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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BOOK TALK | With Thorne Dreyer and Don Carleton

Please join us for a 45-minute visit with Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas, and Thorne Dreyer, author of Making Waves: The Rag Radio Interviews. Making Waves was a selection of the 2022 Texas Book Festival. Click on YouTube link below.

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Remembering Casey Hayden | in her own words

Casey Hayden wrote her own obituary and emailed it to a dear friend with instructions to share it with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).  Casey’s friend gave The Rag Blog permission to post it.

Casey Hayden, New York City, 1965. Photo by D Gorton.

Obituary, written by Casey:

Casey Hayden, one of the few white Southerners to join the anti-segregation movement of the ’60s in the South, and a widely recognized precursor of the women’s liberation movement, died on 1/4/23 with her children holding her hands.

Born Sandra Cason, a name she continued to use legally, she was the child of divorced Texas liberals, William Charles Cason and Eula Weisiger Cason Beams. Raised by her grandparents and her single mother in Victoria, Texas, she was fourth generation, her grandfather the county sheriff. She attended local public schools, Victoria Junior College, and the University of Texas, where she graduated with honors as a member of Mortarboard, the senior women’s honorary society. An activist and a student leader in the Campus YWCA locally and nationally, she was as well a scholar/resident of the radical Christian existentialist Christian Faith and Life Community.

She was swept up into the ’60’s by the student sit-in movement of black college students in the deep South, starting February 1, 1960, which she joined as a graduate student. Following a six-week summer residential training for Southern campus leaders sponsored by the Field Foundation and the United States National Student Association, she spoke for civil disobedience at the National Congress of USNSA, quoting Thoreau and swinging support to the new Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

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ALLEN YOUNG | BOOKS | The Activist’s Media Handbook

David Fenton’s ‘Lessons From Fifty Years as a Progressive Agitator.’

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | January 14, 2023

Listen to Thorne Dreyer interview David Fenton and Allen Young on Rag Radio Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, from 2-3 p.m. CST on KOOP 91.7-FM and streamed at

For those of us devoted to peace, democracy, social justice, and the survival of our beautiful planet, this “Activist’s Media Handbook” can be very useful and informative.

It is also interesting and entertaining to read.

To me, the word “lessons” in the subtitle is crucial. With the U.S. House of Representatives being controlled by the Republican Party — a party largely overtaken by right-wing extremists — we have a big job to do if we want progress. Therefore, “lessons” — ideas and information and tactics — to help us succeed in that job are much needed.

David Fenton, who offers us these lessons in a large-size book (not really a “handbook”) recounts his evolution as an activist to educate us in the context of real life. Thus, the book is essentially a memoir, too. That might irritate some readers seeking something more universal or generic, but I found it enjoyable because he has a good story to tell.

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ALICE EMBREE | HISTORY | ‘Defending Dissidents: The Austin Law Commune’

They came to the aid of an ever-growing community of dissidents who needed to be defended in courts of law.

From left: Austin Law Commune partner Jim Simons (with radical filmmaker Dave Zeiger), and partners  Cam Cunningham, Brady Coleman, and Bobby Nelson. Photos on left and right by Alan Pogue / The Rag Blog.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | November 29, 2022

AUSTIN — In the midst of the national upheaval ignited by the civil rights and antiwar movements, Austin attorneys created a law practice devoted to the needs of the movement.  They defended movement leaders who were harassed on the streets or in their offices; they defended demonstrators when they were arrested, draft resisters facing charges,-and GIs at courts martial.  They came to the aid of an ever-growing community of dissidents who needed to be defended in courts of law.  They worked to create a statewide network with other like-minded attorneys, and they created a unique, collectively-run, model for practicing law.

