INTERVIEW | Why do men keep making war?: An interview
with scholar Michael Klare

Michael Klare has had war on his mind for the past 60 years.

Michael Klare on Rag Radio, May 7, 2021.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | January 20, 2022

Michael Klare has had war in all its many ignominious manifestations on his mind for the past 60 years, going back to the heady days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. For the same period of time, he has also had on his mind preparations for war, which seem to be ongoing and never ending. When he has not been thinking about war and the rush to war in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, he has been thinking about peace, always an elusive goal and especially right now when many nations are expanding their arsenal of autonomous weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles. For years he was the Five Colleges Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College.

I met Klare when we were both undergraduates at Columbia in the early 1960s. We were members of Action, a campus political party that aimed to overturn apathy and that called for the end of the Cold War and an end to the paternalism of the college administration which aimed to treat us as children. These days I hear him on the radio and read what he has to say in magazines like The Nation, and in books such as The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources and All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change.

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Robert C. Cottrell :
BOOKS | ‘Making History Making Blintzes’

A memoir by New Left veterans Mickey Flacks and Dick Flacks.

By Robert C. Cottrell | The Rag Blog | January 20, 2022

As a historian who has concentrated extensively on American radicalism, I attempt to keep abreast of newly released volumes on the subject. The book I explore below is one that skated past me upon its release in 2018 but should be of interest to followers of The Rag Blog due to the radical pedigree of its co-authors. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to point out that one of the authors, Richard Flacks, a longtime professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, served on my graduate committee when I initiated doctoral studies there in the fall of 1977.

Before I would meet with Dr. Flacks, I had to make an appointment, a practice he evidently adopted after an incident at the University of Chicago, where he previously taught and where he might have himself become a victim of the politics of assassination I recently wrote about in this forum. That pattern followed a vicious beating he had endured on May 5, 1969, at the hands of an assailant who had gained entrée by posing as a newspaper reporter. As the New York Times subsequently indicated, Flacks experienced a pair of skull fractures and the near severing of his right hand, which never fully recovered from the attack. Flacks later learned that he was among several SDS leaders whom the FBI tracked through its infamous Counterintelligence Program, better known as COINTELPRO.

I was excited about the chance to work with Flacks at UCSB because I was somewhat familiar with his earlier history. Flacks was among the first leaders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), one of the two preeminent New Left organizations; the other, of course, was the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He was involved with the crafting of SDS’s foremost initial documents, The Port Huron Statement (1962) and, more fully, America and the New Era (1963).

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BOOKS | Alice Walker’s ‘Gathering Blossoms Under Fire’:
Journals as autobiography

The book reads like a peremptory strike meant to deter future biographers.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | January 13, 2022

Before the advent of Black Lives Matter, Me Too, and the most recent generation of Black writers, such as Jesmyn Ward and Edwidge Danticat, there was Alice Walker, a Georgia-born novelist, poet, and short story writer who has lived most of her adult life under the radar in northern California. According to Gathering Blossoms Under Fire (528 pages; $37.50), an edited selection of entries from her journals—to be published by Simon & Schuster later this year—she first bought land in Mendocino County in 1980.

She has lived there ever since then and at her other houses in Mexico and San Francisco. In Mendocino, she has planted trees, grown vegetables, relaxed in hot tubs, welcomed lovers both male and female, friends both white and Black, and made space for her daughter, Rebecca, whose father, Melvyn Leventhal, is Jewish and a lawyer and Walker’s one and only husband. In Mississippi, in the 1960s, they were perhaps the only interracial married couple. They divorced many years ago. This February Walker will be 78.
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Alice Embree :
THE VOTE | Voting by mail in Texas

Voting rights and voting access are fundamental to democracy.

Photo by Steve Rainwater / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog |January 13, 2022

It’s time. If you are eligible to vote by mail in Texas, send in your application, mark “annual,” and be aware of new requirements.

Voting rights and voting access are fundamental to democracy. In 2020, mail ballots were embraced as a pandemic safety measure in record numbers. Mail ballots accounted for 46% of the votes in the presidential election. And another 26% percent of voters cast ballots in early voting. In contrast, the percentage of election-day voters fell to a record low, 28%.

In three states, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, mail ballots have been universally used and have a lengthy track record as secure. In 2020 with a raging pandemic, many states expanded voting by mail. Texas was one of five states (with Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee) that stubbornly refused. Texas kept two barriers in place. Texas required a non-pandemic-related excuse and an annual application by mail to get a Vote By Mail (VBM) ballot. Despite the barriers, voting by mail increased in Texas from 7% in 2016 to 11% in 2020. The Texas Alliance for Retired Americans (TARA), an AFL-CIO affiliate, helped educate Texas voters on the vote by mail option.
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FILM | ‘Don’t Look Up’: Apocalypse, again

‘Don’t Look Up’ is apocalyptic science fiction, but it’s also biting satire.

