21 October 2013

RAG RADIO / Thorne Dreyer : Father-Daughter! Newsman Dan Rather & Environmental Activist Robin Rather

Dan Rather and Robin Rather on Rag Radio, Friday, September 27, 2013, in the studios of KOOP-FM in Austin, Texas. Photos by Roger Baker / The Rag Blog.
Rag Radio podcast:
Legendary newsman Dan Rather
and environmental activist Robin Rather
Their first ever father-daughter interview is a funny, far-ranging discussion spiced with lively anecdotes, sharp political insights, and touching family memories.
By Rag Radio / The Rag Blog / October 21, 2013

Legendary newsman Dan Rather and Austin-based environmental activist Robin Rather join Thorne Dreyer for their first-ever father-daughter interview. The incisive, far-ranging, and frequently funny session was originally broadcast live on Rag Radio, Friday, September 27, 2013.

Rag Radio is a weekly syndicated radio program produced and hosted by long-time alternative journalist Dreyer and recorded at the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM, a cooperatively-run all-volunteer community radio station in Austin, Texas.

Listen to or download the podcast of Rag Radio's interview with Dan Rather and Robin Rather here:

Texas-born newsman and former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, who was recently honored with the prestigious Trustees Award of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and his daughter, Robin Rather, an Austin-based environmental activist and sustainability advocate who chaired the city's historic Save Our Springs Alliance, join us in a lively discussion, spiced with oft-funny anecdotes and personal reflections.

Dan talks about his early career in Houston, including his stint as a play-by-play announcer for the minor league Houston Buffs (in road games they "recreated" the on-field action in the studio by reading from a telegraph ticker tape) and his dramatic and innovative coverage of Hurricane Carla in Galveston in 1961 that led to his hiring by CBS News.

He also discusses his controversial exit from CBS; his blogging about Aaron Sorkin's HBO series, The Newsroom; and his take on larger contemporary issues including the increasing corporatization and concentration of ownership in the news business and what he considers to be an endemic lack of courage in today's news reporting.

Robin talks about growing up as the daughter of a famous reporter and media star; about her seminal work in the movement to protect and sustain Austin’s unique environment; and about the daunting challenges -- especially to the region's fragile ecosystem -- caused by the city’s current unprecedented growth spurt. And they each reflect on the other's accomplishments and their close relationship over the decades.

Rag Radio's Thorne Dreyer with Dan Rather and Robin Rather in the KOOP studios.
Dan Rather, now managing editor and anchor of Dan Rather Reports on AXS TV, went to work at CBS News in 1962 and was anchor of the CBS Evening News for 24 years, from 1981-2005. Born in Wharton, Texas, in 1931, he began his career as a full-time journalist with Houston's KTRH radio and KHOU-TV.

The recipient of numerous Emmy and Peabody awards, Dan joined the illustrious company of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite when he was honored with the prestigious Trustees Award of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in New York City on October 18, 2013. Rather's new book is Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News. Dan and his wife, Jean Goebel, to whom he’s been married since 1957, maintain homes in New York City and Austin, Texas.

Robin Rather is an Austin-based environmental activist and sustainability consultant. She is the CEO of Collective Strength where she consults on projects involving renewable energy, water conservation, health care, and community values. Robin was chair of the board of the historic Save Our Springs Alliance, established in 1992 to advocate for Austin's iconic Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer ecosystem. Robin was also co-founder of Liveable City, Hill Country Conservancy, and Envision Central Texas, and serves on the advisory board of the Sustainable Food Center.

Born in Houston in 1958, she is the daughter of Dan Rather and Jean Goebel.

Rag Radio is hosted and produced by Rag Blog editor Thorne Dreyer, a pioneer of the Sixties underground press movement. Tracey Schulz is the show's engineer and co-producer.

Rag Radio has aired since September 2009 on KOOP 91.7-FM, an all-volunteer cooperatively-run community radio station in Austin, Texas. Rag Radio is broadcast live every Friday from 2-3 p.m. (CDT) on KOOP and is rebroadcast on Sundays at 10 a.m. (EDT) on WFTE, 90.3-FM in Mt. Cobb, PA, and 105.7-FM in Scranton, PA. Rag Radio is also aired on KPFT-HD3 90.1 -- Pacifica radio in Houston -- on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. (CDT).

The show is streamed live on the web and, after broadcast, all Rag Radio shows are posted as podcasts at the Internet Archive.

Rag Radio is produced in association with The Rag Blog, a progressive Internet newsmagazine, and the New Journalism Project, a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

Rag Radio can be contacted at ragradio@koop.org.

[Thorne Dreyer edits The Rag Blog, hosts Rag Radio, and is a director of the New Journalism Project. Dreyer was a founding editor of The Rag in Austin in 1966 and Space City! in Houston in 1969. He was on the editorial collective of Liberation News Service (LNS) in New York, was general manager of Pacifica's KPFT-FM in Houston, and was a correspondent for the early Texas Monthly magazine. Dreyer can be contacted at editor@theragblog.com]

Coming up on Rag Radio:
THIS FRIDAY, October 25, 2013: Feminist pioneer and Houston Area NOW president Frances "Poppy" Northcutt, veteran of NASA's Mission Control and first Houston Women's Advocate (1972).
Friday, November 1, 2013: Singer-Songwriter Slaid Cleaves.

The Rag Blog

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17 October 2013

Michael James : Kidnapped to the Highlands, 1964

Fishing boat on Monterey Bay. Photos by Michael James from his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James' Pictures from the Long Haul.
Pictures from the Long Haul:
Kidnapped to the Highlands: 
Gibson Beach and Monterey Bay, 1964
This morning on Monterey Bay is blessedly calm. Joe, smoking a Camel, steers the boat west as the morning sun emerges over the Santa Cruz Mountains.
By Michael James / The Rag Blog / October 17, 2013

[In this series, Michael James is sharing images from his rich past, accompanied by reflections about -- and inspired by -- those images. This photo will be included in his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James' Pictures from the Long Haul.]

A few weeks before getting busted -- along with 732 others -- for sitting in at Sproul Hall during the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, I was smoothly kidnapped. It was November 1964. I was taken away and introduced to life in the Carmel Highlands. Nick Aliotti, a football player pal from Lake Forest College, was back in his hometown of Monterey. He invited me to come down for Thanksgiving.

At Berkeley I am meeting people, many of them grad students like myself. One of them is John Williams; he lives south of Monterey and offers to give me a ride to Nick’s.

We leave Berkeley on Wednesday afternoon, November 25, heading south. We’re in his green VW bug. (VW bugs: an identical one took me from Connecticut to DC for the March on Washington in 1963; in the not too distant future I’ll drive my own black VW bug through Indian Territory in the Dakotas; and in the 1970’s in yet another green VW bug, David Meggyesy and I will ride from Berkeley to Durango.)

Rolling down Highway 101 south of San Jose, I take in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the east. This is the same highway I’d wrecked on en route to a cannery job in the summer of 1960; my very lucky self was pulled unconscious from my burning 1940 Ford hot rod by a passing truck driver.

But this is a fun ride. Windows open and California soaking in: the land, the California smells of garlic and eucalyptus, new views, and new towns. At Gilroy, the nation’s garlic capital, we cut over toward the coast on Highway 156, through Watsonville, and then hit Castroville, the nation’s artichoke capital. At sunset, continuing south on California Highway 1, we pass the sand dunes and coastal rifle range of Fort Ord.

It’s dark when I turn to John and say: “Hey, didn’t we just pass Monterey? That’s where Nick lives.” John mumbles, “I’ll take you over there tomorrow.” To which I reply, “Ok, I’m kidnapped.”

John on Gibson Beach.
We drive past exits to Seventeen Mile Drive and Carmel Valley, and then by Point Lobos State Reserve, where years later I’ll take an early morning run among the bountiful deer. Near the little Highland’s gas station, we turn right off the highway and onto a dirt driveway lined with trees.

Even in the darkness I sense this place to be special, somewhat magical. There are small buildings that over time will reveal themselves to be an art studio and library, a guesthouse with a great outdoor shower, a yurt, a workshop, and a chicken coup. Barking dogs run to the VW as we park in an open space surrounded by Eucalyptus trees with their wonderful smell. To the east are trees, Highway 1, and hills. There are more trees to the north and south. And to the west is the open night sky and stars above the vast Pacific Ocean.

