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 :

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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

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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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Anne Lewis :
PHOTO ESSAY | Playing cards with the devil

They are gathered. The sermon begins.

By Anne Lewis | The Rag Blog | April 19, 2020

AUSTIN — This story is a compromise between common sense and documentary instinct. Every photograph is socially distanced. The quotes come, in part, from the courage of the workers at Fox 7 News and the channel, which posted live footage.

Thursday at 11:45 a.m., Congress Avenue at the Governor’s Mansion is empty aside from a state trooper who motions me through a red light. I walk into a parking lot. The faces look familiar — perhaps from other right-wing rallies I’ve documented. Two men stare at me as I take this picture. One has his hand on his gun. I wonder if full beards might provide protection from Covid-19.

A car arrives blaring vaguely familiar music. It’s the song of angry men from Les Misérables, sounding downright Wagnerian in this context, a recording brought to us by a part of the Alex Jones’ cast.

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Joshua Brown :

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James Retherford :
POLITICAL CARTOON | No worming out of this one

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Roger Baker :
METRO | Austin area transportation planning update

Now is a good time to pause and reflect.

I-35 in downtown Austin. Photo by Todd Morris / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Roger Baker | The Rag Blog | April 16, 2020

AUSTIN — The federally-required CAMPO planning process has gotten continually less credible over recent decades, and is now, IMO, being used strategically as a way to keep TxDOT and the regional suburban sprawl developers politically dominant in shaping Austin’s growth future. Now is a good time to pause and reflect.

(CAMPO is the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority. TxDOT is the Texas Department of Transportation.)

The recent inability of the CAMPO Regional Arterial Study to win CAMPO Policy Board approval was an important planning failure in this regard. The CAMPO planning process has degenerated into an embarrassing non-transparent mess without a price tag. It is arguably worse than the new letter from the Travis County Commissioners Court to CAMPO implies. This broad criticism primarily applies to CAMPO’s road planning and funding.
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