Jim Simons operated as a sole practitioner taking on movement legal work in 1968.  He represented draft resister Enrique Madrid.  He represented 42 defendants arrested in May 1968 at Don Weedon’s Conoco station in Austin, as they protested a racist assault by the owner.  He also represented Austin SNCC organizer Larry Jackson, a founder of the Community United Front.  And he spent many hours giving legal advice and defending antiwar GIs and Oleo Strut staff in Killeen, Texas, home of the massive army base Fort Hood.  Jim Simons built the foundation for the Austin Law Commune with his movement practice as a sole practitioner.

On October 1, 1969, the Austin Law Commune was born.  First located in a small office on West 24th Street, they moved to an office at West 15th and then, in 1973, to an office on West 12th.  According to Time magazine, it was the third such commune in the country.  The Austin Law Commune closed shop in 1977.

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ALICE EMBREE | REMEMBRANCE | Scott Pittman: March 23, 1940 – July 31, 2022

A former UT-Austin activist, Scott settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he devoted himself to the teaching of Permaculture.

Scott Pittman in the later years. Photographer unknown.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | November 28, 2022

Many people knew Scott Pittman in Austin as a member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and contributor to Austin’s underground newspaper, The Rag. We mourn his passing.

Scott grew up in Seminole, Texas, and served in the Air Force in Turkey before he moved to Austin, joining the antiwar and civil rights struggle. In October 1967, he went to the massive Pentagon demonstration in Washington, D.C., and was stabbed in the leg by a soldier with a bayonet on the steps of the Pentagon. In an article in the October 30, 1967 issue of The Rag, Sue Jankovsky reported that Scott “was beat up, bayoneted, and then charged with assaulting a federal officer.”

Scott was arrested after being bayoneted at the Pentagon in 1967. Photo from The Rag.

Scott built a communal life in Arkansas after leaving Austin. Then, settling in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he devoted himself to the teaching of Permaculture, traveling the world. (Permaculture is a movement involving the development of sustainable and self-sufficient agricultural ecosystems.)
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ELAINE COHEN : STORY | An Austin tale of memory, reflection, and healing

I felt it a place of camaraderie, of a Mediterranean aesthetic that was familiar.

Palestinian Tejano Wedding

Palestinian-Tejano wedding. Photo by Elaine Cohen / The Rag Blog.

By Elaine Cohen | The Rag Blog | November 27, 2022

AUSTIN — I moved to Austin in the spring of 1997.   South by Southwest was in full swing when I arrived.  Soon I attended what I believe to be my first demo at the Capitol.  As it ended, I turned to a new friend and asked, “Where do people go now?  Is there some café or place to meet?”  He immediately responded, “Absolutely… we’ll go to the Marrakesh, right here, on Congress.  The owner, Samir, is Palestinian.”

While neither an observant Jew nor an apologist for the many violent practices of the Israeli state against Palestinians, I felt a moment of trepidation; would these Palestinians automatically distrust/dislike me for being a Jew?  I remember when I walked in with friends (Zapatistas, Wobblies, and peace activists) I felt it a place of camaraderie, of a Mediterranean aesthetic that was familiar, like cafes I’d known in Crete or Andalucía.
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ANNE LEWIS | VERSE | Remembering Danny Fetonte

Danny Fetonte and Barbaara Fetonte in Cuba, 2019. Photo by Roger Baker / The Rag Blog.

Danny Fetonte, lifelong activist, passed away peacefully on October 23, 2022, surrounded by his family.  Danny was born in 1950, in New York City.  He met and married Barbara Fetonte in Buffalo, New York.  A celebration of his life was held November 12th at the Texas AFL-CIO auditorium.  Stories of Danny’s skills as a union organizer, and his leadership and mentoring role within the Communication Workers of America (CWA) were shared with a standing-room-only crowd. Video interviews shed light on Danny’s family background, his immense devotion to family and friends, and his perseverance.  Until his final days, Danny could be found on picket lines protesting against Austin’s association with the Fayette County Coal plant and distributing yard signs for candidates. 