The homestead itself looks south and west, and is made of stone, wood, and glass, a single story with a patio. We enter a room that is living room, dining area, and kitchen. Warmth exudes from the fire, the room and the people -- John’s sister Honey, Gregson Davis, and the family matriarch Cynthia. Cynthia, who over decades will gently influence me with her many stories and thoughts, is the daughter of a painter; her grandfather owned the Lexington Hotel in Chicago.

Pillows cover the elevated hearth and a bench that surrounds a round table covered with magazines, newspapers, and books. Both the hearth and kitchen have beautiful painted tiles, the work of one Ephraim Doner. “Doner” lives across Route 1 and up the hill.

Gibson Beach, looking north.
On this visit I meet him and his wife Rosa, founder of the Highland’s Little Red School House cooperative nursery school. And I meet their daughter Natasha, who’s mentioned in the opening pages of Henry Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch (1957). She goes to Cal and we become friends. She tells me that a young Bob Dylan spent time at the family’s home pouring over books on the shelves. Natasha will work with the United Farm Workers for many years.

Across the road and up the hill I’ll also meet a former radical merchant seaman named Harold Price, his Eurasian earth-mother-wife Lana, and their children. By the time I meet him he’s a commercial artist and more cynical.

In their home I will attend a smorgasbord with many food offerings, including a raw egg yolk sitting in the center of raw ground beef. That particular meal will be prepared and presented by a Scandinavian girlfriend of Cal grad student Gregson Davis. Davis, the 1960 Harvard valedictorian, is from Antigua and has a great laugh.

And also across the road and up the hill, a few years later at Christmas time, I will meet and talk with another neighbor, the legendary community organizer Saul Alinsky, who wrote Reveille for Radicals, the early bible on organizing skills and tactics.

On this first night of my first visit, I sit by the fire. There is brief introductory sharing of information. We consume wine and food. That hearth becomes a dear spot. John takes me down the hall to an unheated and chilly room with a bed heaped with covers and walls lined with books. I lie under the heavy covers and look out the big glass window. It is very dark save for a slice of starry sky above a silhouette of trees. I like this place.

In the pre-dawn morning I’m in a sleep-awake state. I notice a little girl, maybe ten, looking through books on a shelf. I say “Good morning” and “How are you?” in my best talking-to-little-kids-talk. She responds with an adult “Fine. And you are…?” Her name is Molly. She is the youngest of the Williams kids, and plans to be a veterinarian.

Now up, I venture into this landed, arty bohemian enclave. I join Cynthia, drinking tea, reading, and talking. Then John and I take a walk on a path of botanical wonders. We pass another home -- a cousin’s -- nestled into the land, and then start down a stretch of steep steps.

At the bottom is Gibson Beach, between the mountains and the ocean. For years to come I will descend these steps, often taking a very brief plunge into the huge, cold, turbulent Pacific waves that leave seaweed and long kelp tubes on the coarse sand. Cormorants take off and land on a rock island to the northwest, before and after beak-bomb dives into the surf.

By afternoon I leave the Williams compound and join Nick’s family in Monterey for Thanksgiving dinner. His people are fisherman and movie projectionists. Italians. Dinner includes artichokes, a big salad, rice stuffing with ground beef, rigatoni, cheeses, lots of garlic, prawns, veal, yams with maple syrup, turkey, and more pasta and seafood. Then coffee, and cannoli for dessert. Oh, and plenty of California red wine.

Monterey Bay: Sun rising over the Santa Cruz Mountains to the east.
I spend the night at Nick’s, falling out with my annual overfilled holiday tummy.

We are up early. We head down to the harbor and onto a fishing boat, out into Monterey Bay. Our captain is Nick’s uncle Joe Aliotti, the fisherman. Joe grew up in Italy, became a fisherman, and immigrated to California after serving in the Italian submarine corps during WWII.

I have memory flashes of earlier fishing expeditions with my dad. Me, age 10 in Boca Grande, Florida, watching the men fish for Tarpon, then hanging out in the boat’s galley with the Captain while he cooks beans. My dad and his pals, who called themselves the Society of Mizzable Bastards, were inside drinking at the Pink Elephant, a dockside bar. Another time I am very seasick in the turbulent tide-changing seas off Block Island.

This morning on Monterey Bay is blessedly calm. Joe, smoking a Camel, steers the boat west as the morning sun emerges over the Santa Cruz Mountains. We’re after a large shrimp, the Monterey Bay Spot Prawn. Joe is a pioneer in the commercial fishing of this species. We find Joe’s buoy and the long chain that drops 600 fathoms into an underwater canyon where the prawns hang out. They pull up the chain and the handmade wicker and rope traps called pots that are connected to the chain by rope. Joe cuts chum for the pots, an older fisherman baits them, and both lower them back into the canyon.

Emptying the traps.
After a few hours we have caught many prawns, plus a few junk fish. And we catch the enemy of the prawn fisherman, a small octopus. There are no prawns in the trap with the octopus. Uncle Joe picks up the octopus and bites its head in just the right place, sending it straight to octopus heaven. By late morning we’re dockside and leave containers with the catch at a dockside commercial fish-house. Joe tosses the octopus up on the dock; it’s part of the catch.

Over the years I make many runs, in many vehicles, with many people between Berkeley and the Highlands. I’m the cameraman on a wild pig hunt in the Carmel Valley with John and a guy named Reaford Shay. We find no wild pigs but do return with a young buck that Reaford dresses and we eat.

I talk with Cynthia’s brother Dick Criley, a longtime progressive activist who ran the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights. I meet Florence, Dick’s wife, the feisty union organizer with the United Electrical Workers. Honey Williams introduces me to Joan Baez on a Christmas Eve on the streets of Carmel, and I dance with her sister Pauline and others during parties at the Williams house.

For a few years I derive great pleasure driving a red 1947 International pickup truck on rough dirt roads off Hwy 1 to a place called Rocky Creek. We shoot a home movie scene: the International pulls up by a small herd of cattle and stops abruptly, me in the pickup bed leaning on the cab, brandishing a rifle. Later that and other home movies are stolen -- I believe by the notorious “Red Squad” -- from my storefront crib at Armitage and Kedzie in Chicago, where we lay out the first issues of Rising Up Angry in 1969.

Visiting the Highlands in the winter of 1965, I hang out with “Muffy” Rebecca Katia North, the daughter of author Joseph North, a Communist Party activist and journalist. I get a nighttime call from my Oakland roommate Davy Wellman, also a red diaper baby. He is freaked out. History grad student and Free Speech Movement comrade Bob Novick has been busted for pot. Back in those days this was cause for panic: Is this a crackdown on activists or what? Davy is refusing to go into our apartment at 5006 Telegraph until I get rid of my small bag of weed within its walls.

Uncle Joe Aliotti.
In the morning Muffy and I drive north to Oakland. We arrive and approach the house with considerable trepidation, at least on my part. We climb the now spooky-stairs and enter my home, once warm and comforting. Thinking the cops are about to jump me, I quickly grab the bag of weed, dump it into the toilet, and flush. Immediately I feel stupid, take a deep breath and say to myself: “You asshole...”

Being kidnapped and taken to John’s home ended up being a gift. I will always be grateful to Cynthia Williams for the generous spirit with which she welcomed me and so many others into the nurturing, stimulating, life-altering world of the Highlands.

[Michael James is a former SDS national officer, the founder of Rising Up Angry, co-founder of Chicago's Heartland Café (1976 and still going), and co-host of the Saturday morning (9-10 a.m. CDT) Live from the Heartland radio show, here and on YouTube. He is reachable by one and all at michael@heartlandcafe.com. Find more articles by Michael James on The Rag Blog.]

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HISTORY / Bob Feldman : A People's History of Egypt, Part 11, Section 1, 1945-1946

Egyptian students demonstrate on February 21, 2012, to mark anniversary of 1946 student and worker uprising. Photo by Mai Shaheen / Ahram Online.
A people's history:
The movement to democratize Egypt
Part 11: 1945-1946 Period/Section 1 -- Worker and student struggles lead to general strike.
By Bob Feldman / The Rag Blog / October 17, 2013

[With all the dramatic activity in Egypt, Bob Feldman's Rag Blog "people's history" series, "The Movement to Democratize Egypt," could not be more timely. Also see Feldman's "Hidden History of Texas" series on The Rag Blog.]

