ALLEN YOUNG | HISTORY | Mixing the tequila of Cinco de Mayo with the blood of Kent State: A quirky history essay

We look back at two days in May.

National Guard at Kent State University. Image from Zinn Education Project.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | May 17, 2023

Sí, mis amigos, Cinco de Mayo is a well-known date (that’s May 5 in English), and of course it’s a time for margaritas (made with tequila), cerveza (that’s beer in Spanish) and your favorite enchiladas. This article is about May 5 and also about May 4, a date that is probably not as familiar to Rag Blog readers. 

More about May 4 in the second half of this blog entry, but so you won’t be scratching your head or going to Google, I’ll tell you right now that on May 4, 1970, four anti-war protesters at Kent State University in Ohio were killed by National Guard soldiers.

“Ah, yes, Kent State! I remember that!” you might be saying. But first, please read on about Cinco de Mayo.

It’s now the middle of May, and there’s a good chance earlier in the month that you were aware of Cinco de Mayo, and perhaps you celebrated with Mexican food and drinks. Many people did, in both the USA and in Mexico. I found references on the internet to the amount of tequila and beer consumed, as follows:

According to the Washington DC-based Beer Institute, Cinco de Mayo is one of the biggest American holidays for beer sales, especially at restaurants and bars. In 2022, volume sales were eight percent higher the week of Cinco de Mayo compared to an average week throughout the year. A 2013 Nielsen study of beer consumption found that more beer was consumed during Cinco de Mayo than during the Super Bowl.

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CLIFF WILKIE | MEMOIR | In a little cafe just the other side of the border

It all happened in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, on March 30, 1969.

La Raza Unida Chicano Rights March, Del Rio, Texas, March 30, 1969. Photo by Cliff Wilkie.

By Cliff Wilkie | The Rag Blog | April 30, 2023

It was just like in the Marty Robbins song, “in a little cafe just the other side of the border.”  We were drunk.  Three college kids in our early twenties, from the University of Texas at Austin, sitting in a ratty bar in Ciudad Acuna on the Mexican side of the border across from Del Rio, Texas.  Despite all appearances, we actually were there for a cause.  We were young, passionately idealistic, and there for the cause of “La Raza Unida!”  The next day there was to be a huge civil rights march to protest the beatings of several Chicanos by the Texas Rangers and the unjust firings of several Vista volunteers.  Along with many others, we had come a long ways to be a part of it.  We were fired up… as well as drunk.

My two friends, Antonio and Mario, were Chicanos.  U.S. citizens, born and raised in Texas, children whose parents were born and raised in Mexico.  Their parents had somehow made it across the border  to grab a piece of the American Dream.  They had surely raised their sons to believe they could somehow be whatever they dreamed, limited only by the scope of their dreams and their willingness to work hard to make them come true.  I was the only gringo in the bunch.  We three had become good friends through our common idealism and sharing rent and expenses in an old Victorian house on a street lined with stately pecan trees near the University.

We studied different things, but we all shared a common passion for justice. 

We studied different things, but we all shared a common passion for justice for descendants of Latin Americans who found themselves living under the somewhat rent and tattered aegis of America’s claim of Freedom for All, especially the so-called tired and hungry masses of the immigrants who had crossed the border into the United States in search of a better life for themselves and their families.  But it was 1969, and many of us in this country now clearly realized that the dream was pretty much a sham.  Maybe not completely, in fact we were pretty sure we could fix things, make it live up to its promise, but we knew there was a lot to do, and that, at least for now, the shelter of Freedom was a torn and tattered umbrella that leaked an awful lot of cold rain onto those below, especially those who hadn’t been blessed to have been born a gringo.  

I fancied myself a photographer.  Actually, I more than fancied myself a photographer.  I was strongly committed to photojournalism.  I envisioned myself as a gringo who would be able to show the world the plight of Mexican-Americans in my country, expose the lies, show all the other white folks what it was really like to be Chicano.  I spoke Spanish very well by then, and I had known many Mexicans as well as Chicanos.  My heart was with them.  I felt I could do something, and I was headed that way. 

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ALLEN YOUNG | BOOKS | ‘To Tell the Truth: My Life as a Foreign Correspondent’ by Lewis M. Simons

Valuable insights into journalism offer a very enjoyable read.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | April 21, 2023

Reading this book has provided me with a unique experience that is both intellectual and emotional, and I think it could be the same for others. I recommend this newspaper reporter’s memoir with considerable enthusiasm, and this review will explain why.

