Please become a Rag Blog Supporter. The Rag Blog is a non-profit internet newsmagazine produced by activist journalists committed to progressive social change. We are published by the New Journalism Project, a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Mailing address:
New Journalism Project, inc. P.O. Box 16442 Austin, Texas 78761-6442
Comment Policy: This blog enforces a specific comment policy that prohibits personal attack, goading and harassment, and other malicious remarks. We will delete remarks considered inappropriate, at the discretion of the editors. We will also delete all commercial solicitations.
REPORT / Mariann G. Wizard : 'La Vida Coca' in Bolivia and Peru by Mariann G. Wizard / The Rag Blog. In the first of a three-parter, the Wizard reports on her recent trip to Bolivia and Peru and her research into the history and politics of the coca plant and its oft-notorious derivatives -- ranging from the historical traditions of indigenous peoples to the profound affects coca and its alkaloids have had on North American and European culture -- and the continuing defiance of Bolivian President Evo Morales.
PHOTO ESSAY / Otis Ike : The NRA War Party in Houston Text and photos by Otis Ike / The Rag Blog. Noted photographer Ike reports from the NRA's annual convention in Houston ("A Klan rally without hoods") where he found "children salivating over automatic weapons in an environment where showboating adults were calling for the overthrow of the President of the United States." Don't miss his remarkable gallery of photographs.
RAG RADIO / Thorne Dreyer : 'Radio Unnameable' Legend Bob Fass and Filmmaker Paul Lovelace by Thorne Dreyer / Rag Radio. Bob Fass is an American broadcast legend who was a pioneer of free-form radio. His show provided an early forum for counterculture figures like Abbie Hoffman, Bob Dylan, and Paul Krassner. Filmmaker Paul Lovelace's "Radio Unnameable" is a critically-acclaimed documentary about Fass and his legacy at WBAI in New York. Read the story and listen to Dreyer's Rag Radio interview with Fass and Lovelace.
Robert Jensen : The Universe Is an Undifferentiated Whole by Robert Jensen / The Rag Blog. UT-Austin journalism professor, author, and political activist Jensen adapts a chapter from his new book -- "Arguing for Our lives: A User's Guide to Constructive Dialogue" -- in which he addresses the contention that "the universe is an undifferentiated whole." "Facing multiple, cascading ecological crises," Jensen says, we humans need science more than ever -- and more than ever we need to understand the limits of science."
Michael James : Heading to the Finish Line by Michael James / The Rag Blog. Michael shares another image from his upcoming book, Michael Gaylord James' Pictures from the Long Haul. This one shows horses charging to the finish line at a 1986 race at Sportsman's Park in Cicero, Illinois. James waxes eloquent and nostalgic about horses, gambling (he's not much of one), the Kentucky Derby, and more. "Straight up," he says, "horses were my first love..."
Alan Waldman : ‘Fawlty Towers’is a Dozen Classic Comic Gems by Alan Waldman / The Rag Blog. Continuing his series on vintage film and TV, much of it British, Alan writes about the John Cleese classic comedy series, "Fawlty Towers," which has been named the best British television series of all time. It's set in a fictional hotel in a seaside town "and revolves around angry, rude, snobbish, misanthropic, and put-upon owner/manager Basil Fawlty (Cleese)."
Bob Feldman : The Influence of Texas' 'Big Rich,' 1974-1995 by Bob Feldman / The Rag Blog. Continuing his "hidden history of Texas" series," Bob addresses the historical period covering 1974-1995, focusing on the influence of Texas' "big rich" oil barons like Sid Richardson, and H. L. Hunt and his sons -- who were considered to be the wealthiest family in the world. He also covers the oil bust and S&L scandals of the '80s and such historical figures as Ross Perot, Ann Richards, and the presidents Bush.
SPORT / Dave Zirin : RGIII Is Trending with Muhammad Ali by Dave Zirin / The Rag Blog. "It should be enough," says progressive sportswriter Zirin, "that Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is the most exciting athlete to enter professional sports since [soccer star] Lionel Messi." But RGIII is also soaking up the tradition of Muhammad Ali, visiting the Ali Center in Louisville and tweeting: "What Ali stood for and the way he expressed it from the boxing ring to the streets of everyday life would have him trending for weeks."
Lamar W. Hankins : Talking Guns with Wayne by Lamar W. Hankins / The Rag Blog. Lamar had a talk with his old friend Wayne the other day, rapping about guns, gun control, and the NRA. Wayne, a big fan of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, told Lamar, "I don't want kids killed, but I don't want anyone taking away my right to own an AR-15 semi-automatic." According to Wayne, losing his "liberty to buy any gun I want without a hassle... would be a greater tragedy than having 20 children killed by some deranged guy."