A September 1, 1945, report by M. Audsley -- the Labor Counselor at the UK Embassy in Egypt -- indicated what life for most Egyptian workers was like when the leaders of the Egyptian student movement were calling for the formation of a national committee to push for full Egyptian independence from the UK:

The Egyptian workers live in unhealthy and overcrowded dwellings -- they are so overcrowded in many areas that the workers occupy the dwellings in shifts as in a factory; they sleep in the streets and in any odd corner; servants and their families sleep under staircases, in sheds and in gardens or in the more modern buildings which are often not sanitary... Their level of wages is below the subsistence standard... There is no unemployment insurance, no provision for old age and similar state benefits...

Demanding full independence from the UK and the immediate evacuation of all British military forces from Egypt, the Egyptian student movement next called for and organized a massive general strike at a public meeting in Egypt on February 9, 1946, in support of these demands.

Selma Botman described in Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952 what then happened on that date in Egypt’s history:
On February 9 [1946] students called a massive strike. They marched by the thousands...from the university grounds in Giza toward Abdin Palace, chanting: "Evacuation! No negotiation except after evacuation!" When they reached the Abbar Bridge, which they needed to cross to reach the palace, they clashed with the police. The police opened the bridge while students were crossing it, causing the deaths of over 20 students by drowning and 84 serious casualties. In protest against the police’s behavior, demonstrations erupted in parts of Mansura, Zagazig, Aswan, Shabiz al-Kom, Alexandria and Cairo...
Then in Cairo, on February 18, 1946, “40,000 demonstrators came together in Abdeen Square while 15,000 others grouped at the university, where pamphlets were distributed attacking British imperialism,” according to Tareq Y. Ismael and Rifa‘at El-Sa’id’s The Communist Movement in Egypt: 1920-1988; and “along with these demonstrations, representatives of both the workers and students met and formed the National Committee of Workers and Students [NCWS]....with the aim of leading the struggle against the imperialists and their agents.”

This committee then called for a general strike in Egypt on February 21, 1946, in support of the following three goals:
  1. “to struggle for national independence and to combat the military occupation and economic, political, cultural and colonial domination";
  2. “to eliminate the local agents of colonialism, i.e., feudalists and big financiers connected with foreign monopolies;” and
  3. “to unite all the anti-colonialist nationalist forces to support mass demonstrations and strikes, and to forge contacts with international anti-colonialist democratic movements.”
The NCWS’s February 21, 1946, demonstration and general strike in Cairo began peacefully. But then the Egyptian “protesters were insulted by the behavior of British military personnel” when “several military cars came through the crowds,” according to Selma Botman’s The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970; and the British troops next “opened fire” on the Egyptian demonstrators, according to Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952.

In response, “demonstrators attacked foreign shops, clubs, and the British military camp” and “at the end of the day, there were 23 dead and 125 wounded,” according to The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970. The dead Egyptian victims were “given martyrs’ funerals” while anti-imperialist nationalist demonstrations “spread to Giza, Shubra al-Khayma, Bab al-Sharqiyya, Misral-Jadrda, Abbasiyya, Helwan, Port Said, Ismailiya, Zagazig, Mansura, Zift, Mahasla al-Kubra and Tanta,” according to the same book.

The Egyptian student committee then decided to make February 25, 1946, “a day of general mourning for those who had been killed” on February 21; and on February 25, “a general strike took place” during which “clashes with the police led to the deaths of 28” more “demonstrators and the injury of 342” more, as well as “two British soldiers” also being killed and four UK soldiers being injured, according to The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970.

Another day of mourning was held in Egypt on March 4, 1946, to commemorate the additional anti-imperialist nationalist martyrs; and on March 4, 1946, “newspapers were not printed, coffee shops, stores, and factories were closed down, and schools and universities remained silent,” while “clashes in Alexandria left 28 more dead and hundreds wounded,” according to Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952.

When the British government announced on March. 8, 1946, “their intention to evacuate the Cairo, Alexandria, and Delta zones” of Egypt “and set up military camps only in the region of the Suez Canal, the NCWS, with the rest of the [Egyptian] left, took this proclamation as their victory over the forces of imperialism,” according to The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970.

[Bob Feldman is an East Coast-based writer-activist and a former member of the Columbia SDS Steering Committee of the late 1960s. Read more articles by Bob Feldman on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

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08 October 2013

Alan Waldman : ‘Dalziel and Pascoe’ is a Dramatic Yet Funny Yorkshire Cop Series

Waldman's film and TV
treasures you may have missed:
For 59 episodes, its humorously mismatched lead characters stopped a wide range of dastardly doings.
By Alan Waldman / The Rag Blog / October 8, 2013

[In his weekly 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, and Scotland. Most are available on DVD and/or Netflix, and some episodes are on YouTube.]

Dalziel and Pascoe is a gripping but humorous British cop series featuring two seemingly mismatched police detectives who always manage to thwart crime in Yorkshire. Warren Clarke (one of Malcolm McDowell’s three deranged cronies in A Clockwork Orange) steals the show as blunt, sarcastic, politically incorrect, old-school detective superintendant Andy Dalziel (strangely enough pronounced “dee-el”). He is ably if frustratedly assisted by university educated, well-mannered detective inspector Peter Pascoe

Andy is a very amusing character, for all his flaws."Dalziel is a perfect pig” explains Clarke. “He's vulgar, loud and rude, but he is in fact also a great humanitarian and he gets very good results.”

The two coppers are complete opposites: different backgrounds, different beliefs, and different styles. They frequently get on each other's nerves or are embarrassed by each other. Yet their differences make them a stunningly brilliant crime-solving team.

The series ran for 12 seasons (1996-2007) and 59 episodes, winning two Edgar awards, including “best TV feature or miniseries,” and three more “best TV feature or miniseries” noms. Seven seasons of the show are on Netflix, and many episodes are free on YouTube. Here’s an episode.

Other major characters in the series include gay, earnest detective sergeant Edgar “Wieldy” Wield and gutsy but inexperienced detective constable Shirley Novello. Ivor Novello was a famous old entertainer, so Dalziel always calls her “Ivor.”

All the first three seasons’ episodes and the first two stories of Season Four are entirely based on the novels of Reginald Hill, winner of the 1995 Crime Writers' Association Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement. The remaining episodes were penned by 29 other writers, including Tony McHale -- the driving force behind immensely popular evening soap Eastenders -- and Alan Plater, writer of 80 films and TV episodes, including the excellent Inspector Lewis.

Sample dialogue:
Dalziel: Did you find any drugs?

Detective constable Seymour: No one mentioned anything about looking for drugs.

Dalziel: No one mentioned anything about Barbary apes, but if you'd seen a couple of them fornicating on the kitchen table, likely you'd have mentioned it.
[Oregon writer and Houston native Alan Waldman holds a B.A. in theater arts from Brandeis University and has worked as an editor at The Hollywood Reporter and Honolulu magazine. Read more of Alan Waldman's articles on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

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03 October 2013

Tom Hayden : Becoming Two Countries in 2014

Becoming two countries. Image from Shutterstock / sojourners.
The war for America:
Becoming two countries in 2014
Joined by a right-wing Roberts Supreme Court and funded by the likes of the Koch brothers, the Right is consolidating its power on a scale not seen since the Jim Crow era of the Dixiecrats.
By Tom Hayden / The Rag Blog / October 3, 2013

The logic of voter turnout data all but guarantees right-wing Republican congressional victories in 2014 and a sealing of the divide of America into two countries for the foreseeable future.

White House operatives privately acknowledge that GOP gerrymandering plus low turnout make 2014 a war to keep the Senate Democratic and show gains while losing the House. There are eight battleground Senate seats where Mitt Romney won the popular vote in 2012 and incumbent Democrats are either retiring or vulnerable to defeat.

Even if Hillary Clinton manages to win in 2016, the battle for the House will favor the GOP since the current gerrymandered seats will remain intact until 2020, or even 2022. Assuming continued Democratic control of the White House and Senate in 2014, the opportunity to take back the Roberts Supreme Court may not occur until the next presidential term, as Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia are both 77.