On an intellectual level, I learned a lot of interesting facts and history from the pages of this book. On an emotional level, I became truly excited and even shocked as I read about the author’s work covering the horrors of war and poverty in numerous Asian nations over several decades. 

The author’s writing style makes both aspects truly enjoyable — I was neither bored nor disgusted. I confess to being horrified at times, as I was confronting reality, that is,  the “truth” in the book’s title.

For most of the last half of the twentieth century, Simons (usually accompanied by his wife and children) lived in various Asian countries and covered events there for newspaper readers everywhere. It was his job, and given his devotion to the profession and to his talent, it’s worthy of respect for its high quality — and especially the very intentional honesty.

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ALICE EMBREE | BOOKS | ‘The Ad Hoc Livers’ by Jim Simons

Simons’ book is a great trip down memory lane with a few name changes to protect the not-so-innocent.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | April 17, 2023

Jim Simons’ novel, Ad Hoc Livers, is now available on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle. The fictional protagonist, Roy Coobie, is an Austin lawyer with a struggling solo practice.  Coobie, on the verge of eviction from his office for non-payment of rent, can’t help but ponder his career path.

Coobie’s favorite pondering places are beer halls, lounges, and Mexican restaurants.  Simons’ book is a great trip down memory lane with a few name changes to protect the not-so-innocent.  It is set in the years before Austin became the 11th largest city in the country.  In Simons first book of fiction, he provides a moveable feast of remembrance.

Coobie spends a lot of evenings drinking with other lawyers and malcontents at the 1866, a German beer hall that resembles Austin’s Scholz Beer Garten.  He usually starts his days with huevos rancheros at his favorite Mexican restaurant.  He also enjoys Southern cuisine at an East Austin Grill and skinny-dips with two women in Barton Springs.  One of the women is a former client, sometimes-secretary, and occasional lover.  And he worries about how to keep his office afloat with poor clients who can’t pay the bills and the occasional personal injury case against insurance companies that can pay the bills.

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LAMAR HANKINS | POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY | ‘Woke’ attacks promote inequality and injustice

Not to be ‘woke’ is to willfully ignore reality.

Rip Van Winkle by Phil Venditti / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Lamar Hankins | The Rag Blog | April 13, 2023

Right-wingers, the emotionally damaged, and “lazy ideologues” who hurl being “woke,” like an epithet studded with sharp spikes to wound the object of their disdain, appear not to appreciate the word’s context or meaning.

The writer Bijan C. Bayne recently wrote in a WAPO essay that “wokeness” was originally used to explain an awareness that developed among “U.S. Blacks who had been mentally conditioned into philosophical slumber by centuries of oppression, intimidation, miseducation and social frustration.”  He cited 1930s usage of the concept by the Nation of Islam and Marcus Garvey, followed by Huddie Ledbetter (Black people “best stay woke, keep their eyes open”–1938), Malcolm X, and others later, including by Martin Luther King, Jr., in a 1965 commencement address at Oberlin College in which he said: “There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution… The great challenge facing every individual graduating today is to remain awake.”

NYT columnist David Brooks, in 2017, applied the term broadly, out of its original context, with an unjustified mischaracterization: “To be woke is to be radically aware and justifiably paranoid. It is to be cognizant of the rot pervading the power structures.”  

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The Orange Show Presents ‘Old Weird Houston’

Events include presentation by ‘Rag Blog’ editor Thorne Dreyer.

By Pete Gershon | The Rag Blog | March 17, 2023

HOUSTON — Houston at mid-century was a place where anything seemed possible, from an air-conditioned domed stadium to a monument to the orange to a trip to the moon.

On Saturday, April 1, 2023, organized in collaboration with Archivists of the Houston Area (AHA!), the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art presents a local history fair, Old Weird Houston, spotlighting oddball ephemera from collections both public and private. The Orange Show is located at 2401 Munger Street, Houston, Texas 77023.

Throughout the day area archives and individuals from across the Southeast Texas region will showcase the oldest, weirdest curiosities from their collections. Vendors will offer Houston Proud swag, bites, and beverages.

