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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Philip L. Russell :
AMLO at midterm

Mexico’s president receives mixed grades.

Andres Manuel López Obrador. Photo by Eneas De Troya / Wikimedia. Commons.

By Philip L. Russell | The Rag Blog | October 28, 2021

Listen to Thorne Dreyer’s Rag Radio interview with Philip Russell about the issues discussed in this article, Friday, Oct. 28, 2021, 2-3 p.m. CDT on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin, or stream it live at Or listen anytime to the podcast of this show at

November first marks the midpoint of President López Obrador’s six-year term. Based on his approval ratings alone, one would have to judge his presidency a roaring success. An October poll found 63.7% of the population approved of his presidency while only 35.9% disapproved. His approval rating is up from a year ago, when it was 58.8%. (, Oct. 26, 2021.)

Several factors contribute to his high ratings. He dominates the daily news cycle with his morning news conferences, the mañaneras. In these conferences, he highlights his social programs and has led people to identify these programs with him personally. In addition, he has had several successes during the first half of his term. He raised the minimum wage, increased tax collection without increasing the tax rate, and aided millions by eliminating abuses associated with subcontracting.

Although AMLO’s support remains high, it is nuanced. When asked about specific aspects of his administration, approval plunges. A poll in September found that only 38% approved of his handling of the economy, only 40% approved of efforts to fight corruption, and 31% of his approach to public safety. (El Financiero, Sept. 2, 2021, p. 37.) As columnist Enrique Quintana noted, “AMLO’s support is based, not on what his government does or does not do, but on who he is.” (El Financiero, Sept. 17, 2021, p. 2.)
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Alice Embree :
IN MEMORIAM | Recent passages: JoAnn Mulert, Pat Cramer,
Gregg Barrios, and Steve Russell

Sometimes they happen in quick succession.

From left: JoAnn Mulert, Pat Cramer.

From left: Gregg Barrios, Steve Russell.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | September 30, 2021

Sometimes the passages happen in such quick succession. This has been a summer of such passages with four friends and colleagues who were courageous and creative. Three of them tackled Texas homophobia and expanded LGBTQ rights with their advocacy. We lost Pat Cramer June 19, 2021 and JoAnn Mulert passed away on July 15, 2021. And Gregg Barrios died August 17, 2021. Then, on September 25, 2021, Steve Russell passed on.

Gregg Barrios was a film critic for Austin’s Rag newspaper in the early days and became an influential critic, poet, and playwright. Steve Russell was an activist in Austin in the 1970s and later served as a Texas State trial judge.
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POLITICAL CARTOON | Deep in the heart…

Previous installments are archived at

Posted in RagBlog | Comments Off on JOSHUA BROWN :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Deep in the heart…

POLITICAL OPINION | Blowback: The forever wars are
coming home

I see a desire for violence as catharsis in many protesters on the
Left and Right today.

March on the Pentagon, 1967. Photo by Warren K Leffler /
Library of Congress / Flickr.

By Mike Giglio | The Rag Blog | Sept. 16, 2021

This article was first published by The Intercept on September 9, 2021, and was cross-posted to The Rag Blog.

Listen to Thorne Dreyer‘s Rag Radio interview with Mike Giglio on Friday, September 17, 2021, from 2-3 p.m. (CDT) on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin or stream it here. Listen to the podcast of the show anytime here.

I was driving home from a militia muster in the Virginia mountains last summer — after another day immersed in preelection talk of civil war — when I found myself reflecting, as I often have in the year since, on Norman Mailer’s The Armies of the Night.

The book is about the 1967 anti-war protest at the Pentagon and, more broadly, the factionalizing unrest of that period and how Vietnam fueled it. It also explores how the quiet or mostly quiet acquiescence to horrors abroad, horrors carried out by U.S. troops in the name of an entire democratic nation, degrades a society. At one point, the narrator imagines himself encountering “Grandmother, the church-goer, orange hair burning bright” at a slot machine in Las Vegas. “Madame, we are burning children in Vietnam,” he tells her. “Boy, you just go get yourself lost,” she replies. “Grandma’s about ready for a kiss from the jackpot.”
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BOOKS | ‘Life Is a Butt Dial: Tales from a Life Among
the Tragically Hip’

It’s A greezy, slippery slope to fun!

By Mariann G. Wizard | The Rag Blog | September 11, 2021

When it’s the Dog Days and the second summer of Covid and the headlines are ugly and even Cousin Junebug has stopped posting up cute puppy pictures, it’s time for a cool, light summer read!

Cleve Hattersley’s Life Is a Butt Dial: Tales from a Life Among the Tragically Hip (2019: Yes Publishing, Austin, Texas, 2021, 171 pp., $19.95) which was actually published just as Covid knocked everything off the tracks, fills the bill just as admirably right now. Bustling, breezy vignettes from the veteran band leader, club manager, newspaper columnist, and occasional political operative carry just enough weight to pull readers happily along Hattersley’s twisty byways of connections and insights.

