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.

Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

THE RAG BLOG : BOOKS | Thorne Dreyer’s ‘Making Waves’ and Alice Embree’s ‘Voice Lessons’ chosen for Texas Book Festival

By The Rag Blog / September 8, 2022

Thorne Dreyer and Alice Embree are among a group of almost 300 American authors, many of them nationally known bestselling writers, who were announced at an “author reveal” event on September 7, 2022, by the Texas Book Festival. The authors were chosen to participate in the festival – considered one of the 10 most prestigious in the country — which will take place November 5-6 at and around the Texas Capitol building.

Here is the complete lineup of authors and speakers at the 2022 Texas Book Festival. Some of the featured authors include Janet Evanovich, Gabino Iglesias, Sarah Bird, Douglas Brinkley, Sandra Cisneros, Omar Epps, Sandra Brown, and Angie Cruz.

Thorne Dreyer, author of Making Waves: The Rag Radio Interviews, is the host and producer of the syndicated Rag Radio program that originates on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and is the editor of The Rag Blog, published since 2006 to a national audience. His book includes interviews with cutting edge thinkers, artists, journalists,musicians, and activists including Dan Rather and his environmentalist daughter Robin, Bernie Sanders, Paul Krassner, Bernardine Dohrn, Tom Hayden, Fugs founder Ed Sanders, and monumental sculptor Bob “Daddy-O” Wade.

Alice Embree, a nationally-known activist for social justice and a frequent guest and co-host on Rag Radio, is the author of the feminist memoir Voice Lessons. Alice’s book was the 2021 co-winner of the Liz Carpenter Award given by the Texas State Historical Association for Best Book on the History of Women.

The books by Dreyer and Embree were published by the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and distributed by the University of Texas Press. Dreyer’s book can be found here and Embree’s here.

Posted in Rag Bloggers | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

LAMAR W. HANKINS : CHURCH AND STATE | ‘In reason we trust’

Sen. Hughes posted on Twitter that the national motto ‘asserts our collective trust in a sovereign God.’

Image from Hays Consolidated Independent School District / Boing Boing.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | May 18, 2022

Senate Bill 797, co-authored by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Harris County) and passed during the 2021 regular legislative session, says that school districts that receive a donation of a “durable poster or framed copy of the United States national motto ‘In God We Trust’ ” must display it in a “conspicuous place in each building or institution.”  Sen. Hughes posted on Twitter that the national motto “asserts our collective trust in a sovereign God.”

How much better would our public schools be if they followed the above title as a motto–”In reason we trust”–rather than the one promoted by the Legislature for our schools during the last legislative session?  Indeed, how much better would the Legislature itself be if it allowed reason to guide its actions?

Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to his nephew Peter Carr in 1787 that we should “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”  Too many of our politicians have chosen piousness over reason to promote their own candidacies, which is a blasphemy of sorts to many religious people, save for many Evangelicals, who want to establish a theocracy in place of democracy.

Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

BILL OAKEY : ENVIRONMENT | Austin Energy’s rate case debacle: A stunning management failure

By Bill Oakey | The Rag Blog | August 12, 2022

This article first appeared in Austin Affordability and was cross-posted to The Rag Blog. It applies especially to the citizens of Austin but it might just strike home wherever you live.

Listen to Bill Oakey and Roger Baker discuss these and related issues Friday, August 12, 2-3 p.m. CDT, on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin or stream it on Just click the “Listen Live” link at the upper left.

Austin’s values turned upside down

A fiction writer couldn’t make this stuff up. Austin Energy wants to raise rates because you and I and our neighbors have become too energy efficient. Their plan would multiply the fixed monthly customer charge by 2 1/2 times, from $10 to $25. Why? Because “the current rate design is not as efficient as the customers, causing the revenue to be unable to keep up with costs.” That’s what Austin Energy’s vice-president of finance, Rusty Maenius, told the Community Impact newspaper last month.

Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Larry Piltz : VERSE | my god is godzilla

GODZILLA – 3. umezy12. @Roppongi / Flickr / Creative Commons.

my god is godzilla

my god is godzilla
he too is a killa
gets some kind of thrilla
and makes a big dilla
of the whole magilla
by getting his filla
keeping it rilla
like an Attila
or rabid gorilla
calls it god’s willa
from up in his villa
though I think it’s real silla
for some Jack or some Jilla
to die on that hilla
to swallow that pilla
for someone’s godzilla
are we doing that stilla
if you don’t stop who willa
is your god a godzilla
who sends you the billa?
Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

BILL MEACHAM, PhD : PHILOSOPHY | Moral confusion about abortion

One of my teachers has said that you can’t talk somebody into changing their mind, but sometimes you can listen them into it.