A speaking program explores the writings of hardboiled newspaper columnist Sig Byrd with Robert Kimberley; the rise and fall of counterculture rag Space City News (Space City!) featuring Thorne Dreyer; the rescue and conservation of the Hyde Park Miniature Museum (Pete Gershon); the original story of the Art Car Parade (Rachel Hecker, Susan Theis, and Pete Gershon); and a panel discussion about the Orange Show’s history and the landmark restoration effort that lies ahead (Ty and Ginny Eckley, William Martin, Susanne Theis, Pete Gershon, and Cody Ledvina).

The afternoon concludes with a set by mydolls, their first performance in several years. Take a stroll with us down some of the less-well-traveled alleys and footpaths that branch off from Houston’s memory lane. 

Learn more about architect Jeff McKissack and the Orange show here.

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JONAH RASKIN | THE SIXTIES | Avedon at the Met: the Chicago Seven and the Sixties

‘I wanted to see if I could reinvent what a group photo is,’ Avedon observed.

Section of Richard Avedon’s portrait of the Chicago Seven. Photo by Timothy Volner / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | March 8, 2023

Looking at Richard Avedon’s black-and-white photos of the Chicago Seven which peered out at me in a recent issue of The New Yorker [paywall] felt like seeing the dead. That’s not surprising. With the exception of Lee Weiner, the seven are all dead. Abbie Hoffman is dead, and so are Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Dave Dellinger, Rennie Davis, and John Froines, a chemist and anti-war activist, who died July 13, 2022 at the age of 83 in Santa Monica, California. The photos in The New Yorker and the article about them coincide with an exhibit titled “Richard Avedon: Murals” which opened on January 19, 2023 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where he was born to a middle class Jewish family. The exhibit runs until October 1, 2023.

“I wanted to see if I could reinvent what a group photo is,” Avedon observed in 2002, two years before he died at the age of 81 and after a long career as a photographer for Elle, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. He certainly succeeded with his portraits of the Chicago Seven, who were more than a group, less than a tribe and a kind of family that made its way into American living rooms via television.

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LAMAR HANKINS | ACTIVISM | Rules for troublemakers

My prison experiences caused me to understand how much I had taken on faith about administrators.

Organized troublemakers: When Mano Amiga realized that the disciplinary system for cops in San Marcos did little to protect the public, its leaders studied the deficiencies, analyzed them, and decided how best to explain the deficiencies to the public using this chart, based on an actual case, to drive home their issues. The Hartman Reforms chart explains graphically the major deficiencies in the discipline system. The chart also helped them put together a coalition of individuals, politicians, and groups to accomplish their goals.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | February 24, 2023

At age 78, I continue to see the value in and the importance of being a troublemaker. I did not start out as an effective troublemaker, but I learned as I went along. These are a few of the rules that my experiences over the years have taught me.

Rule #1: Don’t trust people in authority

As a youth in the late 1950s and early 1960s, my social activities were mostly at school and church.  One unsuccessful attempt to address a perceived inequality occurred when I decided that all Methodist youth in my hometown, Port Arthur, Texas, should get together for sharing, learning, and socializing.  All of the predominately white Methodist churches had shared experiences periodically.  We had one or two contacts with the members of the Hispanic Methodist church youth group, but proposing also to join together with the “Negro” Methodist church youth sent shock waves up and down the spines of all the adults to whom I broached the idea — our minister, my parents, and youth leaders in my church.  Maybe Mexican-Americans were okay because our church had a handful of parishioners who were from that heritage, but joining together with “Negro” youth was a step too far.  The adults all said “no.” (“Negro” was the term used back then, before Black and African-American became more common.)

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BRUCE MELTON | CLIMATE CHANGE | Winter storm Texas 2023, and climate change

Ice storm brought down the power lines and it’s cold, cold, cold.

Windmill Run Park. Photos by Bruce Melton

By Bruce Melton | The Rag Blog | February 9, 2023

Bruce Melton will be Thorne Dreyer‘s guest from 2-3 p.m. CST, February 9, 2013, on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and streamed on They will discuss the recent Central Texas ice storm, especially in the context of climate change.

Texas got it again. This time wasn’t as cold as the unprecedented Winter Storm Uri during Valentines Week 2021, but it was as bad as anything in memory. It was only 66 hours below freezing in 2023, versus 144 hours in 2021. It was bad because it was all freezing rain; freezing rain so heavy it created a major catastrophe west and southwest of Austin, with 358,000 customers without power at one time or another, or at 2.4 person per household average in Austin, 860,000 people without power just in Austin Energy’s service district.