President Barack Obama was not wrong when he promised a single "red, white and blue America" in 2008. That is what a majority of registered voters want, but he underestimated the white sea of hate that would be generated from him among Republicans. His electoral advisors concentrated their brilliance on the national electoral map more than the states where Republicans took over in 2010.

Joined by a right-wing Roberts Supreme Court and funded by the likes of the Koch brothers, the Right is consolidating its power on a scale not seen since the Jim Crow era of the Dixiecrats. Progressives, concentrated in Democratic-majority strongholds, will have to think strategically about how to save constituencies which have being left behind enemy lines for most of their lives.

Thanks to Howard Dean's Democracy for America, campaign resources are being invested in Virginia's legislative election this year, with Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Michigan to follow. These potential wins could minimize losses in the long term attempt to salvage the 2010s from a major Republican counterattack on the Thirties, Sixties, and the Obama era. Unfortunately, the failure already has been cemented by the reapportionment process.

The national Democratic strategy, such as it is, is to paint the Republicans as completely irresponsible, even insane, in an effort to encourage defections among moderate white voters and stimulate turnout among worried Democratic voters. While this strategy may be working among moderate voters, it also strengthens the Tea Party in the primaries of Republican districts and states.

The cold facts are these: in presidential election years, voter turnout ranges between 50 and 60 percent, while in mid-term elections it's in the high thirties. In 2010, turnout was 41.6 percent, meaning a disproportionate racial and economic minority took power in the House of Representatives and also gained control of the governors’ post and both legislative houses in 12 additional states. (See Elizabeth Drew's, "The Stranglehold on Our Politics," for a concise summary.)

The behavior of young voters, ages 18 to 29, is a stunning illustration of the pattern. According to the Center of Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, in 2008 youth turnout was 51 percent, which then plummeted to 22.8 percent in 2010, before trending back to 45 percent in 2012.

In 2010, while the Democrats won the popular congressional vote by slightly over 50 percent, GOP candidates were able to win 54 percent of the House seats while losing by 1.4 million votes overall. In Pennsylvania, for example, Democrats won the popular vote by 83,000 but the GOP wrested a 13-5 advantage in House races. In Michigan, Democrats led by 240,000 votes but the GOP took nine of 14 House seats.

Roe v. Wade "may be doomed," writes Drew. The Voting Rights Act already is badly gutted. New state laws are being promulgated in the swing states of Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio to make registration and voting as difficult as possible. It appears that any federal action on immigrant rights will include a delay in the path to voting for longer than a decade, preventing several million Latinos from voting, while a military "surge" is being implemented at the southern border.

Federal marriage equality benefits for LGBT couples may be jeopardized in states where gay marriage is banned. North Carolina, an Obama state in 2008, turned Republican by 2010, and is swiftly implementing new restrictions on abortion and voting rights despite massive protests. Arizona continues to be ground zero for vigilantes in the war against undocumented immigrants, and has succeeded in erasing Chicano Studies from state curriculums.

Since 2010 alone, 178 new anti-abortion measures have been adopted or are in the works. Michigan's gerrymandered legislature has successfully passed a right-to-work law. Twenty-seven states are resisting the expansion of Medicaid, and the majority are refusing to set up the insurance exchanges authorized by Obamacare. Those states are becoming "abortion-free zones," right-to-work states, and bastions of a resurrected "sovereignty" for whites and business interests on the defensive.

Public schools will struggle for resources in one America, while re-segregation and home schooling are completed in the other. As for the overriding crisis of climate change, the crisis of "two Americas" means that progress will occur through federal regulation combined with state action. The rest of the country will remain a Coal Zone filled with droughts, wildfires, and official climate denials.

There happens to be some "good news" in this polarization, since the libertarian Right tends to oppose foreign military interventions and Big Brother spying, while supporting the right to be stoned. A de facto coalition of the libertarian Right with the liberal Left has made progress possible on these important fronts.

The Right’s hatred towards Wall Street equals that of the Left. But the chasm on social justice is widening. Young people attracted to Rand Paul, and Ron before him, are ignoring the fact that libertarians would roll us back to the entire system of lunch counter segregation that was the focal point of the civil rights movement. The white "right to refuse service" prevails in their thinking over civil rights and due process protections.

There is no getting around the deep streaks of male chauvinism, Christian Triumphalism, plain racism, and market fundamentalism that mark so much right-wing rumination. Those divides are being institutionalized. Using the tools at their disposal, the right-wing Republicans are not trying to "take over" the United States as much as carve out a virtual country of their own based on states' rights and resistance to the national governing majority. They want to be able to live in an America where Barack Obama is a bad memory of an illegitimate president.

Can anything be done about this? In the short term, it is imperative that Democrats join Howard Dean in trying to retain their Senate majority and make gains against the gerrymandered legislatures. They should support Attorney General Holder in the courtroom battles against voter suppression. They should help make Obamacare succeed in as many states as possible. They should refuse to employ the deceptive terms "red" and “blue."

2016 will be a historic turning point as an American multi-cultural democracy steadily evolves on the basis of a massive demographic shift. Progressives cannot retreat into enclaves as long as millions of Americans are abused in zones under pro-corporate Republican rule.

Regulations established by the Obama administration must be implemented with the full force of the law in every state, not simply half the states. Progressive models can and should be erected in those states which become, in Justice Brandeis’ expression, "laboratories of reform," with climate change regulations being the clearest example.

Battles will rage over voting rights, women's rights, climate and environmental regulations, and immigration between now and 2016. The 2016 election will become a historic referendum on the future of America affecting the entire lifetimes of the younger generation coming of voting age.

Research by Emma Taylor, Research Assistant at the Peace and Justice Resource Center. This article was also posted to Tom Hayden.com .

[Tom Hayden is a former California state senator and leader of Sixties peace, justice, and environmental movements. He currently teaches at Pitzer College in Los Angeles. His latest book is The Long Sixties. Hayden is director of the Peace and Justice Resource center and editor of The Peace Exchange Bulletin. Read more of Tom Hayden's writing on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

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02 October 2013

INTERVIEW / Jonah Raskin : Oral Historian Margaret Randall on Che and the Cuban Revolution

Margaret Randall, Berkeley, California, March 23, 2011. Photo © Scott Braley.
Interview with Margaret Randall:
Feminist, poet, and oral historian of Che,
Fidel, and the Cuban revolution
"Che, even on his early motorcycle adventure through Latin America, was deeply affected by human misery and beginning to figure out what he felt could be done to alleviate it."
By Jonah Raskin / The Rag Blog / October 3, 2013

Margaret Randall, 77, lives today in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where her roots run as deep as they do in Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua where she has also lived for extended periods of time.

In the 1980s she was a woman without a country -- or at least a woman without a legal passport. Born in New York in 1936, she dropped out of college, moved to Spain and then to Mexico where she married the poet, Sergio Mondragon, with whom she founded and edited the literary magazine, El Corno Emplumado (The Plumed Horn).

In 1968, after a year of involvement with the Mexican student movement, she went underground and escaped to Cuba where she lived until 1980, interviewing Cuban women and serving as a judge for the Casas de las Americas poetry contest and raising a family. Then, after four years in Sandanista Nicaragua, she returned to the U.S. where she was greeted by family members and friends -- and declared persona non grata by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

In 1969, when she had acquired Mexican citizenship she also simultaneously lost her American citizenship. Immigration officials stated that, in her writings, she had expressed views "against the good order and happiness of the United States." After a five-year legal battle, the Center for Constitutional Rights won Randall’s case and succeeded in having her U.S. citizenship reinstated.

The author of more than 120 books, she lives with painter and teacher Barbara Byers. In 1990, Randall was awarded the Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett grant for writers persecuted by political repression. In 2004, she was the first recipient of PEN New Mexico’s Dorothy Doyle Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing and Human Rights Activism.

She has four children and10 grandchildren. Duke University Press has just published Che On My Mind, which Noam Chomsky calls “a compelling personal meditation.”

Randall with her husband, the Mexican poet Sergio Mondragon.

Jonah Raskin: We’re close to the anniversary of Che’s death. He was murdered 46 years ago, on October 8, 1967. In some ways he might not recognize the world of 2013.

