Roger Baker :
TRANSPORTATION | Is widening I-35 Austin’s biggest
boondoggle ever?

It costs too much and does too little.

Will it come to this?

By Roger Baker | The Rag Blog | January 14, 2021

AUSTIN — I think I can make the case that widening I-35 through Central Austin is the biggest boondoggle ever, because I’ve had practice. I wrote about it four and five years ago in The Rag Blog and also more recently. With time, the reasons to rebuild it as a much wider road have only gotten weaker, and the money needed to widen it has become harder and harder to get.

The I-35 widening proposal through Central Austin is now called I-35 Capital Express Central. This project is shown on page 62 in TxDOTs 2021 annual Unified Transportation Program as costing $4.9 billion, but it still lacks the $3.6 billion in Category 12 funding, which is about 73% of the total money needed to widen the road in this 12-mile part of I-35. “To date, funding has not been identified for most of the Mobility35 projects.”
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FILM | Watch this movie: Dorothy Dickie’s LNS

‘Under the Ground: The Story of Liberation News Service’ is definitely worth seeing.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | January 12, 2021

SONOMA COUNTY, California — Let’s cut to the chase. Under the Ground, the new 80-minute documentary about the radical alternative to the UPI and the AP, is definitely worth seeing. It’s worth seeing for people who lived through the upheavals of the Sixties and Seventies, and also for those who have come of age with #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, the Proud Boys, and the insurrection in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021.

Dorothy Dickie’s fast-paced movie — which can be seen free on demand  — is haunted by memories of the 1960s. It’s also as timely as today’s newspaper headlines. Armed with archival footage and buttressed by in-depth interviews with the likes of Ray Mungo, Allen Young, James Retherford, Alice Embree, Harvey Wasserman, and Thorne Dreyer, Under the Ground explores both the counterculture and the movement which overlapped one another and also went their separate ways.
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FILM | Exciting documentary about Liberation News Service premieres January 11

‘Under the Ground: The Story of Liberation News Service’ includes interviews with Austin-based underground veterans.

By Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | January 9, 2021

NOTE: This article was updated at 10:20 a.m. (CT), January 12. We had originally included a link to stream the premiere of the film at Rhode Island PBS, but it turned out the access was geographically limited. However, the show can now be seen anytime through video-on-demand here.

AUSTIN — Under the Ground: The Story of Liberation News Service, an 80-minute documentary film produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Dorothy Dickie for Rhode Island public television, will premiere Monday, January 11, 2021. It will be livestreamed and then can be viewed through video on demand (see links below).

The film includes interviews with Austin’s Alice Embree, Jim Retherford, and Thorne Dreyer (Dreyer was an editor at LNS in the late ‘60s) and populist commentator Jim Hightower is also featured in clips from a Rag Radio interview.

LNS was an alternative news operation that flourished between 1967 and 1981 in the United States, playing a major – and underrecognized — role in those tumultuous times. LNS distributed packets of news stories, features, and graphics to underground, alternative, and college newspapers and radio stations — content otherwise not available to these feisty but often-shoestring alternative publications that sprung up around the anti-war and student power movement and the ‘60s counterculture.
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Steve Russell :
POLITICAL HISTORY | Ranking Donald Trump
among the one and done

Donald John Trump had his papers graded and the voters failed him as decisively as he failed them.

Donald Trump. Caricature by DonkeyHotey / Creative Commons.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | January 5, 2021

Those of us who consider history to be recreational reading started in on Donald John Trump before he had resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for a year. Without the deep dive of a PhD dissertation, we seem to have a bias toward post WWII presidencies — or so it would appear from the conversations that have sadly become less frequent with the pandemic raging.

Even history buffs find it easier to know the wrinkles of administrations through which we lived or, at least, about which we heard our elders complain. Bush 41 and the Iran-Contra scandal. The price of gasoline under Jimmy Carter. I like to complain about when my second wife and I bought a home on a credit card — or so it seemed, when the interest rate was 15%!

When I say we “started in” on Trump, I mean on trying to compare him to other presidents. I cannot name another POTUS less qualified by education and experience. Trump adds to that an unwillingness to take advice or recognize expertise in others. One presidential term — four years — is very different from the eight years, two terms, that has become customary. Donald John Trump had his papers graded by the electorate at half time, and the voters failed him as decisively as he failed them.
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Steve Russell :
BOOKS | Martha Ture’s ‘Joe Walker’ should be a screenplay

Her prose is too visual to rest quietly on library shelves.

By Steve Russell | The Rag Blog | January 3, 2021

[Joe Walker, by Martha Ture. (Lulu Press 2007); paperback; 370 pages; $23.95 on]

SUN CITY, Texas — Author’s Note: This note comes to you from the author of the review rather than the author of the book. It’s only fair to admit that I have begged Martha Ture — with whom I’ve collaborated on social science rather than literature — to recast this story as a screenplay. An ulterior motive in publishing this review on The Rag Blog is the chance of catching the eye of one of the filmmakers hiding behind every tree in Austin not already taken by a poet or a picker.

