighborhood of Montrose in the summer of 1972. Something was in the air and you could just feel it. The seminal rock and roll band, the Rolling Stones, were coming to town to promote the release of their new double-sided album, Exile on Main Street, and everyone in my circle of friends just knew that this concert was going to be the cultural event of the season.

In the summer of ‘72, whenever it suited me, I could be found swimming and lounging at what was then referred to as the “Montrose Country Club.” In reality this was the outdoor swimming pool on the campus of the neighborhood liberal arts college, The University of St. Thomas. It was a social gathering hot spot easily accessible not only to St. Thomas students, but also to the local bohemian citizenry who resided in the surrounding area. The pool was the ideal spot to take a respite from the brutally hot Houston summers that never seemed to relent until well past Halloween.

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JONAH RASKIN | BOOKS | ‘Material Wealth
: Mining the Personal Archive of Allen Ginsberg’

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | December 27, 2023

[Compiled and annotated by Pat Thomas; PowerHouse Books; 256 pages.]

Pat Thomas has written and published colorful books about the Black Panthers — the defiant organization that rocked the U.S. from coast-to-coast in the 1960s — and Jerry Rubin, the author of DO IT!  and Growing (Up) at 37. His latest book is about Allen Ginsberg, the unofficial U.S. Poet Laureate whose work has been read and enjoyed from Chile and Czechoslovakia to China and everywhere that the spoken word is treasured. Material Wealth
 might be called a scrapbook in the spirit of the Yippies that combines words and images and creates something greater than its parts. Indeed, it’s composed of bits and pieces — photos, sketches, letters, posters and ephemera — that cohere and coalesce.                                                  

It also might be described as Ginsberg “light,” though it also includes plenty of darkness, a territory that the poet covered in his three major poems: Howl — an epic about a generation “destroyed by madness”; Kaddish — an elegy for his mother, Naom — and Wichita Vortex Sutra, an anti-war hymn in which he writes, “I here declare the end of the war!” It’s as timely a proclamation in the age of Ukraine and Gaza as it was during the Vietnam War.                                                

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NORMAN SOLOMON | DEATHS | For media elites, war criminal Henry Kissinger was a great man

Henry Kissinger / LBJ Library image / Creative Commons.

Can a war criminal really be a “noted statesman”?

By Norman Solomon | The Rag Blog | December 13, 2023

For U.S. mass media, Henry Kissinger’s quip that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac” rang true. Influential reporters and pundits often expressed their love for him. The media establishment kept swooning over one of the worst war criminals in modern history.

After news of his death broke on Wednesday night, prominent coverage echoed the kind that had followed him ever since his years with President Richard Nixon, while they teamed up to oversee vast carnage in Southeast Asia.

The headline over a Washington Post news bulletin summed up: “Henry Kissinger Dies at 100. The Noted Statesman and Scholar Had Unparalleled Power Over Foreign Policy.”

But can a war criminal really be a “noted statesman”?

The New York Times top story began by describing Kissinger as a “scholar-turned-diplomat who engineered the United States’ opening to China, negotiated its exit from Vietnam, and used cunning, ambition and intellect to remake American power relationships with the Soviet Union at the time of the Cold War, sometimes trampling on democratic values to do so.”

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LAMAR HANKINS | MIDDLE EAST | Hamas, Israel, and the Palestinians

Israel’s Wall in Bethlehem, West Bank. Photo by Montecruz Foto / Creative Commons.

To criticize Israel’s government and policies is not antisemitic.

By Lamar Hankins | The Rag Blog | December 5, 2023

I am reluctant to write about Israel at this politically- and emotionally-charged time because there is little respect for free speech in our country, which has long been known for free speech.  Groups and individuals — right, center, and left — want to cancel the right of free speech for those with whom they disagree.  I am also reluctant to broach the subject with Jewish friends and acquaintances for fear of damaging our relationship, even though I have always made clear distinctions between the State of Israel and being Jewish.  To criticize Israel’s government and policies is not antisemitic.

I try to approach the world through logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than through authority, tradition, or religious or political dogma.  With that in mind, and with compassion for those being harmed on all sides, I realize that if I don’t discuss Hamas, Israel, and Palestinians, I leave the discussion up to those who are willing to distort history and current affairs to suit what too often is informed by prejudice, false information, and fear.  But my biggest difficulty today is sorting out fact from fiction.

And we can’t separate fact from fiction without understanding what has happened and is happening from the perspective of the other.  We must understand the experience of Israelis and Jews and Palestinians, both Hamas supporters and all the rest.  Understanding the other’s perspective does not mean that we excuse unconscionable behavior.  But without understanding the other’s experiences, their emotions, and the realities of their lives, there never will be a just peace in this part of the Middle East.

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JONAH RASKIN | FILM | The reign of terror waged against the Osage. A review of the movie ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | November 24, 2023

Jonah Raskin will discuss this article and related issues on Rag Radio, Friday, Nov. 24, 2-3 p.m. (CT) on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin or streamed at KOOP.org.


For the past 600 years and maybe far further back in time than that, indigenous people all over the world have taken a terrible beating, though they have also survived. Novelists, poets, painters, playwrights, and filmmakers have told that story of genocide and resistance in its many iterations over and over again, and still the wars go on. David Grann tells a small part of that global phenomenon in his nonfiction book, Killers of the Flower Moon, a bestseller. Now, famed director Martin Scorsese has adapted parts of Grann’s story for a long movie that describes the war that white settlers, businessmen, and lawmen waged in the 1920s in the state of Oklahoma against a Native American tribe called the Osage.

The Osage called the war that was waged against them a “Reign of Terror.” When oil was discovered in Osage territory in Oklahoma, the Indians suddenly became wealthy. In many ways they assimilated white values, without totally surrendering their own heritage and language. Both resistance and compliance went on at the same time.

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