Photo by James McNellis at the 2017 March for Life. Creative Commons image.

By Bill Meacham, PhD | The Rag Blog | July 7, 2022

The controversy about abortion–whether it should be permitted or forbidden and under what circumstances–illustrates the problem with what I call the Rightness paradigm of ethical reasoning.(1) The Rightness paradigm frames discourse about what we should do in terms of what is right or wrong according to certain rules. It includes rules of law and etiquette as well as morality,(2) but my focus here is on morality. We will get to the details presently.


First, consider some recent findings about the effects of forbidding women to get abortions. Researchers tested the hypothesis that abortion harms the women who have them and found, to the contrary, that “in general, abortion does not wound women physically, psychologically, or financially. Carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term does.”(3) The researchers conducted a rigorous study, known as the Turnaway Study because it studied women who were turned away from abortion clinics. Most states ban pregnancy after a certain time, typically when the fetus is thought to be able to survive outside the womb. The researchers interviewed women who had an abortion shortly before that date and women who were turned away after. Both sets of women wanted the abortion, but one set was denied it and forced to carry the pregnancy to term. Both sets were similar in terms of demographics and socioeconomics, so the studies were “apples to apples.” The researchers recruited nearly 1,000 women to be interviewed every six months for five years. The results were striking.

Continue reading
Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

ALICE EMBREE : ABORTION RIGHTS | Austin and Roe v. Wade’s backstory

This fight didn’t start in a courtroom and it will not end there.

Judy Smith gives abortion advice on a pay phone outside the Rag office. Photo by Alan Pogue / The Rag.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | June 25, 2022

AUSTIN — The Supreme Court decision was telegraphed on May 1st and moved across the weeks like a slow motion train wreck to the announcement on June 24 that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. The leak, seeping like an oil spill, is a stain on rights secured by courageous Texans nearly 50 years ago.

My daughter told me the news. I looked at my granddaughter, just shy of nine-months-old, and thought about her future as a post-Roe baby. I felt the dull edge of sorrow.

I have talked with many of the women who were on the front lines of this fight decades ago. Bobby Nelson, a feminist friend, helped with the legal research for Roe v. Wade as Sarah Weddington prepared the case. She also helped with a 1971 hearing at the Texas Legislature on abortion. Sarah Weddington gave Bobby bound editions of the Supreme Court testimony. In May, Bobby told me, “I’m glad Sarah died before this happened.” Every time I remember her words, tears well up.
Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


The Board of Regents did not love ‘The Rag’ and Austin’s underground newspaper did not love the Board of Regents.

The Rag, Vol. 1, No. 2. See “ragamuffins face fuzz,’ right column.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog |June 17, 2022

In 2016, former staffers held a reunion to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Austin’s pioneering underground newspaper, The Rag. We published Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper at that time. The book has been used in several University of Texas history classes and prompted a number of student inquiries.

A recent question from a UT journalism student sent me on a quest for more information about The Rag’s journey to the US Supreme Court.

The Board of Regents of the University of Texas at Austin did not love The Rag and Austin’s underground newspaper did not love the Board of Regents.

George Vizard and others sold the first issue of the paper on the campus, facing down UT administrative demands that they cease and desist. In the second issue of the paper (October 17, 1966), Vizard recounts his escapades with campus cops and administrative officials. The outcome was that he sold out all the newspapers he had from that first run.
Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

ROBERT C. COTTRELL : BOOKS | Thorne Dreyer’s ‘Making Waves: The Rag Radio Interviews’

‘Making Waves’ is a significant work, displaying dexterity through penetrating discussions.

