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.

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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.
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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.
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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).

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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.

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ALLEN YOUNG : NEWS COMMENTARY | Federal anti-lynching law passed,
at last

From a young age, I knew that racism was wrong, as my parents helped me learn that important lesson.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | May 6, 2022

When I was a child, I saw a photograph of a lynching that took place somewhere in the Deep South. My parents had a variety of leftist books and periodicals in our home, and as a precocious child, I frequently perused them, and that’s how I came to see this photograph.

In it, a black man was hanging by the neck from a rope while all around him, white people stood on the ground and appeared to be entertained, as many of them were smiling. There were men, women and children. I am curious by nature and didn’t flinch from looking at this, but it was certainly a horrible thing to see. I never forgot it. From a young age, I knew that racism was wrong, as my parents helped me learn that important lesson in a nation where racism has been a powerful negative force.
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JAMES RETHERFORD: BOOKS | Judy Gumbo’s ‘Yippie Girl’

Combating authoritarian repression with absurdist political theatre.

By James Retherford | The Rag Blog |April 29, 2022

Listen to Thorne Dreyer‘s interview with ‘Yippie Girl’ Judy Gumbo on Rag Radio, here.

As Kris Kristofferson sorta said, “[S]he’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” Such is noted Sixties troublemaker Judy Gumbo’s part myth/part romance/part Bildungsroman, Yippie Girl: Exploits in Protest and Defeating the FBI, where “Yippie is a state of mind.”

As all good Marxists know, to call something a contradiction is not a criticism but a description of historical process, and free-form myth-making was a central feature of the Yippie creative strategy for combating authoritarian repression in the mid-Sixties/early Seventies. The Yippies can trace their taste for absurdist political theatre at least back to the Zurich dadaists of 1916. Our Marxism comes with an abundant measure of Grouchoism.

I am at least partly responsible for injecting myth into the cannons of Yippie literature. My 1970 work-for-hire bio-fable, Do It!: Scenarios of the Revolution, portrayed Jerry Rubin as the parabolic “child of America.” The opening line, “The New Left sprang, a predestined pissed-off child, from Elvis’ gyrating pelvis,” even alludes to the birth of the original Olympian wild child of myth and ritual … Dionysus, the patron saint of the Yippies.
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ALICE EMBREE : DOCUMENTARY FILM | The Wobblies are coming to town

The Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies, are coming to Austin.

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

Listen to Thorne Dreyer and Alice Embree‘s Rag Radio interview with labor historian Jane Little Botkin here.


Directed by Stewart Bird & Deborah Shaffer
USA, 1979, 1h 29min, DCP
6:30 pm, Wednesday, May 4, Austin Film Society Special Event
Comments by Labor Historian Jane Little Botkin
Austin Film Society Cinema /
6406 N-I-35, Suite 3100, Austin, TX 78752

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) are fondly remembered as the “singing union” and the feisty soapbox speakers, and the union that advocated “One Big Union for All the Workers.” A documentary made in 1979 has been re-mastered into digital glory.

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JONAH RASKIN : MEMOIR | One organizer, two cities: Jon Melrod’s ‘Fighting Times,’ from Madison to Racine

Jon Melrod recalls those heady days in his new memoir.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | April 7, 2022

The Port Huron Statement (PHS), which was written by Tom Hayden — with help from Al Haber and others — offered the fledgling members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) a critique of U.S. capitalist society. Published in 1962, the year of the Cuban missile crisis, and crafted at a retreat owned and operated by the United Auto Workers (UAW), the PHS was a necessary and essential manifesto. But it didn’t present a blueprint for how students were going to challenge the “establishment,” transcend the nuclear age, and overcome the ongoing crisis of capitalism.

Jon Melrod recalls those heady days in his new memoir, Fighting Times (PM Press), painting a portrait of himself as a white radical, a union organizer, a journalist, and more. While he’s not the first of his generation to write about the Long Sixties, he’s one of the few to explore in depth, life in the American working class and in trade unions in the post-Vietnam era and as contradictions in capitalism and imperialism intensified. Whether Melrod is typical of those times I can’t say. Everyone was unique; no two white radicals were the same. Read on and see what you think.

(Hayden has written about civil rights and the anti-war movement. Bill Ayers, Cathy Wilkerson, and Mark Rudd have described their days as fugitives underground. Max Elbaum, a native of Wisconsin, has chronicled lefty movements of the 1970s and 1980s in Revolution in the Air: Radicals turn to Lenin, Mao and Che.)
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He was always fiercely independent and intelligent.

Todd Gitlin, September 2007. Photo by David Shankbone / Creative Commons.

By Robert C. Cottrell | The Rag Blog | March 24, 2022

  • Listen to Thorne Dreyer’s two classic Rag Radio interviews with Todd Gitlin from July 19, 2013, and August 16, 2013. Listen anytime here and here.
  • Read Katharine Q. Seelye’s Todd Gitlin obituary in The New York Times, here.

There are undoubtedly those in The Rag Blog community who knew Todd Gitlin far more intimately than I. My direct dealings with him were limited to a small number of occasions. The first involved his response to a query of mine regarding the radical journalist I.F. Stone, about whom I was working on a dissertation. To my delight, Gitlin was one of several luminaries who quickly fired off a lengthy letter to me, then a grad student, in that seemingly long-ago time before emails. He indicated that Izzy, whom he knew, had agreed to deliver a talk on Vietnam to the SDS National Council convening in December 1964. Stone’s address, as Gitlin remembered, proved “eloquent and stirring.” It “therefore, probably played a part in helping generate the enthusiasm for” a scheduled antiwar gathering in Washington, D.C., the next spring, which proved catalytic for the Movement.
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THE RAG BLOG : BOOKS | ‘Exploring Space City!’ at Houston’s Printing Museum

Presentations from historian John Moretta and the book’s editors.

By The Rag Blog | March 10, 2012

HOUSTON – Houston’s Printing Museum is presenting a panel discussion – with a pop-up exhibit – of the New Journalism Project’s new book, Exploring Space City!, Houston’s Historic Underground Newspaper, on Friday, April 22, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. The Printing Museum is located at 1324 West Clay Street in Houston.

The book was edited by Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, Cam Duncan, and Sherwood Bishop. The discussion will feature remarks by historian John Moretta, author of The Hippies: A 1960s History, who has an essay in the book, and editors Dreyer, Embree, and Bishop.

About Exploring Space City!, historian Robert Cottrell, wrote: “This lovingly crafted compilation captures the spirit of the New Left and the counterculture.” Space City! was an underground newspaper published in Houston from June 5, 1969, to August 3, 1972. The paper – which was continually under assault from the Ku Klux Klan – was widely acknowledged to be one of the very best of  the hundreds of ‘60s-‘70s underground newspapers that had significant impact on mainstream journalism. Space City! covered news not otherwise  reported and helped pull together a widespread and diverse countercultural and New Left community in Houston.

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