Category Archives: RagBlog

James Retherford :

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Thorne Dreyer :
‘Under the Ground: The Story of Liberation News Service’

Dorothy Dickie has documented a significant and nearly-forgotten chapter of our history.

Screenshot from Under the Ground, a documentary by Dorothy Dickie
about Liberation News Service.

By Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | March 24, 2020

Award-winning Canadian filmmaker Dorothy Dickie is completing production on an exciting 80-minute documentary film called Under the Ground: The Story of Liberation News Service. 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.

Austin’s New Journalism Project, a 501(c)3 nonprofit group, is joining Dickie in co-sponsoring Under the Ground. NJP also publishes The Rag Blog, sponsors Rag Radio, and has a book-publishing arm that produced Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper.

Liberation News Service served underground newspapers, college publications, radio stations — a range of alternative media. They sent out weekly packets of news and graphics that provided 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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James Retherford :

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Joshua Brown :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Life During Wartime: Covid-19 Edition

Previous installments are archived at
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Alice Embree :
Preserve Houston’s historic underground newspaper

Read the latest on the Space City! project.

Cover of Space City!, Vol. III, No. 1, June 8, 1971, which
features the paper’s staff.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | March 9, 2020

Did you work on Space City!, Houston’s historic underground newspaper? Did you sell it? Did you read it? Do you want it to be preserved online? Do you want it to be commemorated in a book?

The Space City! project is moving forward and you can contribute at this site.

Space City! — originally called Space City News — was one of the most important of the “second wave” of the underground newspapers of the ’60s-70s. It was praised for its strong reporting, its power structure research, its groundbreaking art, and its incisive cultural criticism. Space City! helped to pull together an activist and countercultural community in spread-out Houston.
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Steve Rossignol :
A way station for the Underground Railroad in Blanco County?

Some may be surprised that there was an Underground Railroad network in Texas.

A Ride for Liberty by Eastman Johnson. Brooklyn Museum / Wikimedia Commons.

By Steve Rossignol | The Rag Blog | February 13, 2020

We are all familiar with the tales of the Underground Railroad, how enslaved people in the South risked life and limb to escape to the Northern States before and during the Civil War.

Some of us may be surprised to learn that there was an Underground Railroad network in Texas.  Maria Hammack, whose research on this subject is coming to light in a doctoral thesis at the University of Texas in Austin, estimates that before the Civil War between 5,000 to 10,000 slaves escaped to Mexico to obtain their freedom.[i]

And I am fairly sure that most of us would be astounded to learn that there may have been a way station for this Underground Railroad in Blanco County.

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Alice Embree :
‘Space City!’ project: Calling all hoarders

Help us preserve Houston’s historic underground newspaper.

Staff box from Volume 1, Number 1 of Houston’s Space City News
Space City!), June 5, 1969.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | February 12, 2019

Did you work on Space City!, Houston’s historic underground newspaper?

Did you sell it? Did you read it?

You may be able to help us.

As part of a Space City! project, the New Journalism Project is assembling a collection to be digitized. And we need five issues from the final year of the paper, the year when the paper went weekly. If you have kept a stash of papers, as some of us have, please look through those seeds and stems now. If you are a junior archivist — a.k.a. hoarder — you may be able to find the following:

  • Volume III / Number 23 / November 11, 1971
  • Volume III / Number 26 / December 2, 1971
  • Volume III / Number 32 / January 20, 1972
  • Volume IV / 6/8/1972
  • Volume IV / 7/6/1972

If you want to take a tour down memory lane, you can view the Space City! covers that we have assembled on
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Joshua Brown :

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Elaine J. Cohen :
The Pied Piper of Facebook

A cautionary tale in 2020, the Year of the Rat.

Pied Piper of Hamelin. From illustration by Kate Greenaway /
Wikimedia Commons.