FILM / Michael Simmons : How Bob Fass Revolutionized Late-Night Radio by Michael Simmons / The Rag Blog. Free-form radio pioneer Bob Fass has been on the air at WBAI in New York for almost 50 years. Among his regular on-air friends were Bob Dylan, Abbie Hoffman, and Paul Krassner. "One night in early ''67, Bob announced a Fly-In at a JFK Airport terminal and a thousand young people showed up to give flowers to [arriving] passengers..." A remarkable new film, "Radio Unnameable," documents how Fass -- and his audience -- "changed history" by providing a late-night "roadmap for rebels."
Kristin Moe : Polluted Houston Neighborhood Draws the Line at Tar Sands by Kristin Moe / YES! Magazine. If the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, 90 percent of the tar sands crude that flows through it "will be processed near an embattled Houston neighborhood called Manchester." But in Manchester -- one of the most polluted neighborhoods in the country, surrounded by oil refineries on all sides -- residents are organizing, educating themselves, and speaking out against the pipeline and for "the health of their families."
RAG RADIO / Thorne Dreyer : Pedro Gatos and Val Liveoak on Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Global South Interview by Thorne Dreyer / Rag Radio. Peace activists Pedro Gatos and Val Liveoak joined us on Rag Radio to address changes in Cuba and Nicaragua, a war crimes trial in Guatemala, and the growing challenge to U.S. hegemony in the Global South. Gatos, an expert on Latin America, has visited Cuba five times in recent years, and Liveoak is volunteer Coordinator of Friends Peace Teams' Peacebuilding en las Americas program, living much of the year in El Salvador and traveling extensively throughout the region. Listen to the podcast here.
FILM / Jonah Raskin : Robert Redford 'Keeps Company' with the Sixties Underground by Jonah Raskin / The Rag Blog. Robert Redford's new movie, "The Company You Keep," looks back at members of an organization of '60s-'70s radicals that resembles the Weather Underground. Though it features great performances from a stellar cast, Jonah says Redford "clearly wanted to make an epic about then and now, about Sixties radicals and their kids," but that his effort is "overly ambitious," and, basically, "he couldn't pull it off."
Michael James : Hope Springs Eternal by Michael James / The Rag Blog. Michael is sharing with us images from his forthcoming book, "Michael Gaylord James' Pictures from the Long Haul," and adding his reflections on the history they represent. This week's photo is of opening day at Chicago's Comiskey Park in 1990, in the wondrous land of baseball where "hope springs eternal."
Harry Targ : Speaking Truth About Violence by Harry Targ / The Rag Blog. In this edifying essay, Professor Targ examines the role of violence in the modern world, breaking it down into "direct," "cultural," and "structural" violence. "Violence engendered by the rich and powerful and responses from the poor and powerless," Targ says, "are embedded in the system of structural violence."
Alan Waldman : Brit Crime Series ‘Cracker’ is a Gripping, Off-Beat Winner by Alan Waldman / The Rag Blog. Alan continues his series on vintage films and television series now available on Netflex, YouTube, and DVD. In the British crime series Cracker, "Former comedy star Robbie Coltrane is outstanding as an obese, alcoholic, degenerate gambler and psychologist who profiles sicko criminals for the Manchester Police."
Lamar W. Hankins : 'Dirty Wars' and Bush-Obama Foreign Policy by Lamar W. Hankins / The Rag Blog. Lamar writes that, "While some Bush policies may have been changed, the Obama administration has found new ways to accomplish the same purposes using Bush's and Cheney's tactics in slightly different ways." He discusses Yemini writer Farea al-Muslimi's recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Jeremy Schaill's book, "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield," and the film of the same name, based on the book.
Bob Feldman : More African-Americans Enter Texas Politics, Prisons, 1974-1995 by Bob Feldman / The Rag Blog. Bob continues his unique "hidden history of Texas" series with his first report on the period covering 1974-1995, a time in which the population of African-Americans in Texas grew at a rapid pace and an increasing number were elected to political office, including Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk. But, by 1990, 41 percent of inmates in Texas prisons were African-Americans and 40 percent of African-American families were headed by women.
Anne Lewis : Corporate Crime Scene in West, Texas by Anne Lewis / The Rag Blog. In this remarkable account, Lewis reports on the tragic fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, by tapping the experience of photographer Patrick Bresnan -- whose images accompany the story -- and the larger issue of how such an event becomes media spectacle. Lewis, a noted documentary filmmaker, also relates her past experience as the wife of an Appalachian coal miner and the constant "fear of injury and death" that accompany both occupations.