Category Archives: RagBlog

Joshua Brown :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Tripped up

Previous installments are archived at
http://www.joshbrownnyc.com/ldw.htm
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Allen Young :
TELEVISION | Fascinated by the ‘Tiger King’

This bizarre human being has become the most famous gay man in the USA.

Tiger King image from Netflix.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | May 13, 2020

ROYALSTON, Mass.Tiger King, an eight-episode documentary series, has caught the attention of millions of television viewers. This show is not for everyone, for reasons I’ll explain below, but I’m fascinated by it.

My commentary here is largely influenced by my identity as a gay man and by the fact that I write often on gay-related topics, but this is not a gay show any more than it is an animal rights show.

A straight friend of mine who is about half my age (I’m 78) suggested I might want to watch this unusual series. I don’t watch a lot of TV, and didn’t know a thing about this program, but I took his advice. (Spoiler alert: You could watch the series with the shock and awe that I experienced, but if you read this first, your experience will be different.)
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James Retherford :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Return to normal

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Jim Simons :
BOOKS | Ken Carpenter’s ‘Borderlands Boy’

Ken’s whole adult life has been that of a man of unflinchingly high principle.

By Jim Simons | The Rag Blog | May 11, 2018

AUSTIN — It is said that senior citizens, as we are called, see our lives pass before us in the quiet hours. Fortunately this process has led to a memoir of a man whom many in the Rag/movement community will recall as an activist of the seventies in Austin. Ken Carpenter published his memoir, Borderlands Boy: Love, War and Peace in the Atomic Age (2019: Sunstone Press), a few months ago.

Ken’s whole adult life has been that of a man of unflinchingly high principle and one who has never been afraid to confront the consequences. Ken’s road led to a life in New Mexico and teaching at the college level. His strong convictions against war and violence led him to refuse induction into the military at the time of the War in Vietnam. He served a prison sentence for this.

But Ken’s conscience comes out in many ways.
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James Retherford :
Dr. Dada’s outlook takes a dark turn

America doesn’t need more test kits, it needs four more years…

Graphic by James Retherford / The Rag Blog.

By James Retherford | The Rag Blog | May 8, 2018

The pandemic lockdown has unlocked my alter-ego, Dr. Dada. Free to roam the murky corners of his imagination, he began to create digital collages that respond to the White House’s coronavirus folly with a combination of mortification and good old-fashioned sarcasm. (See here, here, here, and here.)

Today Dr. Dada’s outlook takes a dark turn because scientists — who are not only very intelligent people but who also have dedicated their lives to understanding and implementing effective public health policy — report that to prematurely set aside social distancing and other health directives and reopen economic activity may thrust hundreds of thousands of fresh COVID-19 victims into the hands of the nation’s already exhausted health workers and cause tens of thousands of new fatalities.

Despite what these well-trained, trusted, and mostly nonpartisan voices say, Donald Trump sat down on his golden toilet — where he conjures up his most superior wisdom — and decided that what America really needs is NOT more test kits, ventilators, or competent leadership but rather four more years of Donald Trump! Here is enterprise truly worthy of his (very stable) genius — to be acknowledged as the greatest leader in the entire illustrated history of the whole wide frisbee-shaped world.
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Joshua Brown :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Fresh meat

Previous installments are archived at http://www.joshbrownnyc.com/ldw.htm
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Allen Young :
FILM | ‘Planet of the Humans’

This documentary film delivers powerful negative vibes.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | May 6, 2020

ROYALSTON, Mass. — Two old adages are perfect for analyzing the controversial new environmental documentary film, Planet of the Humans.

One saying is, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

The other is, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

These two imperatives, similar in meaning, were apparently ignored, intentionally or not, by the three men responsible for the film.

The trio consists of renowned liberal-left documentarian Michael Moore, executive producer and promoter; and producers Jeff Gibbs and Ozzie Zehner. Gibbs and Zehner both appear on screen while the familiar face of Moore does not. The “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” concept is appropriate especially for Zehner as he already did this in his 2012 book, Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism.
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Joshua Brown :
POLITICAL CARTOON | Deborah’s deflection

Previous installments are archived at
http://www.joshbrownnyc.com/ldw.htm
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Luis G. Guerra :
STORY | Ceremony at San Pedro Springs

El Secreto y Su Guardián II, by Luis Guerra, 2017. Mixed media (watercolor, gouache, and acrylic) on paper, 39 x 24 in.