By Elaine J. Cohen | The Rag Blog | February 4, 2020

I can’t remember when I first heard of The Pied Piper of Hamelin; possibly after I began to read in earnest, around the age of 8. I may have found the story in a child’s version of The Brothers Grimm or seen the adaptation on T.V. in the 1950’s with Van Johnson.

My memory of the story faded over the subsequent years until I found myself confiding in a few trusted ears, “You know, I’ve begun to see Facebook as the Pied Piper of this epoch.” The look of surprise, incredulity and amusement that was evoked rarely elicited any questions from friends. The question of why this has become an annoying itch is what brings me to ask for the reader’s patience and curiosity while I sort through the threads of plague fear, greed, separation, and loss that are part of this story.
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Bruce Melton :
Microsoft on climate: The game changer

Historic climate pollution emissions almost everyone missed.

Dune erosion from sea level rise on South Padre Island wilderness beach, 13 miles beyond the end of pavement. The similarly sloped surf facing dune angles reveal sandbergs calving into the surf. For the last decade or two, sea level rise has been eroding our beaches. Now the beaches have been eroded away and the surf is in the dunes. Next, the surf moves into the coastal plains and resource abandonment becomes critical. Photo by Bruce Melton / The Rag Blog.

By Bruce Melton | The Rag Blog | February 3, 2020

Microsoft going net zero by 2030 is a tremendously insightful action, but what’s truly groundbreaking and ever so much more important today, 30 years after we began trying to solve the climate pollution problem through the extinction of the fossil fuel industry, is that Microsoft is now addressing the most important part of the climate reform equation — historic emissions: the climate pollution that remains in our sky.

This is a first-ever declaration to take responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions in the past and the vast majority of the press totally missed it, except for NPR. The headline with Microsoft should not have been “Microsoft to go Net Zero by 2030,” but the much more profound, “Microsoft to remove all their historic climate pollution from the sky by 2050.”
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Jonah Raskin :
Hail! Hail! John Sinclair

And Rock ‘n’ Roll…

John Sinclair, October 20, 2008. Photo by Wayne Dabney /
Wikimedia Commons.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | December 17, 2019

Forty-eight years ago, John Lennon, with Yoko at his side, sang the words, “They gave him ten for two, what else could Judge Colombo do?”

He sang those words before 15,000 people on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “Him” was John Sinclair. “Ten” was the number of years that Judge Robert Colombo sentenced Sinclair to Jackson State Prison, and “two” was the number of joints Sinclair had in his possession when an undercover cop busted him.

On December 1, 2019, Sinclair stood at the head of the line at Arbors Wellness, a brand new licensed cannabis dispensary in Ann Arbor and made a legal purchase of a handful of joints for which he paid in cash $160.35. It was a happy ending for cannabis activists in Michigan, and for the founder of the White Panther Party, who was a poet, a bohemian, and a beatnik before he became a Sixties rebel. 

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Alice Embree :
BOOKS | ‘Odd Birds’

The book is a fictional coming of age story set in San Antonio.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | December 17, 2019

Listen to Thorne Dreyer’s November 25, 2019 Rag Radio interview with Severo Perez about his new book, Odd Birds.

Judge this book by its cover. It is stunning. And Severo Perez’ Odd Birds is a captivating read.

Odd Birds [TCU Press, Fort Worth, 2019] is a fictional coming of age story, the tale of three young library interns, an older displaced artist, and the city of San Antonio.  Set in 1961, in the town where the author was raised, we experience a small town on the cusp of change.

Cosimo Infante Cano, a Cuban artist, has arrived with only a courier bag, his luggage stolen before he boarded the train out of Chicago’s Union Station.  The 70-year-old artist has come to Texas to join the longtime lover he has shared a life with in Paris.  But, he can’t make contact with her.  He can’t access the trunks he shipped to her address.  He has only the clothes he intended to wear on the train — a peasant shirt, beachcomber pants, red sandals, and his weathered courier bag.  He also wears a mysterious watch that was given to him by the woman he is trying to find.
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