In 2015, Bernie Sanders said he would come to Austin if Danny could get a union hall and 200 people.  Danny got the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers’ union hall and over 500 people crammed into the hall to hear Bernie Sanders not long before Sanders announced that he would run for president.  Danny’s younger son, Tony, shared Danny’s unique approach to correcting bad behavior.  Rather than being grounded, Tony said, he might be required to read a book by Howard Fast and write a report.

Anne Lewis, a longtime friend of the Fetonte family and a union sister with the Texas State Employees Union (TSEU/CWA 6186) wrote this poem for the celebration of Danny’s life and read it on November 12, 2022.

For Barbara

Butterflies roost among the acorns
It’s too cold for them to fly
Mist lies heavy on flat ground
Weeds lit by dewdrops In a rising sun.
The dayshift men and women in work clothes,
swinging lunch buckets,
walk towards factory gates and mine portal.
On Saturdays, union halls fill.
The wages they pay us are a shame
Every war’s a rich man’s game.
We learned from the workers who sang
“I don’t want your millions mister,”
organized during a great depression
went on strike during a World War.
Joe believed revolution would happen in 1974.
He reached out a communist newspaper at the gate.
His fellow workers held him down
and broke his fingers.
Joe went on to become a hospital administrator.
Danny became a union organizer.
Nothing to lose but our chains and a world to gain.
The good ones were old when we were young.
They are as gone as peasants
who plowed with mules.
Country of consumption and hedge funds
Highways and development; capital flight.
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THE RAG BLOG | BOOKS | Honorees Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree to make presentation at Texas Book Festival Nov. 5 in Austin

By The Rag Blog | The Rag Blog | Oct. 28, 2022

Thorne Dreyer, author of Making Waves: The Rag Radio Interviews and Alice Embree, who wrote the feminist memoir, Voice Lessons, will give a presentation at the Texas Book Festival on Saturday, November 5, 2022, from 3-3:45 p.m. at the Texas Monthly tent on Colorado and 11th near the Texas Capitol Building.  [It was previously announced as 2-2:45 p.m.] The talk, titled “The Rag: Activism, Resistance, and the Underground in 1960s Austin,” will be moderated by Texas Monthly’s Emily McCullar and will be followed by an autograph session.

Making Waves and Voice Lessons are both selections of the 2022 Texas Book Festival which takes place November 4-5, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Capitol Building and immediate vicinity. The Texas Book Festival is one of the largest and most prestigious literary festivals in the country. Almost 300 national and Texas authors will be featured and an estimated 40,000 visitors will attend. Here is the full schedule for this year’s Texas Book Festival and here are the festival’s authors and speakers.

Thorne Dreyer is the host of Rag Radio at KOOP-FM in Austin and editor of The Rag Blog. He was a founding editor of The Rag, Austin’s legendary underground newspaper. Alice Embree, who is a frequent contributor to both Rag Radio and The Rag Blog, is an Austin-based activist and writer. Making Waves and Voice Lessons were both published by the Briscoe Center for American History and are distributed by the University of Texas Press.

Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree.

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ALICE EMBREE | BOOKS | Ellen Cassedy’s ‘Working 9 to 5: A Women’s Movement, a Labor Union, and the Iconic Movie’

The 9 to 5 group in Boston used daring theatrical tactics and dogged leafleting and more, and helped to inspire the movie, ‘9 to 5’ which is also discussed in this book.

Listen to Alice Embree and Thorne Dreyer interview Ellen Cassedy  on Rag Radio, Friday, September 30, 2022, 2-3 p.m. (CT) on KOOP 91.7-FM or stream it at

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | September 26, 2022

Well, I tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition,

‘9 to 5’ lyrics by Dolly Parton

I expected Ellen Cassedy’s book, Working 9 to 5: A Women’s Movement, A Labor Union, and the Iconic Movie, to be a lively history of clerical workers mobilizing.  I knew that the 9 to 5 organization she helped organize inspired the movie 9 to 5, with the hilarious combo of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton cast as disgruntled office workers.  The lively beat of Dolly Parton’s title song became an anthem for women workers scrambling out of bed in the 80s. 