Margaret Randall: Would Che recognize the world of 2013? I'm inclined to think he would. One of the fascinating things about him is that he had a far-ranging analytical mind. He was curious about everything and knew a lot of political theory, revolutionary practice, medicine, anthropology, art, language, and more.

So, extrapolating from this I believe our world would not have surprised him. It would be more interesting to know how he might gotten from "there" to "here." We'll never know. With his murder those who feared him put an end to his astonishing capacity to see history and to process it. What we’re left with is a story made static by its unnatural end.

Your own life was intense in this period. Can you say something about it?

I was part of the Mexican student movement of 1968 that was brutally repressed; hundreds were shot and killed by the army. A year later, in 1969, we were preparing to honor those who had died. Two paramilitary guys forced there way into my house at gunpoint and stole my passport. I reported it stolen but the Mexican government refused to give me another. That’s when I went underground. I acquired fake papers, traveled to the U.S., then to Toronto and to Prague and from there then to Havana. My kids had gone on ahead of me and met me at the airport.

Was there an epiphany during the writing of the book?

The whole book was a kind of epiphany. Che had long fascinated me. I knew one of his sisters and a brother, too. I felt close to the family. I kept reading and rereading and than one day I just found myself writing. At first I thought it was going to be a short essay, then it turned into a book.

In Che On My Mind, you’re both critical of Che and at the same time empathetic. Did it take time for you to reach that vantage point where you saw his strengths and his flaws?

I’ve been ruminating on the man and his era -- which was also mine -- for almost half a century.

I imagine that if you had written a book about Che in, say, 1968, or even in 1975, it would have been a very different book. This book reflects who you are now in 2013 doesn’t it?

Absolutely. It’s a culmination of years of my own experience, losses, thinking and rethinking -- observing how Che’s persona has been reflected in and used by generations for whom he’s been a model in one way or another.

The photos of Che that you include say a lot about him and his personality. The photo with his mother seems to reveal their deep connection, while the photo of him from 1963 in Havana smoking a big cigar suggests a kind of arrogance -- at least to me. Do you have one favorite image of Che?

My favorite photograph of Che, or the image that haunts me most insistently, is the one taken on October 9, 1967, by Bolivian press photographer, Freddy Alborta, of the man lying dead in a schoolhouse in Bolivia. I reproduce it twice in my book, one full frame and again as a close-up of Che’s face. Although “lifeless” his features retain a mysterious quality -- something between terrible foreboding and infinite calm. The CIA and Bolivian Army staged this photo shoot in order to prove that the guerrilla leader was dead. This image proved just the opposite.

Your book reflects your own personal journey from North America to Latin America -- Mexico and  Cuba and Nicaragua -- and back to North America. At one time you might have said that living here was living “in the Belly of the Beast.” Is there an image or a metaphor you would use today to describe the USA?

Che with Fidel, left, circa 1958 in the mountains during the guerrilla war against the Bautista dictatorship. Photos of Che Guevara from Che on My Mind by Margaret Randall, Duke University Press, 2013.
Living in the U.S. today is like living on the far side of Alice’s Looking Glass or, as Eduardo Galeano has said, in a world that is upside down. Official wisdom is really smug deception. Criminality passes itself off as benevolence, and the 1% continues to ignore all the warming signs in a world it’s destroying.

It’s definitely difficult for guerrillas from the mountains to morph into government officials in the capital. Che did that for a while when he was president of the Bank of Cuba. Che as banker doesn’t fit the popular mythology does it, but its part of the picture.

Che was one among many who pointed out that winning a military campaign and restructuring society are very different endeavors, and that the latter is far more complex and difficult than the former. I believe that Che had immense courage, some valuable ideas, and also made some painful mistakes in both contexts. There is no doubt in my mind, though, that had his ideas about a new society continued to be implemented after he left Cuba, more of the revolution would exist in that country today.

I like the selections from Che’s letters that you have included. In several of them he seems to romanticize violence as when he writes about “the staccato singing of the machine guns.” Machine guns probably don’t really sing do they?

No, they don’t sing; they kill.

Why did you return to the United States after years of living in what might be called “exile”? Did you feel that you took that part of your journey as far as you could take it?

I missed my language, my culture, the space and colors of my New Mexico desert, my aging parents: all the components that together define home. And I was tired after so many years away, often on the front lines of battles that were and were not my own. I was close to 50. It was time to come home.

What do you miss most about the Latin American world that you knew?

I miss its rich cultures, extraordinary creativity, and unfailing hope in the face of forces that continue to exploit and usurp. I miss good Mexican mole, Cuban yuca al mojo de ajo, Nicaraguan tamales. I miss César Vallejo’s voice and all the voices of young poets who exist because he did. I miss my children, three of whom opted to remain in Latin America; and of course I miss my grandchildren whose lives are unfolding in Mexico and Uruguay.

You’re also critical of Fidel and Cuba in your book -- including what you call “the stagnation.” Given the blockade and U.S. foreign policy on the one hand and the reliance on the Soviet Union for so long on the other hand, what choices did the Cubans really have?

I am critical of decisions I feel were paternalistic, didn’t display enough faith in the Cuban people themselves, discouraged healthy criticism, and further isolated a nation that is, after all, an island. Given the balance of power during the Cold War years, Cuba may not have had more viable options. Hindsight is always 20/20, as they say. When the Cuban revolution has been most open and embracing I believe it has achieved its greatest successes. This said, every time I revisit the country I come away with a palpable sense of justice and possibility I don’t experience anywhere else.

Edward Boorstein, the American economist who wrote about Cuba, told me a story about how Che became head of the national bank. In his version, it was Fidel who asked if there was anyone in a room of guerrillas who was an economist. Che raised his hand. Later, when he wasn’t very effective at the bank, Fidel went to him and said, “I thought you told me you knew economics.” Che replied, “I thought you asked if anyone was a communist.” You point out that the story may be apocryphal. What does the story say to you? How do you interpret it?

Popular culture tends to pick up and focus in on moments that illustrate deep truths, and then incorporate them into legend. I’m sure there is at least a kernel of truth in this story. The Cubans have a marvelous capacity to laugh at their own idiosyncrasies. If this story didn’t happen exactly as it is told, what remains significant is that changing society requires superhuman effort, often by people who have no particular training for the job and must invent as they go along. Making the effort is always better than saying, “We can’t do this because we don’t know how.”

For me the most sobering moment in your book isn’t the death of Che in Bolivia but the suicide of Haydee Santamaria, perhaps the most prominent of the revolutionary leaders, in 1980 in Cuba. What can you tell us about her suicide? How did she take her life? Did she leave a suicide note? Was her death covered up?

Her death wasn’t covered up. But, as with many such major events, in Cuba and elsewhere, we know what those who control the information want us to know. As far as I’m aware, she didn’t leave a note. But she left a life. Like Che, Haydée Santamaría was an exceptional human being. To me, she represented the very best humanity has to offer. She definitely envisioned and worked to create a better world. It must have been unbearably painful for her to have to live in the one that exists.

The chapter about Che and Haydée is the one in my book that means the most to me, the one on which I worked the hardest, and the one I believe embodies most completely what I want to say about the Cuban revolution, its central figures, that whole extraordinary swatch of history.

Che in 1963 in his office in the Hotel Rivera in Havana. Photo by the French photographer Rene Burri, on assignment for Look magazine.
You seem to be positive about the Weather Underground. You say that the organization remained “the voice of a certain radical faction” when the New Left declined. Do you admire the organization more than any other in the USA from that time?

I admired it at the time. I admired all those who dared speak out, rise up, and fight the power of U.S. hegemony and imperialist abuse of other nations and our own. And I continue to feel that admiration. I was also living somewhere else, though, and therefore in no position to observe or judge the excesses, the lack of connection many radical groups had with the lives of ordinary working people, certain sectarian or authoritarian ideas that created dangerous divisions and doomed brilliantly creative projects.

The young Che Guevara seems like a young Jack Kerouac in some ways; he was in search of “adventures” and “fun” to use his own words. Che went on his motorcycle journey about the same time that Kerouac was traveling across the U.S.A. And he was extraordinarily poetic, too, as when he wrote that, “words turn to prisons inhibiting my feelings.” Do you think he and the Beats would have been comrades on the road if they had met in say, 1955?