What is going on with this increasing frequency of extreme events? Why did so many lose power and, exactly how is this climate change related?

The author’s home in Oak Hill. There is a back deck beneath the downed limbs.

To start with, extreme cold is certainly a part of global warming because a warmer climate creates more extremes. This means more extreme heat as well as more extreme cold. See this American Association for the Advancement of Science article for more.
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LAMAR HANKINS | SPORTS AND RELIGION | Offering up prayers for Damar Hamlin

When did God start taking sides in football games or bless the performances of various pious athletes?

Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin is removed from Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, in an ambulance. The Buffalo Bills, in white, kneel at the bottom left of the image. Photo by Schetm / Creative Commons.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | February 8, 2023

Prayer seems to me a cry of weakness, and an attempt to avoid, by trickery, the rules of the game as laid down. I do not choose to admit weakness. I accept the challenge of responsibility. Life, as it is, does not frighten me, since I have made my peace with the universe as I find it, and bow to its laws.” — Zora Neale Hurston autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)

I was one of those millions of viewers who watched Damar Hamlin go into cardiac arrest after what appeared to be a routine tackle during the first quarter of the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals football game on Monday night, January 2.  I think everyone watching the game was shocked by what happened.  We all know that football is a violent game, but we don’t expect the specter of death to attend a game; perhaps sprained ankles, broken body parts, torn ligaments, and traumatic brain injuries, but not the possibility of immediate death.

I watched for about 20 minutes as commentators and announcers struggled with what to say, as they frequently cut to commercials.  I watched as many players on the field offered up prayers for Hamlin’s recovery. From what I saw and from news reports since that night I have learned that people all over the country, on television and off, prayed for Hamlin’s recovery.

If you believe in a God who can cure whatever afflicted Damar Hamlin, you have to believe that same God could have prevented the cause of his affliction, but did not do so.  Why would such a God choose to intervene later?  The truth is that there is no force in the universe that controls what happens every second of every day to 3 billion humans.

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ALLEN YOUNG | DOCUMENTARY FILM | ‘Surviving the Silence’: An upbeat but convoluted story about three strong women

The film compels the viewer to think about the injustice of anti-gay discrimination in the context of military service.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | February 5, 2023

The documentary film Surviving the Silence is the intriguing story of three strong women — Pat Thompson, Barbara Brass and Margarethe Cammermeyer. I think viewers will experience it as both entertaining and informative.

 The film compels the viewer to think about the injustice of anti-gay discrimination in the context of military service.

As stated on the film’s website, “Along the way, two of the women candidly revisit their life together and how they found love against a backdrop of impossible choices. By film’s end, they find something even more important and unexpected — their own voices as out and proud lesbians, later-in-life social activists, and dynamic role models for others.” 

Full disclosure: In 2019, when the movie was a work in progress, I had the pleasure of meeting these three women (and the movie’s energetic director, Cindy L. Abel), as we were all participants in a “Pride of the Ocean” cruise devoted to gay and lesbian cinema.

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THORNE DREYER | REMEMBRANCE | Daniel Jay Schacht, July 4, 1945 – December 22, 2022

Danny was involved in a precedent-setting landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Danny Schacht, 2015. Photo by Tim Jones.

By Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | January 24, 2023

With tributes from friends John R. Herrera and Roger Baker

In September 2015, our mutual friend Roger Baker brought Danny Schacht to the KOOP-FM studio in Austin where we were preparing to broadcast a live Rag Radio interview with Austin-based progressive pundit and troublemaker Jim Hightower. Danny sat in the studio with us and then took a terrific photo of Jim and me afterwards. It’s on my wall. It was the first time in many years I had been with my old compatriot and family friend from the ‘60s.

Then I saw Danny again during launch events for Exploring Space City!: Houston’s Historic Underground Newspaper, a book that the New Journalism Project released in 2021. It  was a delight to see him; he was funny and smart and always had that twinkle in his eye!  But that would be the last time I would see him. Longtime Houston activist Daniel Jay Schacht, known to his many friends in the movement and local community as Danny, passed away on December 22, 2022, at the age of 77.

Danny was involved in a precedent-setting landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court after being arrested in September 1969, when he wore a military uniform as part of a street theater action at the Houston draft board. He was convicted for impersonating a military officer, but the Supreme Court reversed the case. We’ll discuss that case – and its significance — in more depth below.
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