What surprised me about this book is that it is an organizer’s manual for organizing. The book tells the story of an enormously effective group of women who intended to transform the world of working women and did. 

In 1973, the Boston 9 to 5 group scraped together funds to send Ellen Cassedy, the author, to an organizing school run by the Midwest Academy in Chicago.

Cassedy eagerly shared the skills she learned with her Boston compatriots as they worked out of a small office in Boston’s “Y.”  They kept records of contacts, they used a simple order (pie and coffee) for lunch meetings with prospective members, and they made sure their meetings resulted in action steps.  They’d compare notes after every major event.  They asked a lot of each other and became an extraordinary team.

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BRUCE MELTON | CLIMATE | Sequoias burn: Ongoing collapse of the unburnable

The dead giants command a most unswerving attention.

Entry Monument to Sequoia National Park after the KNP Complex Fire in 2021. All photos by Bruce Melton.

By Bruce Melton | The Rag Blog | September 22, 2022

Bruce Melton will be Thorne Dreyer’s guest on Rag Radio Friday, September 23, from 2-3 p.m. CT on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and streamed on

The National Park Service says sequoias reached a tipping point when 13,000 of 75,000 known mature sequoias burned in 2020 and 2021.

This year’s filming of the sequoia burn started out with 1,500 miles from Austin to the big trees in the Sierra Nevada. While we were driving across New Mexico, flooding rains closed Death Valley National Park. Only one campground is open there and more roads than not have been heavily damaged. The Park Service hopes to reopen all roads in the park by Fall 2023. The largest two wildfires ever recorded in New Mexico happened this year, totaling over 650,000 acres. The three largest fires in Colorado history happened in 2020. The eight largest fires in the contemporary record in California have burned in the last six years. China broke all-time records this year with drought and heat. It was Europe’s hottest summer ever.

We camped at Quaking Aspen Campground in Giant Sequoia National Monument, just south of the National Park. The National Monument is home to half of the 70 known sequoia groves in the world. They are all on the western slope of the southern Sierra Nevada and they started to burn in 2015.

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SHERRIE TATUM : MEMOIR | The Crying Game and Other Musical Memories

John Aielli created his daily alchemy of connections with the soul of the city for over 40 years.

By Sherrie Tatum | The Rag Blog | September 15, 2022

This is a story I wrote in 2008 as a memoir assignment for a writing class at St. Edwards University. After the sad news of John Aielli’s death at the end of July 2022, I sent it to a few friends and acquaintances who suggested I share it with the larger community of those in mourning for this treasured Austin presence who enriched our lives for over 50 years.

“So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters . . .”

My stomach knotted up as I recognized the slow, beautiful opening guitar chords of one of my son Chris’ favorite Metallica songs. I had once again awoken with the hope that the last two weeks had been a bad dream, but the music reminded me that it was all true and my beloved 16-year-old son was gone. My entire world had changed utterly, never to be the same again, but a few of the old routines provided comfort. One was listening to John Aielli’s program, Eklektikos on KUT radio, but he had never played heavy metal music before. We had played this very song at the funeral and hearing its tender words this morning seemed to convey a message of solace to my wounded heart.

Since the funeral, I had been listening obsessively to all of Chris’ favorite music tapes. Many a night, unable to sleep, driving around, rewinding Fade to Black, I would find comfort and catharsis in the adolescent anguish:

“Life it seems, will fade away
Drifting further every day
Getting lost within myself
Nothing matters no one else
I have lost the will to live
Simply nothing more to give
There is nothing more for me
Need the end to set me free.”

When someone dies you think you will feel sorrow, but mostly all you feel is fear and anger.

“Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by the deepened nail
Follow the god that failed”

Why? What is the purpose of allowing us to feel such fierce love, only to lose it? I was grateful to Metallica for their anger. It was a release. But why was John playing Metallica on his program? I had to find out.

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