By Robert C. Cottrell | The Rag Blog | June 1, 2022

Followers of The Rag Blog should be thoroughly delighted with the release of a vital new volume, Making Waves: The Rag Radio Interviews (Briscoe Center for American History, 2022). Edited by Thorne Dreyer, who delivers a revealing introduction chockful of personal information—more on that shortly–Making Waves contains transcripts of a series of the most meaningful interviews he conducted over the span of Rag Radio’s first decade and a bit longer. Some usual suspects are included—Ronnie Dugger, Eddie Wilson, Jim Hightower, and Kaye Northcott spring to mind—but there are others, some of whom I couldn’t have predicted—who also enrich the pages of this new book, while demonstrating the breadth and depth of Rag Radio and its host’s interests. And make no mistake about that. Making Waves is a significant work, displaying dexterity through penetrating discussions involving politics, journalism, and writing, naturally, but also American culture in general, including music, art, and sculpture. Its sweep goes far beyond the Movement and counterculture that Dreyer has for so long been associated with, although those are hardly ignored. In the process, this book makes a major contribution, in this reader’s estimation, to American letters, not simply the field of journalism. But not to worry, readers. Dreyer’s new book isn’t heavy altogether, containing, much like his on-air commentary and patter, pathos, humor, intriguing asides, and any number of irreverent moments.

‘Making Waves’ continues a pattern of enriching the historical record, beyond the academic world or Establishment journalism.

Making Waves does something else as well, which should interest fans of The Rag Blog. It continues a pattern of enriching the historical record, beyond the academic world or Establishment journalism, initiated some time ago by Austin residents who were important actors in the same Movement, the counterculture, or both. Three decades ago, Daryl Janes presented a collection of interviews, No Apologies: Texas Radicals Celebrate the ‘60s (Eakin Press, 1992), which included remembrances from Robert Pardun, Mariann Wizard, Dick Reavis, Jim Simons, and Terry DuBose, among various Austinites, in addition to photos by and one of Alan Pogue. Almost a decade later, Pardun, in Prairie Radical: A Journey Through the Sixties (Shire Press, 2001), depicted the early phases of SDS activism, particularly in Texas’ capital city. Through Witness for Justice: The Documentary Photographs of Alan Pogue (University of Chicago Press, 2007) employed the lens of photojournalism to capture protest activity, scenes of the counterculture, and social ailments in Texas, other parts of the Southwest, Latin America, the Near East, and the Middle East. Simons soon offered his life story and involvement in legal crusades through his autobiographical Molly Chronicles: Serotonin Serenade (Plain View Press, 2007). Another self-rendering, Borderlands Boy: Love, War and Peace in the Atomic Age (Sunstone Press, 2019), by Ken Carpenter, highlighted draft resistance and the quest for gay liberation.

Purchase Making Waves: The Rag Radio Interviews at the Briscoe Center for American History.

Last summer, Alice Embree published her highly insightful, significant memoir, Voice Lessons (Briscoe Center for American History, 2021), offering a much-needed woman’s perspective of the decidedly left-of-center people’s campaigns of the past sixty years. Pogue will soon release his exploration, through photographic images, of “how people created their own alternative institutions during the 70s.” Now, Dreyer delivers his own captivating collection, Making Waves, which is probably as close to an autobiography as the Movement veteran is likely to produce. This is because something of Dreyer’s personal history, also sprinkled in two recently published works, is included in this forthcoming book. Those books, of course, are Celebrating the Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper (New Journalism Project, 2016, ed. Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, and Richard Croxdale) and Exploring Space City!: Houston’s Historic Underground Newspaper (New Journalism Project, 2021, ed. Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, Cam Duncan, and Sherwood Bishop).

Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LAMAR W. HANKINS : SUPREME COURT | Of rights and liberties in the U.S.

How Alito gets the facts wrong about abortion history.

Caricature of Associate Justice Samuel Alito by DonkeyHotey / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | May 18, 2022

The Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, part of the original Bill of Rights, reads:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

As the Supreme Court continues to wrestle with the question “Does the Constitution protect abortion rights?” we should look carefully at how the Court approaches deciding what rights and liberties exist or should exist under the Constitution, especially with regard to the unenumerated rights provided by the Ninth Amendment.

In an attempt to graft originalist theory onto every issue that comes before the Court, especially the abortion question, Justice Alito’s draft opinion for a majority of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade makes two historical mistakes: First, it chooses to look only at a narrow band of “history and tradition” as developed in the laws of the various states, rather than a history of human beings through the ages, which reflects much broader concerns and practices; second, it distorts and falsifies the history of this country pertaining to abortion to suit the majority’s preferred political and religious views.

Continue reading

Posted in RagBlog | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment