Joshua Brown :

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Allen Young :
BOOKS | The story of an eccentric

This unique tale is lovingly told by Clare Green.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | August 7, 2020

WARWICK, Massachusetts — Eccentric people are everywhere. They can be found in Texas and in Massachusetts (where I live). They live alone in the woods, in small towns and in big cities. Many of us know eccentric people. We might like them, or we might dislike them. We might be eccentric ourselves!

Wikipedia defines an eccentric person as “unconventional and slightly strange” and suggests there is no judgment attached to the word “not demonstrably maladaptive.”

Zylpha Smith (1815-1885), who lived and died in the sparsely populated Western Massachusetts town of Warwick was such a person, and her well-researched story has been lovingly told in an eccentric little 22-page five-inch by four-inch pamphlet. More about Zylpha follows.

The author is Clare Green of Warwick (a retired elementary school teacher and amateur naturalist) and there are unique pointillist illustrations by Reba-Jean Shaw-Pichette of Shelburne, Mass. The two creators have common interests in local history, including membership in local historical societies and working as “living history educators.” (If you’ve gone to historic sites, such as Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, you’ve seen costumed living history educators in action.)
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Lamar W. Hankins :
REPORT | In search of the final freedom

For the last 30 years, the idea of a right to die has been widely debated in the U.S.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | August 6, 2020

SAN MARCOS, Texas — In 1993, John Brand, John Lindell, Sally Robinson, and I, along with a couple of others, whose names have faded from my memory, formed an Austin chapter of the Hemlock Society, which was created in 1980 by Derek Humphrey. Our purpose was to learn how to take charge of the end of our lives and to avoid suffering should we be unfortunate enough to be stricken with a debilitating illness from which we would not recover.

We were not a morbid group in the least. In fact, we were jovial, yet thoughtful and determined to make the best of whatever time we had left. I was probably the youngest member, not quite 50 years old. The group — the Austin Hemlock Society — met regularly until 2004, when the national Hemlock Society changed its name to End-of-Life Choices, and then was merged into Compassion in Dying, finally changing its name to Compassion & Choices.

In a later edition of Derek Humphry’s 1991 book Final Exit, he explains how to use inert gas to have a peaceful, effective, and reliable hastened death. The most readily available inert gas at the time was helium, which could be purchased in party balloon kits at Target, Walmart, and other stores. (About six or seven years ago, the manufacturers of the kits began adding about 20% oxygen to the canisters of helium, making the kits unsuitable for our purpose.)
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Alice Embree and Julie Fleming :
THE VOTE | Step out of line for democracy!

This is the most important election of our lives.

By Alice Embree and Julie Fleming | The Rag Blog | August 4, 2020

AUSTIN — Get ready to step out of line for democracy for the national election on November 3, 2020. No doubt about it, this is the most important election of our lives. Our very democracy depends on voter turnout. That means you!! It’s so easy. If you can read this post, you can do it. Do it today. What the heck, do it right now! It takes two minutes. Seriously. Two minutes.

The Texas Alliance for Retired Americans (TARA) has been getting the word out about election deadlines and ways to register and apply for voting by mail. This post uses TARA messaging and reports on settlements to lawsuits filed by the Alliance for Retired Americans in Florida and Minnesota.

There are:

  • 90 days until Election
  • 62 days to Register
  • 76 days until Early Voting

Here are some important dates:

Monday, October 5, 2020, is the deadline to register to vote;
Monday, October 19, 2020, is the first day of early voting in person;
Friday, October 23, 2020, is the deadline for receipt of ballot by mail application;
Friday, October 30, 2020, is the last day of early voting in person; and
Tuesday, November 3, 2020, is ELECTION DAY.
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Joshua Brown :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Wartime president

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Bruce Melton :
PANDEMIC | The Covid-19 testing myth

If more tests meant more cases, the number of cases would mirror the number of tests.

These two graphs show the relationship between COVID-19 tests over time, and number of new cases. If more testing meant more cases, the number of new cases would be similar to the number of new tests.

By Bruce Melton | The Rag Blog | July 23, 2020

AUSTIN — More tests means more cases, right? And, everyone can get a test… The myths spread by the Trump propaganda machine, or maybe it’s actually the Russian propaganda machine — no matter, the myth exists and it is devastating to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic where, “more tests means more cases.”

This myth has been used by leaders of all kinds, except the medical variety, to play down the seriousness of the pandemic for numerous reasons: the economic reopening, their forthcoming elections, their base… And the media faithfully but egregiously reports these false statement like they were directly from the climate change debate.

Cooler heads led by medical professionals try to assure us that those of us who are appropriately alarmed and are distancing, masking, and isolating conscientiously are doing the right thing. The entire mess is repeated back to us in the media, horrendously false propaganda and all, as if the dangerously wrong statements were some valid part of scientific research.
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BOOKS | ‘A Life of Olson’ by Ed Sanders, cultural revolutionary

The book is a feast for the eyes, food for the mind, and balm for the soul.

Title page from A Life of Olson.

[Jonah Raskin will be Thorne Dreyer‘s guest on Rag Radio, Friday, July 24, 2020, 2-3 p.m. (CT) on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and streamed on The show can also be heard anytime as a podcast here,]

SONOMA COUNTY, California — Call him a genius. Or call him a Jack of all the arts and crafts, as well as a publisher and a cultural revolutionary. Edward Sanders, known to friends as Ed, co-founded The Fugs with Tuli Kupferberg, belonged to the crew that gave birth to the original Yippies, wrote the book about Charles Manson and his followers (titled The Family) and authored books about Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg.

Now, Ed Sanders has published a new beautiful work titled A Life of Olson, published by Spuyten Duyvil (Spuyten which triples, first as a biography of the poet, critic and teacher, Charles Olson, second as a cultural and political history of the U.S. in the twentieth century, and third as an autobiography of Sanders himself.

The author tells these intertwined stories using text, calligraphy, lines, and colorful images which he calls “glyphs” and that might be defined as modern day hierographics.
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APPEAL | Keep the ‘Rag’ flags flying

We may be home, but we’ve sure been busy!

AUSTIN — Please support the New Journalism Project, The Rag Blog, Rag Radio, NJP Publishing — and our Space City! book now in the works — with a tax-deductible donation of $100, or whatever you can afford. We are a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit and we depend on your financial support.

Because of restrictions due to the pandemic, we are temporarily unable to raise funds through our signature community events and concerts. So your direct help is even more important.

We’ve been busy saving Space City!, The Rag‘s historic Houston cousin that published in the late ’60s-early ’70s. We have digitized the entire run for online access. You can find the full Space City! collection here. We are now working on a book about Space City! — similar to our earlier effort, Celebrating The Rag, that received national acclaim. We need your help to make the book happen.
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Joshua Brown :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Suffer the children

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Allen Young :
BOOKS | Genealogy effort leads to book about people becoming Americans

This impressive new volume is the work of Carla Barringer Rabinowitz.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | July 9, 2020

ROYALSTON, Mass. — Borderers: Becoming Americans on the Southern Frontier is the title and subtitle of an impressive new book written by Carla Barringer Rabinowitz, a friend and neighbor here in rural Massachusetts.

When I first saw this 493-page tome, I wondered if borderers is a real word, or a word she invented. Of course, I looked it up, and here’s what the dictionary says: “a person who lives in a border area, especially the border between England and Scotland.”

Fair enough; it’s a real word. For now, however, forget about England and Scotland. Carla defines borderers as the “the first permanent settlers in an area newly opened to Europeans,” and she goes on to muse about the variety of social and cultural borders that they also occupied between the north and south of the United States.

We read in this book about people and events in parts of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas. These are the places where Carla dug up facts about some of her ancestors, including her great-great-grandfather, Thomas Drew, who became governor of Arkansas and later served as a regional Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
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Jonah Raskin :
OPINION | Trump’s Fourth of July ‘remarks’

The demagogue sounds off.

Donald Trump. Digital caricature by DonkeyHotey, 2019,
Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | July 9, 2020

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. — Donald Trump’s Fourth of July oration has been heralded in some quarters as a genuine expression of the highest ideals of American democracy. Writing in Tablet, Liel Leibovitz, an Israeli born journalist who came to the U.S. in 1989, says that it was “every bit the statement I needed to hear, a clear and unapologetic reminder of why America is worth loving unconditionally, admiring unequivocally and fighting for unremitting.” There are too many “uns” for my liking, and too much emphasis on fighting which is what got us in the Civil War, the unrest of the 1960s and 1970s and the house dividedness of the present day.

Leibowitz goes on to quote at length Trump’s comment that, “We are the country of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Frederick Douglass. We are the land of Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill Cody. We are the nation that gave rise to the Wright Brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Jesse Owens, George Patton — General George Patton — the great Louie Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Elvis Presley, and Mohammad Ali.” Why Louie and not Louis? Was Trump ever that intimate with “Satchmo”?

Trump’s speech is as notable for whom he omits as much as for whom he includes. He mentions no American Indians, no Sitting Bull or Geronimo, no first generation immigrants, either, and no Mexican-Americans. Trump goes on to say, and Leibowitz goes on to quote the sentence in which mention is made of Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Irving Berlin, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, all of whom are dead. Perish the thought that he might include a living person.
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Harry Targ :
ECONOMICS | New thinking, political economy, and economic policy

The university community as a microcosm of the national economy.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, April 2, 2019. Daniels called the national debt the “new red menace.” Public Domain Image.

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | July 8, 2020

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — In a recent article Shawn Hubler surveys the impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic on the political economy of campus towns (The New York Times, June 28, 2020). During the spring shutdowns of college campuses millions of dollars were lost in revenues as students departed. Now with many universities and colleges contemplating reopening for the fall term, resistance has emerged from faculty, staff, and students because of the continuing threat of the spread of the virus.

Some campuses have followed the lead of Purdue University in ordering equipment, trying to figure out on-campus teaching with social distancing, and preparing pledges students and faculty will be required to make to honor a health code.

Although the plans for the fall may sometimes sound bizarre, the impacts of not reopening universities would be drastic for what one might call “campus town political economies.” Whole university communities rely on dollars spent by thousands of students. Tuition makes up a larger share of university budgets today compared with 20 years ago as state funding for higher education has declined. Athletic programs attract alumni contributions and the sale of sports paraphernalia.
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