She captured my love of a common sight here in the Texas Hill Country — a hawk riding the thermals, something that in our time can be presented on film from the hawk’s point of view — on the first pages.

The hawk “veered aslant the wind to scout a new position, her tail glowed orange in the sun.” Joe Walker would have made eye contact with the proud bird had she not been showing him her parts that Indians understand to have ceremonial uses.
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Joshua Brown :

Previous installments are archived at
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Allen Young :
ENVIRONMENT | Appreciating nature as a political act

Allen Young on a recent hike with Celtz, a friend’s collie
Photo by Bobby Curley for North Quabbin Trails Assn.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | December 14, 2020

ATHOL, Massachusetts — Do you consider yourself an environmentalist? has this definition: “A person who is concerned with or advocates the protection of the environment.” That definition suits me, and I assume it’s valid for all or most Rag Blog readers.

I belong to some local and national environmental groups, and I’ve attended demonstrations over many years related to the dangers of nuclear power and the fossil fuel industry’s expansion of pipelines. I’ve become informed about the danger of climate change and the need to respond to it. I also choose candidates with strong commitment to environmental protection.

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Joshua Brown :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Treason special

Previous installments are archived at

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OPINION | Top 12 heroes of 2020

In alphabetical order for your convenience.

Stacey Abrams. Caricature by DonkeyHotey. Creative Commons image.

Compiled by Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog |December 9, 2020

[Also see Jonah Raskin’s “Top 11 criminals of 2020” on The Rag Blog.]

2020 has been the year of the collective, often unheralded, hero. Still, some individuals have stood out. This list reflects the anonymous, the famous, and the infamous.

Stacey Abrams, lawyer and more, who has aimed to expand the electorate and prevent the reintroduction of Jim Crow. Supports abolition of cash bail, abolition of the death penalty, widening Medicaid, and decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

José Ramón Andrés, born in Spain in ’69, founded World Central Kitchen in 2010. Since then he has provided tens of thousands of healthy meals to people affected by disasters, from Haiti to Peru and Cuba to Cambodia. An outspoken critic of Trump, Andrés starred in his own cooking show, Vamos a Cocinar, which debuted in 2005.
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Alice Embree :
MIXED MEDIA | The not so funny comics of indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | December 5, 2020

The Great Pen Caper: In 2013 Ken Paxton picked up a $1,000 Montblanc pen from a Collin County metal detector tray. Fifteen months later, after being identified by a sheriff reviewing video surveillance, incoming Attorney General Ken Paxton returned the pen to its rightful owner.

The Securities Caper: In August 2015, a Collin County grand jury charged Paxton with two first-degree felony counts of securities fraud and a third-degree count of failing to register with the Texas State Securities Board. The prosecution alleged that Paxton urged investors to put $600,000 into tech firm Servergy without disclosing he would earn a commission and that he owned stock in the McKinney company. Paxton was advising clients without a license for Mowery Capital Management. The Texas Securities Board was seeking to revoke the company’s investment advisor registration when the unlicensed activity came to light.

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Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher, Jr. :
ANALYSIS | Post-election reckoning: New hypotheses for the road ahead

Image from Organizing Upgrade.

By Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher, Jr. | The Rag Blog |December 1, 2020

Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher, Jr. are Thorne Dreyer‘s guests on Rag Radio, KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and streamed at, Friday, December 4, 2-3 p.m. (CT). They will discuss this article and the larger issues it raises. This is Carl Davidson’s ninth visit to Rag Radio and Bill Fletcher, Jr.’s second. If you miss it live, go here anytime for the podcast.

This article was originally published at Organizing Upgrade and was cross-posted to The Rag Blog by the authors. A Spanish translation is available here.

Hypothesis No. 1. One cannot understand this election unless one begins with a recognition of voter suppression: Since 2008, the Republican strategy has increasingly focused on voter suppression. The weakening, if not evisceration, of the Voting Rights Act was one significant piece of that. In the lead-up to 2020, the Republicans, under Trump, have pushed this further by undermining the basic right to vote; making it more difficult; encouraging intimidation; undermining the U.S. Postal Service, long voting lines, fewer polls in Black neighborhoods, and so on.

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OPINION | Top 11 criminals of 2020

In alphabetical order for your convenience.

DonkeyHotey caricature of Rudy Giuliani from a Creative Commons photo from
Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Photostream.

Compiled by Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog |November 26, 2020

[Also see Jonah Raskin’s”Top 12 heroes of 2020″ on The Rag Blog.]

If you don’t like this list, make up one of your own. There are plenty of criminals in high office and at the head of corporations.

Jair Bolsonaro, homophobic, corrupt Brazilian president and Trump-worshipper, guilty of nepotism, led assault on the Amazon rainforest, broke down separation of church and state, and a disgrace to the nation’s 211,000,000 people.

Roy Cohn died in ’86 but his spirit is alive and well in the Trump administration, gave Jews and homosexuals a bad name, eternally damned for helping to send Rosenbergs to the electric chair.

Rudy Giuliani, slimeball, opportunist extraordinaire, hired gun for Trump, went everywhere his master told him to go, brought shame down on himself from Ukraine to Pennsylvania.

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