Creative Commons image.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | January 6, 2022

I had heard about Don’t Look Up (Netflix, 2 h 18 m) the new apocalyptic science fiction film, but I didn’t watch it until The Rag Blog’s trusty editor, Thorne Dreyer, invited me to watch it and review it. I’m a glutton for punishment, especially if it involves watching movies at home on the screen of my computer, which admittedly isn’t the same as watching on a giant screen in a theater.

One day when it’s safer than it is now, I’ll take myself to my local multiplex, buy popcorn, hunker down in my seat and enjoy the colorful images. Like 2001, a Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove and Blade Runner, Don’t Look Up demands to be viewed on a giant screen. But if the only way you can see it is at home, do that. Don’t wait for ideal conditions.

We don’t know for sure what the future has in store for us and for our dear battered planet Earth, though if we’ve been listening to Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager, who has been urging action on climate change, the prognosis is bad. In Don’t Look Up, the politicians and the talking heads don’t listen, at least not initially, to the scientists (two astronomers) who warn about a comet that’s headed toward Earth and that, they say, will cause the kind of disaster only seen so far in science fiction movies.

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Larry Piltz :
VERSE | The Christmas Keys, a True Carol in Limericks

The Christmas Keys, a True Carol in Limericks

On Christmas Eve

I lost my keys

then dreamt of a very high bridge

that spans a river

fast and wide

that flows below a ridge

and on that ridge

a town grew up

and spreads out here and there

along the streams

and down underground

and way into the air
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Patricia Vaccarino :
BOOK REVIEW | Nick Licata: ‘Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties’

In Licata’s book, social unrest percolated on multiple levels.

By Patricia Vaccarino | The Rag Blog | December 19, 2021

  • Listen to Thorne Dreyer’s Rag Radio interview with Nick Licata, Friday, Dec. 24, 2-3 p.m. (CST) on KOOP-91.7 FM in Austin or stream it at Listen to the podcast anytime here.

This book was first published in The Connector and was cross-posted to The Rag Blog
by the author.

Nick Licata’s latest book (Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties; Cambridge Scholars Publishing [2021])  is a timely, relevant, and compelling narrative that draws us into the glory days of student activism during the 1960s.These are the halcyon days of citizen empowerment when groups like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) flourished, imbuing many thousands of young people with a collective conscience to make a better world. At the very least, their attempt to make a better world became a laudable, good faith effort.

Licata delves into his own personal journey during his time as a student at Bowling Green University. As a kid growing up in a working-class family in Cleveland, Ohio, Licata was inspired by the book Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein. The book became an imprint—his quest to explore and understand the universe. In a coincidental way, the exploration inherent in Licata’s favorite book Citizen of the Galaxy proves to be a foreshadowing of the pattern unfolding in his own life.
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Robert C. Cottrell :
POLITICAL VIOLENCE | The politics of assassination: An initial thought

Throughout the early postwar era and emphatically during the 1960s, the politics of assassination came into play.

Site of assassination of Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark by the Chicago Police at 2337 Monroe St., in Chicago on Dec. 4, 1969. Photo by Stephen Hogan / Flickr / Creative Commons 2.0.

By Robert C. Cottrell | The Rag Blog | December 18, 2021

I’m writing this on the morning of December 4, 2021, the 52nd (!) anniversary of the murder of Fred Hampton, just turned 20, and Mark Clark, a year older. Both were members of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, which was undergoing a concerted, too frequently deadly assault by law enforcement officials—local, state, and federal—across the country.

Hampton, chair of the Illinois chapter, also had recently founded the Rainbow Coalition. That was a multi-racial group that included the Young Lords, originally a Puerto Rican Chicago street gang that became drawn to radical political and social action, and the Young Patriots Organization, made up largely of Southern migrants who resided in decaying Uptown, Chicago, and also condemned the city’s historic pattern of discrimination and racism.
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DOCUMENTARY FILM | The widowmaker: Betty and Kenneth Rodgers’
doc, ‘I Married the War’

That’s what war does: demonizes the Other.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | December 2, 2021

Almost all women whose husbands go to war inevitably become widows. Even those with husbands who come home from war alive. They become widows and survivors, too.

“I needed talking and feeling from him,” Anne Jackson says of her husband in the new documentary film, I Married the War. (Available on DVD;; and also to stream on Vimeo at

Anne Jackson adds, “He was not really there.” Even when he was physically present and sitting at her side, her guy wasn’t there. No wonder she says that she felt “alone.”

Jackson is one of 11 women who are in front of the camera in I Married the War. The two filmmakers, Betty and Kenneth Rodgers, are a husband and wife team. He’s a Vietnam Veteran and a former U.S. Marine who survived the 77-day siege of Khe Sanh in 1968, the year it was clear the U.S. couldn’t win the war. Betty is also a veteran of that war, though she never set foot in Vietnam.
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BOOK REVIEW | ‘Exploring Space City!’: A dazzling
authoritative book

The volume is a labor of love that honors Houston’s historic
underground newspaper.

Exploring Space City! Cover design by Carlos Lowry, cover photograph by Jerry Sebesta.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | November 21, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO — Comedian Robin Williams would say, famously, “If you remember the 1960s you really weren’t there” and get barrels of laughter. Of course, Williams might not have originated the quip. Other candidates include Paul Kantner and Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane and Starship, Paul Krassner of Realist fame, Pete Townshend of the Who, and Timothy Leary who urged followers to “Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out.”

Once upon a time it might have been necessary to keep all the facts about the 1960s in one’s own head. That’s no longer true. You can Google just about everything associated with what historian John McMillan has called “The Long Sixties,” the era that began in 1955 with the birth of the modern civil rights movement, and that lasted until 1975, when the War in Vietnam, once the longest in U.S. history, came to an end with a whimper, not a bang. Then, too, there are now shelves and shelves of reference books about that era. The Long Sixties has long been a cottage industry.

‘Exploring Space City!’ is a companion work to ‘Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper.’

Everything and more that you could possibly want to know about Houston, Texas, including its politics, culture, and economics, is contained in a dazzling and authoritative new book profusely illustrated and titled Exploring Space City! Edited by Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, Cam Duncan, and Sherwood Bishop—designed by Carlos Lowry and with dozens of staff members—the volume is a labor of love that honors “Houston’s Historic Underground Newspaper,” to borrow the subtitle.
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BOOKS | Exploring Space City! is on the way!

“This lovingly crafted compilation captures the spirit of the New Left and the counterculture.” — Historian Robert Cottrell

Exploring Space City! Cover design by Carlos Lowry; Cover photograph by Jerry Sebesta.

By Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | November 18, 2021

Our much-awaited book, Exploring Space City!: Houston’s Historic Underground Newspaper — in the works for two years — has been published and is currently being released.

Edited by Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, Cam Duncan, and Sherwood Bishop, it is a 376-page, 8½ by 11 book published by the New Journalism Project in Austin, Texas (ISBN: 978-1-312-16267-9).

Read more about the book itself below in this post.


Details are available on the menu bar for The Rag Blog at Space City!

Zoom Book Launch: Exploring Space City! will be officially released with a book launch event on Zoom, Tuesday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. For those interested in being part of the Zoom event, please send an email with “Zoom” in the subject line and we will send you the link to join.

Houston Launch Event: Please join us at an informal gathering at Johnny McElroy’s Irish Pub & Patio, 1223 Waugh Drive, in Houston’s Montrose on Saturday, Dec. 11, from 3-6 p.m. Among those attending will be three of the book’s editors joined by former staffers and friends of Space City! All are welcome. Food and drink will be available and copies of Exploring Space City! will be on sale. RSVP optional at this Email.
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Harry Targ :
EDUCATION | Rethinking the university in an age of
educational crisis

Looking back and moving forward.

Smith, Alan, and Mike Seal. 2021. “The Contested Terrain of Critical Pedagogy and Teaching Informal Education in Higher Education.” Image from Diary of a Heartland Radical.

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | November 11, 2021

Harry Targ will join Thorne Dreyer to discuss issues raised in this article on Rag Radio, Friday, November 12, 2-3 p.m. (CT) on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and will be streamed live at The podcast of the show can be listened to anytime here.

The assault on academic freedom and autonomy by right-wing political forces has been escalating in recent months. At the University of North Carolina, the governing boards and a major donor interfered in the tenure case of Nikole Hannah-Jones. Vaccination and mask mandates have been suppressed at colleges in red states around the country. Presidential searches at the University of South Carolina, Fayetteville State University, and elsewhere were hijacked to insert political allies of governing boards. Recent events at the University of Florida have raised those problems to a new level. The time for strategizing and threading needles is over. This is an all-out assault, and faculty members are now being enlisted in the effort to dismantle our representative democracy.” — Holden Thorp, The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 1, 2021

Political debates today increasingly involve the character of higher education. Current controversies have emerged over the teaching of critical aspects of American history, such as those dealing with race, class, gender, the environment, and the United States’ role in war and foreign intervention. These debates raise questions about higher education and the political agendas of the federal government, state governments, prominent universities themselves, the corporate sector, and particularly powerful economically driven interest groups, such as the Koch Foundation, which wish to restructure the role of faculty, students, and traditional curricula and research, in the 21st century.
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