I can see them as comrades on the road if they had met in 1955, though probably not in 1965. The Beats were motivated by a rejection of the social hypocrisy pervasive in the U.S. throughout the 1950s. But their solutions involved lighting up and dropping out. Che, even on his early motorcycle adventure through Latin America, was deeply affected by human misery and beginning to figure out what he felt could be done to alleviate it. Kerouac’s and Che’s roads diverged. But I definitely sense an underlying “brotherhood.”

Che was in New York in 1964 and 1965. He talked about sleeping in a hammock in Central Park -- the closest he could get to a jungle. What thoughts do you have about him in New York?

I wasn’t there. But I imagine he was lonely, enraged much of the time, deeply curious as he always was about places with which he was unfamiliar, perceptive, and perhaps a little bit in love.

If you had met him what might you have wanted to ask him?

At this point in my life all I can be sure of is that I would not, back then, have been able to ask the right questions -- of him or anyone else. It’s taken me a while to be able to formulate the questions I do ask in my book.

Though he used the Spanish word for “faggot” to describe homosexuals you don’t think he was homophobic?

I struggled with this in my book, and I am honest about the process of that struggle. Of course, there was a great deal of the macho in Guevara, and his use of the word “faggot” was disgusting, unforgivable. It was also an almost unthinking part of the popular culture at the time. I came to the conclusion, after looking closely at the role he played or did not play in the actual repression of homosexuals in Cuba, that he was not one of those for whom that egregious repression was personally important.

And looking at other ways in which he departed from the norm, I came to feel that -- like Fidel -- had he lived long enough to experience the call for gay rights, he would have endorsed them. Che was a man of his time, but deeply principled.

Your book might be described as a feminist reading of Che’s life and work. Do you see it that way?

Absolutely. Insofar as feminism is a framework for looking at power relations, I read everything from a feminist point of view. I also see this as a poet’s book, a poetic reading of a life.

[Jonah Raskin, a professor emeritus at Sonoma State University and a regular contributor to The Rag Blog, is the author of American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and the Making of the Beat Generation, and the editor of The Radical Jack London: Writings on War and Revolution. Read more articles by Jonah Raskin on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

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RAG RADIO / Thorne Dreyer : Bruce Melton on Global Warming and Climate Change Denial

Environmental activist Bruce Melton at the studios of KOOP radio in Austin, Texas, September 20, 2013. Photo by Roger Baker / The Rag Blog.
Rag Radio podcast:
Environmental researcher and
climate change activist Bruce Melton
Austin environmentalist and Rag Blog contributor talks about global warming, climate change denial, and Austin's 'Dry Lake Blues.'
By Rag Radio / The Rag Blog / October 2, 2013

Environmental researcher and climate change activist Bruce Melton was our guest on Rag Radio, Friday, September 20, 2013.

Rag Radio is a weekly syndicated radio program produced and hosted by long-time alternative journalist Thorne Dreyer and recorded at the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM, a cooperatively-run all-volunteer community radio station in Austin, Texas.

Listen to or download the podcast of our September 20 interview with Bruce Melton here:

Melton, an Austin-based civil engineer and a student of climate science, discussed global warming, climate change denial, the Texas drought, and Austin's "Dry Lake Blues" on Rag Radio.

Bruce Melton is an environmental researcher and activist, a green builder, an environmental filmmaker, an author, and front man for the band, Climate Change. Bruce is a regular contributor to The Rag Blog and Truthout on issues of climate change and global warming. He is the author of Climate Discovery Chronicles and his new book is Dry Lake Blues. He blogs at ClimateDiscovery.com .

Bruce Melton was one of eight Austinites named as a "Hero of Climate Change" by Good Life Magazine. He has been translating and interpreting scholarly science publications for two decades. His Climate Change Now initiative has applied for nonprofit 501(c)(3) status. This is his fourth time to appear on Rag Radio. The Rag Blog's Roger Baker also participated in the discussion.

Listen to the podcasts of Bruce Melton's earlier appearances on Rag Radio and read Bruce's articles at The Rag Blog.

Rag Radio is hosted and produced by Rag Blog editor Thorne Dreyer, a pioneer of the Sixties underground press movement. Tracey Schulz is the show's engineer and co-producer.

Rag Radio has aired since September 2009 on KOOP 91.7-FM, an all-volunteer cooperatively-run community radio station in Austin, Texas. Rag Radio is broadcast live every Friday from 2-3 p.m. (CDT) on KOOP and is rebroadcast on Sundays at 10 a.m. (EDT) on WFTE, 90.3-FM in Mt. Cobb, PA, and 105.7-FM in Scranton, PA. Rag Radio is now also aired on KPFT-HD3 90.1 -- Pacifica radio in Houston -- on Wednesdays at 1 p.m.

The show is streamed live on the web and, after broadcast, all Rag Radio shows are posted as podcasts at the Internet Archive.

Rag Radio is produced in association with The Rag Blog, a progressive Internet newsmagazine, and the New Journalism Project, a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

Rag Radio can be contacted at ragradio@koop.org.

Coming up on Rag Radio:
THIS FRIDAY, October 4, 2013: Novelist Thomas Zigal, author of Many Rivers to Cross, set in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Friday, October 11, 2013: Medical and Cultural Anthropologist Seth Holmes, author of Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States.

The Rag Blog

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Harvey Wasserman : The Demand for a Global Takeover at Fukushima

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's reactor building number 4 seen in aerial view on July 5, 2012. Photo by Kyodo / Reuters.
The demand for a global takeover
at Fukushima has hit critical mass
Since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, the six-reactor Daichi site has plunged into lethal chaos.
By Harvey Wasserman / The Rag Blog / October 2, 2013

More than 48,000 global citizens have now signed a petition at NukeFree.org asking the United Nations and the world community to take charge of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. Another 35,000 have signed at RootsAction. An independent advisory group of scientists and engineers is also in formation.

The signatures are pouring in from all over the world. By November, they will be delivered to the United Nations.

The corporate media has blacked out meaningful coverage of the most critical threat to global health and safety in decades.

The much-hyped “nuclear renaissance” has turned into a global rout. In the face of massive grassroots opposition and the falling price of renewable energy and natural gas, operating reactors are shutting and proposed new ones are being cancelled.

This lessens the radioactive burden on the planet. But it makes the aging reactor fleet ever more dangerous. A crumbling industry with diminished resources and a disappearing workforce cannot safely caretake the decrepit, deteriorating 400-odd commercial reactors still licensed to operate worldwide.

All of which pales before the crisis at Fukushima. Since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, the six-reactor Daichi site has plunged into lethal chaos.

For decades the atomic industry claimed vehemently that a commercial reactor could not explode. When Chernobyl blew, it blamed “inferior” Soviet technology.

But Fukushima’s designs are from General Electric (some two dozen similar reactors are licensed in the U.S.). At least four explosions have rocked the site. One might have involved nuclear fission. Three cores have melted into the ground. Massive quantities of water have been poured where the owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), and the Japanese government think they might be, but nobody knows for sure.

As The Free Press has reported, steam emissions indicate one or more may still be hot. Contaminated water is leaking from hastily-constructed tanks. Room for more is running out. The inevitable next earthquake could rupture them all and send untold quantities of poisons pouring into the ocean.

The worst immediate threat at Fukushima lies in the spent fuel pool at Unit Four. That reactor had been shut for routine maintenance when the earthquake and tsunami hit. The 400-ton core, with more than 1,300 fuel rods, sat in its pool 100 feet in the air.

Spent fuel rods are the most lethal items our species has ever created. A human standing within a few feet of one would die in a matter of minutes. With more than 11,000 scattered around the Daichi site, radiation levels could rise high enough to force the evacuation of all workers and immobilize much vital electronic equipment.

Spent fuel rods must be kept cool at all times. If exposed to air, their zirconium alloy cladding will ignite, the rods will burn, and huge quantities of radiation will be emitted. Should the rods touch each other, or should they crumble into a big enough pile, an explosion is possible. By some estimates there’s enough radioactivity embodied in the rods to create a fallout cloud 15,000 times greater than the one from the Hiroshima bombing.

The rods perched in the Unit 4 pool are in an extremely dangerous position. The building is tipping and sinking into the sodden ground. The fuel pool itself may have deteriorated. The rods are embrittled and prone to crumbling. Just 50 meters from the base is a common spent fuel pool containing some 6,000 fuel rods that could be seriously compromised should it lose coolant. Overall there are some 11,000 spent rods scattered around the Fukushima Daichi site.

As dangerous as the process might be, the rods in the Unit Four fuel pool must come down in an orderly fashion. Another earthquake could easily cause the building to crumble and collapse. Should those rods crash to the ground and be left uncooled, the consequences would be catastrophic.

Tepco has said it will begin trying to remove the rods from that pool in November. The petitions circulating through NukeFree.org and MoveOn.org, as well as at Roots Action and Avaaz.org, ask that the United Nations take over. They ask the world scientific and engineering communities to step in. The Roots Action petition also asks that $8.3 billion slated in loan guarantees for a new U.S. nuke be shifted instead to dealing with the Fukushima site.

It’s a call with mixed blessings. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency is notoriously pro-nuclear, charged with promoting atomic power as well as regulating it. Critics have found the IAEA to be secretive and unresponsive.

But Tepco is a private utility with limited resources. The Japanese government has an obvious stake in downplaying Fukushima’s dangers. These were the two entities that approved and built these reactors.

While the IAEA is imperfect, its resources are more substantial and its stake at Fukushima somewhat less direct. An ad hoc global network of scientists and engineers would be intellectually ideal, but would lack the resources for direct intervention.

Ultimately the petitions call for a combination of the two.

It’s also hoped the petitions will arouse the global media. The moving of the fuel rods from Unit Four must be televised. We need to see what’s happening as it happens. Only this kind of coverage can allow global experts to analyze and advise as needed.

Let’s all hope that this operation proves successful, that the site is neutralized and the massive leaks of radioactive water and gasses be somehow stopped.

As former Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata has put it: full-scale releases from Fukushima “would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.”

[Harvey Wasserman is senior editor of the Columbus Free Press and The Free Press. He edits NukeFree.org, where all factual material in this article can be linked. He hosts the Solartopia Green Power & Wellness radio show at the Progressive Radio Network, and is author of Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth. Read more of Harvey Wasserman's writing on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

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Kate Braun : The First Dark Moon of Autumn

Moonless autumn night on Whidbey Island in Washington. Photo from rprtphoto.
Moon Musings:
Dark Moon
(October 4, 5, or 6, 2013)

By Kate Braun / The Rag Blog / October 2, 2013
"North, South, East, West,
help me to do my best"
A Dark Moon may be honored on each day on either side of the New Moon as well as on the day of the New Moon.

In October, the New Moon occurs at 7:35 p.m. CDT on Friday, October 5, so you may make your celebration on either October 4, 5, or 6. As the moon is not visible during a Dark Moon period, 10 a.m. is the best time of day to petition the Dark Moon, and due to normal work schedules this indicates that perhaps the better day would be Saturday, October 5, or Sunday, October 6, but whichever day is best for you is the day you should choose.

This is the first Dark Moon of Autumn, which can make planning activities more difficult as any confusion, fears, or regrets from the past are likely to arise. It is best to begin with a balancing ritual, then progress to rituals designed to let the past truly be the past. One way to do this is to invite all the directions to work with you: North, South, East, West, Above, Below, Behind, and Before. The words you use should be simple, direct, and to the point. Here is a suggestion:
North, South, East, West, help me to do my best;
Above me, the Idea; Below me, my Support;
The past is Behind; my goal is Before.
Once this is done, then you can start moving the energy forward. But don’t set specific goals at this time; concentrate instead on releasing the past. November will be a better month to use for specifics.

Here is a simple way to put the past firmly behind you: Do a little weeding in your yard. As you pull up each unwanted plant, being sure to remove as much of the root as possible, say to it, “you are no more present here." When you have pulled up several weeds in this manner, bundle them together using either fiber (garden twine, for example) or a nuisance plant such as bindweed.

Once your weed-bundle is made, write on a piece of paper the things you are releasing. Use the color of ink appropriate for the day you have chosen (blue for Thursday, green for Friday, black for Saturday) and select items to release that are in accord with the planet ruling each day.

If you choose to honor the Dark Moon on Thursday, October 4, this is Thor’s day and Jupiter rules. Jupiter is the planet of expansion, so you may easily focus on the positive resolution of financial or spiritual matters. Wear the color Blue; be sure to have water in a bowl or glass near you. Holding the bundle in your hand, dip it into the water, repeat your chant 4 times, then bury the bundle in a part of the yard that is not regularly watered.

If Friday, October 5, is a better day for you, remember that it is Frigga’s day and Venus rules, so focusing on releasing unwanted or unneeded love and attraction will be more successul. Wear the color green, be outside and barefooted so you can feel the Earth beneath your feet, and have some water in a bowl or glass nearby. Drizzle some earth and then some water over your bundle, repeat your chant seven times, then bury it in a part of the yard that is not regularly watered.

If Saturday, October 6, is the best day for you to honor the Dark Moon, wear black, be outside and barefoot so that you can feel the earth beneath your feet, and focus on releasing resistance to change in your life. Drizzle some Earth on your bundle and repeat your chant 3 times, then bury your bundle in a part of the yard that is not regularly watered.

A suggested chant for this Dark Moon:
Past is past, gone is gone;
Lay it to rest, move along;
My path is cleared of old debris,
Forward-looking is the key.
When your magicking is concluded and the bundle is buried, invoke all directions once again and thank them for supporting your intentions. Here is a suggestion of what to say:
North, South, East, West,
Thank you for helping me to do my best;
My idea floats Above, my support lies Below,
Past is truly past, now my future can grow.
[Kate Braun was a contributor to the original Rag. Her website is www.tarotbykatebraun.com. She can be reached at kate_braun2000@yahoo.com. Read more of Kate Braun's writing on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

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01 October 2013

Michael James : Free Speech at Sproul Plaza, Berkeley, Fall of 1964

Gathering during Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley, December 1964. At left, with mustache, is Jack Weinberg; center, in tie, is Michael Lerner; second from right, in glasses, is Marvin Garson. Photos by Michael James from his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James' Pictures from the Long Haul.
Pictures from the Long Haul:
Free speech, Sproul Plaza with Jesus,
and the Roseville Auction, Fall of '64
I am one of 773 arrested at Sproul Hall and hauled off to Santa Rita County Jail. One of many who goes limp, I am arrested with the added charge of resisting arrest, and dragged down the stairs. It will not be the only time I’ll get that charge.
By Michael James / The Rag Blog / October 1, 2013

[In this series, Michael James is sharing images from his rich past, accompanied by reflections about -- and inspired by -- those images. This photo will be included in his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James' Pictures from the Long Haul.]

I’m heading west to grad school at Berkeley in my “ragtop” (convertible) 1957 Ford. Mine has a ripped as well as ragged top. I’m on US Route 40 -- Victory Highway, the first federally funded highway. In1964 it was the main cross-continental route and I take it from St. Louis west.

It takes me through Salina, Kansas, smack dab in the middle of the country -- a fact I know from having read Hot Rod Magazine’s 1955 report, “Showdown in the Middle of the Nation.”

Temperatures on the prairie and the plains are hot -- real hot. Around twilight I stop for gas and a good meal at a gas station diner in western Kansas and shoot the shit with the young attendant. He has long blond hair and is wearing blue jeans, a white t-shirt, and engineer boots, a la James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.

Moving through the Great Plains I sense a moving on up, a gradual incline taking me higher and higher. The terrain changes, sagebrush rolls and tumbles, and I see dozens of black and white birds with long tail feathers on and along the road -- learned later they were Magpies.

I make it to California. It’s afternoon and I stop in Delano to visit the headquarters of the National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers), founded in 1962 by Dolores Huerta and César Chávez. Heat, dust. I find myself in a single story building, where I enter a room and meet and speak with Mr. Chavez. I donate my Lake Forest College football letter jacket to their clothing drive.

In the mid-70’s, progressive organizations -- including Rising Up Angry -- will welcome a large contingent of UFW workers to Chicago during the grape boycott and ongoing picketing of Jewel supermarkets. And in the fall of 1986 Caesar will be eating at the Heartland Café, sharing his jazz love. In my studio office I will show him my record collection and he will ask me to make tapes from my vinyl, selecting a stack nearly two feet tall. Sadly, he passed away before I could honor his request.