By Luis G. Guerra | The Rag Blog | April 25, 2020

These last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the world. Our pandemic plight today reminded me of a story I wrote and narrated on NPR’s Latino USA almost 10 full years ago. It’s been haunting me, it seems so prophetic. So I revisited it and fleshed it out a bit and added this intro and a concluding note, to provide some context.


I miss the ceremonial life of the Huichol Indians. Their faith is rooted in the awareness that all things have a spirit. Participating in their ceremonies, I have felt, experienced, the mystical nature of the universe.

But years have passed since I was in the Sierra Huichol. I’ve been feeling kinda down, spending too much time stuck in Austin traffic. So I was happy to be invited to an all-night Native American ceremony at the sacred springs of Yanaguana.

It’s an enchanting place with mysterious, ancient oak trees. It’s known today as San Pedro Springs — a city park in San Antonio, with a large swimming pool fed by water gushing from the earth.
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Alice Embree :
FILM |’Parasite’ vs. ‘Schitt’s Creek’

Two takes on class-based cluelessness.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | April 21, 2020

I have been able to see Parasite again on the small screen in Corona-induced isolation. The film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and won the most Oscars in 2020, winning Best Picture, Direction, International Feature Film, and Original Screenplay.

Parasite may seem to be a strange companion to the upstart 30-minute Canadian series, Schitt’s Creek. But, I can watch both of them in my living room, Parasite via Hulu and the final season of Schitt’s Creek via Netflix. I am struck by the similarity with which they explore the entitlement of the rich.

Parasite is a must-see primer on class warfare. The warfare doesn’t take place in the streets of Paris, but in the small-scale battle between two families. Set in South Korea and directed by Bong Joon-Ho, the film vividly portrays pre-Corona images of extreme global inequality, a chasm that is Korean, Chilean, and as American as apple pie. Neoliberalism has infected societies everywhere.
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Alice Embree :
Injunction allows voting by mail in Texas

Attorney General Ken Paxton set to fight
it in court.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | April 20, 2020

AUSTIN (Breaking News) — Texans should apply for their mail-in ballots ASAP. An injunction went into effect April 20, 2020, that allows all voters to apply to vote by mail. Previously, you could only qualify if you were 65 or older, would be out of the county on Election Day, are in jail or disabled. According to the court ruling, you can check disabled because voting in person can cause bodily harm.

The Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will fight this in court, but until another order is in place, all applications that are processed will be valid. You can visit your County Clerk’s site to download the application for Ballot by Mail. The Travis County site is here.

Check the box for “Annual Application” if you want this to apply to all elections. Check the party affiliation box and “Any Resulting Run-off” box, if you want to vote in the primary run-off now scheduled for July.
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Bruce Melton :
COVID-19: The tale of two graphs

Careful what you see and believe.

COVID-19 virus. Image from Center for Disease Controll (CDC), modified by author.

By Bruce Melton | The Rag Blog | April 20, 2020

In my work as a professional engineer, as an environmental researcher, and now as the director of the oldest independent climate science education organization in the world, I understand graphs. This is why I was concerned a few days ago when I saw a log (logarithmic) scale graph of confirmed COVID-19 cases on MSNBC. It looked like the top of the curve we have heard endlessly about was here, that the peak was at hand and we would soon be free of the curse of the exiles. The state of this disease today is that we may be peaking; please Great Spirit, let it be so. But presentation of a graph with a log scale to the public without explanation of what a log scale is, does not represent reality.

A logarithmic scale or a “log” scale graph is a tool many professionals and science workers use to visualize data that is similar to a normal “linear” scale graph in one way, but radically different in another. The “log” graph below is what I am talking about, presented on MSNBC April 13 (and updated to April 19 for this article). Compare the first graph (log scale) to the second linear scale graph. They are the same graph using the same data on the web same page. The first is with the log scale, the second with the linear scale. The skyrocketing red United States line in the linear scale graph is the same as the apparently curving line in the log scale graph, only presented without the exaggeration of the logarithmic scale.

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