Candidly crediting always having the best weed for his easy camaraderie with many of the biggest names in show business and sports over the last half-century, Cleve name-drops unabashedly, and why should he be abashed? From James Brown and Bo Diddley to Abbie Hoffman and Robin Williams to the New York Yankees, he toked, joked, and/or coked with the stars and celebs in greenrooms, hotel rooms, locker rooms, and night clubs after closing, when the real jams come out.

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BOOKS | Alice Embree’s ‘Voice Lessons’

This important book tells the story of Alice Embree’s struggle to be heard at a time when women were especially marginalized.

Alice Embree’s Voice Lessons.

By Sharon Shelton | The Rag Blog | August 26, 2021         

Voice Lessons by Alice Embree (Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas Press, 2021) tells the story of an Austin, Texas, in change from the harsh segregation and gender oppression of the 1950s through the upheavals of the ’60s and ’70s to the present.  Far from a dry history, this highly readable memoir brings those heady years alive and at the same time paints a picture of the personal life of a woman activist and leader inspired by the Civil Rights Movement to begin what became for her a lifetime struggle for the voices of marginalized people to be heard.

For old-time Austinites, Embree’s book, both its words and photos, will vividly bring back the joys, the mistakes, the humor, and the obstacles of an idealistic movement that, as it matured, sought to end racist, sexist, and economic oppression at home and imperialist wars abroad. For today’s activists who are continuing that struggle but may not have experienced those pivotal times, her book contains many invaluable lessons of a young movement charting a path into the unknown out of the deeply entrenched and all-pervading racism and sexism of the 1950s. These are lessons that remain as relevant today as they were 50 years ago.

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Lamar W. Hankins :
PUBLIC HEALTH | Gov. Abbott’s pandemic failure

It is not a personal health decision when the failure to protect oneself endangers the lives of everyone.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Caricature by DonkeyHotey / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | August 19, 2021

Like many Americans, I have been pondering how we could best end the pandemic of Covid-19 in the U.S. and in Texas. Most Republican governors and some Democratic ones are relying on a belief in personal responsibility — leave the decision to each individual to get vaccinated, wear a mask in public, and physically distance. After all, this reasoning goes, these measures are personal health decisions, not ones to be made by someone else.

But they are not personal health decisions when the failure to protect oneself endangers the lives of everyone. We are in a public health emergency that requires government intervention to protect the health and welfare of all. The 1918-19 flu epidemic is comparable to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the CDC, that flu epidemic took the lives of 675,000 people in the U.S., and resulted in 50 million deaths worldwide. Mutations of that influenza pandemic continue to cause the yearly flu for which many receive annual vaccinations.
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Harry Targ :
FOREIGN POLICY | The elephant in the room

United States global hegemony is coming to an end.

Elephant in the room. Photo by Sam Hood, March 24, 1939. From the
collection of the State Library of New South Wales..

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | August 19, 2021

[This article was adapted by the author from a 2017 post that appeared in The Rag Blog.]

An empire in decline

United States global hegemony is coming to an end. The United States was the country that collaborated with the Soviet Union to defeat fascism in Europe and with Great Britain to crush Japanese militarism in Asia in 1945. The Soviet Union, the first Socialist state, suffered 27 million dead in the war to defeat the Nazis. Great Britain, the last great imperial power, was near the end of its global reach because of war and the rise of anti-colonial movements in Asia and Africa.

As the beneficiary of war-driven industrial growth and the development of a military-industrial complex unparalleled in world history, the United States was in a position in 1945 to construct a post-war international political and economic order based on huge banks and corporations. The United States created the international financial and trading system, imposed the dollar as the global currency, built military alliances to challenge the Socialist Bloc, and used its massive military might and capacity for economic penetration to infiltrate, subvert, and dominate most of the economic and political regimes across the globe.

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Alice Embree :
THE VOTE | Free the vote and the governor’s hostages

Rev. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign led a four-day
march from Georgetown.

Photo by Alice Embree / The Rag Blog.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | August 4, 2021

The Austin American-Statesman headlined their story on July 1: “Republicans counter Willie Nelson, Beto O’Rourke rally to support Texas Democrats in D.C.” The account of “hundreds” at the rally, and the equal time afforded a couple dozen protestors gave me a shudder of 60s déjà vu. Hundreds marched 27 miles and thousands were at the Capitol.

While it is true that Beto O’Rourke gave a powerful speech and his organization, Powered by People, boosted turnout, Beto is only part of the story. It is also true that Willie Nelson made his first public appearance since quarantine to grace the crowd with his talent and rally them with his song, “Vote ‘Em Out.” But there was so much more to this march and rally.

Several of my Texas Alliance for Retired Americans (TARA) compatriots marched much of the route from Georgetown. I joined on Saturday in front of the AFL-CIO building to walk the last mile, circling the Capitol before entering the grounds.

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