After leaving Delano, I roll into Canyon, a hip little town on the eastern slope of the Berkeley Hills. Skip Richheimer and his wife Susan are living in a cool crib at the bottom of a canyon, surrounded by tall redwoods and oaks. It is dusk. The home scene is warm and comforting.

I met Skip through a mutual friend, Gloria Peterson, a Lake Forest College classmate of mine. He was a fellow Triumph motorcycle guy, part of the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary Motorcycle Club at the University of Chicago. Once I was following him near the Museum of Science and Industry when he crashed, injuring both himself and his bike. We loaded it into my trunk, and then dropped him at the University of Chicago Hospital. An hour later I ditched the bike at his dad’s coffee roasting plant -- Richheimer Coffee, on Halsted near the Chicago River.

Calls to action: 'With Jesus' at Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley..
In ’64 Skip is a Berkeley grad student in history and the only person I’m aware that I know at my new school. Soon I’ll run into some fellow Staples High students from Connecticut: Joy Kimball, Robert Roll, and Ginger Akin. I go on a date with Joy; Robert and Ginger are already conservatives and will soon work for the Rand Corporation think tank.

I enter the campus for the first time from Telegraph and Bancroft. Berkeley feels good -- exciting from the very get-go. I walk into events from which will grow the Free Speech Movement, soon to capture worldwide attention. There are people at many tables representing a smorgasbord of beliefs, organizations, movements, and causes. There is plenty of information and calls to action: left, right, Jesus, atheist, Zen, civil rights, socialist, peace -- you name it.

At Berkeley there is no shortage of people to talk with, to learn from. One is Al Plumber, a likeable old guy who had been involved with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He talks about earlier struggles -- government harassment and repression of organizations and activists. In the 50’s Al hid from the FBI, living up in Idaho with other Wobblies.

People are riled up about the University’s new rules that curtail advocating action and forbid fundraising for off-campus political activities. That strikes many of us -- including supporters of SNCC’s Mississippi Freedom Sumer voter registration drive and California farm workers -- as terrible.

The UC Berkeley policy is clearly out of sync with the student body -- and apparently with the times. The Bay Area -- with its long history of labor and civil rights activism -- had been the site of considerable protest and militant action. This included effective demonstrations against HUAC, the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). This Federal committee blackened the nation’s eyes with its witch hunts, interrogations, and imprisonment of Communists and non-Communists alike, accusing them all of being “un-American.”

At a nighttime rally in front of Sproul Hall a large group of fraternity guys show up chanting in support of the University’s edict, but are rebuffed by the rest of the crowd. Two sociology professors I thought to be “radicals” in the field -- Seymour Martin Lipset and Nathan Glazer -- try to defend the new policy. People boo them. I am taken aback, thinking these are supposed to be the good guys, part of the reason I selected Berkeley for grad school. I will learn to look beyond reputation and begin to understand revisionism.

At a meeting of graduate sociology students I meet Dave Wellman, who is the president of the Graduate Sociology Club. We become roommates and move into 5006 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland across from Vern’s Supermarket. There is a bar next-door where I meet singer Bill Withers ("Ain’t no Sunshine" and "Lean on Me") who is hanging out at the bar. And some blocks behind Vern’s I discover a blues club and spend two nights listening to one of my favorites, Little Junior Parker.

Davy is a red diaper baby. His dad and mom, Saul and Peggy Wellman, were members of the Michigan Communist Party. She was a labor organizer who had once been deported to Canada, when the U.S. government falsely claimed she had been born there. Saul was a commissar in the Lincoln Brigade, the American volunteer force that fought fascism in Spain in the 1930’s. President Roosevelt and Congress had turned a blind eye to the slaughter being carried out by dictator Franco, who was backed in the Spanish Civil War by Hitler and the Nazis.

Davy tells me about being a kid growing up in Detroit and being followed, questioned, and bullied by the FBI. I will learn a lot from him and be introduced to many interesting people and ideas. Our saddest day together is Sunday, February 21, 1965, when we are both home studying and learn of the assassination of Malcolm X.

On a weekend I take a ride north to Loomis, an agricultural town where Jack and Donna Traylor live. I know them from my 1962 motorcycle-trip-summer-of-study to Mexico City. They are schoolteachers and Jack makes music -- playing and performing. They have a daughter, Xochimilco (“garden of flowers”), who has just learned to walk and they live in a cabin in an Oak grove. I meet his mom -- an attractive blonde Oklahoma woman with her hair up in curlers. Walking back to Jack’s on a dusty road I meet his dad, who works for the state’s Department of Agriculture.

A visit to the Roseville Auction and Market in Roseville, California .
A highlight of my visit -- in addition to hearing Jack sing Woody Guthrie’s "Deportees" -- is a trip to the Roseville Auction. It’s a bit like Chicago’s Maxwell Street market -- all sorts of people, anything and everything for sale. I buy a second-hand cast iron frying pan I continue to use to this day.

At the Roseville Auction and Market livestock are for sale. I observe goats in a truck, where rams gang up on the ewe, forcing her into a corner. This catches my attention; anthropomorphizing, I find it somewhat disturbing and unfair.

On a weekend evening I end up at the San Francisco Mime Troup space. Later my sister Melody will be a member of that groundbreaking theater. On this particular night I meet SFMT founder R.G. Davis, and also Joe McDonald, the future Country Joe, mainstay of Country Joe and the Fish. And I meet the late filmmaker, writer, and Cuban documentarian Saul Landau, whom I knew by reading his articles in Studies on the Left.

On campus the protests over freedom of speech are heating up and on October 1, Jack Weinberg, working a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) table, refuses to give campus police his name. He is arrested and the local constabulary attempts to take him away. The police car is quickly surrounded and the FSM (Free Speech Movement) is born.

While sitting around the police car I find a leaflet on the ground. It has a picture of a black man selling apples and the slogan “Build the Interracial Movement of the Poor.” Put out by SDS’s ERAP (Economic Research and Action Project), it reverberates in my heart and mind.

I write SDS headquarters in Chicago: “I would like to be a part of building the interracial movement of the poor.” A return letter will tell me it is up to me to help build it. Soon that is exactly what I will try to do.

That fall the FSM is the main event. The rebellion grows and there are near-daily rallies and plenty of speakers and performers. State Senator (later San Francisco Mayor) Willie Brown fires up a crowd; so does Congressman Bill Burton. On November 20, Joan Baez performs for thousands while the California Board of Regents meets and takes a position to the right of the UC Berkeley Administration.

On December 2, the graduate students go on strike. The noon rally is huge. Our leader and FSM spokesman Mario Savio, who spent the summer doing voter registration in Mississippi, gives his great speech, a speech for the ages. He talks about universities' compliance with corporations and the educational and corporate machine’s dehumanizing process, which turns people into a compliant profit-serving workforce.

Rally at Lower Sproul Plaza, Berkeley.
Mario says:
There's a time when the operations of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to indicate to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machines will be prevented from working at all.
And with that, over 1,500 of us march into Sproul Hall.

In the wee hours of the morning on December 4, 1964, the Sproul Hall bust is on. (Five years later -- to the day -- Chicago Police will assassinate Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton in his bed.)

Some protesters leave before the arrests begin. I stay and am one of 773 arrested and hauled off to Santa Rita County Jail. One of many who goes limp, I am arrested with the added charge of resisting arrest, and dragged down the stairs. It will not be the only time I’ll get that charge.

We’re out of the slammer before sunrise December 5. Some of us reassemble on campus and attempt to block trucks from making their campus deliveries. We encourage Teamster drivers to honor our movement. They express their support, but we do not shut down the campus.

No, we don’t shut down the campus, but people around the world take note of these events. Nothing will ever be the same -- not for UC Berkeley and the university community, not for the members of the FSM, and not for me.

[Michael James is a former SDS national officer, the founder of Rising Up Angry, co-founder of Chicago's Heartland Café (1976 and still going), and co-host of the Saturday morning (9-10 a.m. CDT) Live from the Heartland radio show, here and on YouTube. He is reachable by one and all at michael@heartlandcafe.com. Find more articles by Michael James on The Rag Blog.]

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