October 28, 2006


Goat Rope is pleased to once again feature a commentary by alpine goat and historian Cornelius Agrippa.

Cornelius is Goat Rope Farm Dean of Classical and Alchemistical Studies.

His earlier discussions of classical Greek culture and tragedy ran the last two weekends and can be found in the GR archives.

This series is part of Goat Rope's ongoing effort to raise the level of civil discourse and promote greater appreciation of both the humanities and the animalities.

(Disclaimer: the opinions expressed by talking animals in this blog are not necessarily those of the humans who produce it. But they might be.)


OK, so although there were lots of dudes who produced Greek tragedies--did I mention the word means "goat song?"-- but only the work of three of them survives. That is so not cool.

The reason so much of the ancient Greek stuff didn't survive was because people who came later had other priorities--like bad religion and making people stupider.

Anyway Aeschylus was like the main first dude of tragedy. He lived from around 525 to 456 BC. He wrote about a gazillion and won the big contest over and over but there's only about six or seven left.

He was also proud of defending Greece against the Persians. Here's my translation of what's on his tombstone:

Hey Persians...Remember that time y'all invaded Greece and got your butts kicked? Oh, yeah, sorry-it happened more than once. Well, remember the time y'all came to Marathon and you had like way more guys than we did but we totally opened a can on you guys anyway? Well, I was there, baby!

Some people translate it differently but that's the goat version.

Anyway, his is the only surviving trilogy left. It's called the Oresteia and it's about the offspring of this dude Atreus who was a real jerk. In fact, lots of people in that family were jerks.

If you think you have a screwed up family, this will make you feel a lot better. Cause, man, these guys were jacked! But you'll have to wait till next weekend to hear the goat version.


October 27, 2006


Caption: Seamus McGoogle struggles to restrain his outrage over injustice.

According to a recent Gallup poll, basic economic justice concerns rank at the top of America's wish list if the leadership of Congress changes.

The poll, taken in late October, found that 86% of Americans would approve an increase in the minimum wage, 79% favor legislation to provide health care for those who don't have it, and 72 % favor allowing Americans to buy imported prescription drugs.

(El Cabrero suspects that a little more probing on the third issue would reveal overwhelming support for undoing the Medicare Part D prescription drug goat rope to provide better coverage at less cost without massive subsidies to drug and insurance companies.)

Next on the list at 63% was setting a time table for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.


October 26, 2006


Caption: This man can't make it on his wages. He's about to knock of a convenience store. He's not the very best of men.

The figures may vary depending on how you count it, but sources agree that the gap between worker and CEO pay is growing. According to David Henry, writing in Business Week:

Average annual CEO pay is $10.5 million, 369 times average worker pay of $28,310. In 1970, before the big runup, the multiple was 28:1, a ration that would make today's average worker pay $374,800. Put another way: If CEO pay were frozen now, it would take workers 66 years of 4% annual raises to get back to 1/28th of what the boss makes.

Now that's some pretty impressive social math. The numbers are based on rounded off figures from S&P 500 companies and from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and are just another sign--if one is needed--of how out of kilter this country has become.


October 24, 2006


Caption: No water, no life.

El Cabrero is convinced there is something sacred about water.

The ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu said "The highest good is like water in the Tao Te Ching." The ancient Greek philosopher Thales believed water to be at the basis of all things.

In the biblical tradition, water is also central. The Spirit hovered over it in the beginning. The former Hebrew slaves passed through the waters of the Sea of Reeds (or Red Sea, as you like it). Water gushed from the rock in the desert. Jesus was baptized in water. In the Fourth Gospel, blood and water flowed from the wound in his side.

Melville described its fascination thus in Moby-Dick:

Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries--stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded forever.

Unfortunately, this highest good may wind up being a scarce and fought-over resource in this new century which has gotten off to such an unpromising start. Some have called it the new oil.

For a very good overview of the State of the Liquid, check Michael Specter's "The Last Drop: confronting the possibility of a global catastrophe" in the Oct. 23 New Yorker.

Here are some not-too-fun facts about water he provides:

*"nearly half the people in the world don't have the kind of clean water and sanitation services that were available two thousand years ago to the citizens of ancient Rome."

*Over a billion people lack access to drinking water and about the same number have never seen a toilet.

*On a related note, half the hospital beds in the world are filled with people with easily preventable water-borne diseases.

*In the last 10 years, more children have died from diarrhea than the total number of people killed in all armed conflicts since World War II.

*Clean water could save two million lives a year.

*Thirty percent of the schools in the developing world have no water of any kind.

*The United Nations has estimated that even if the Millennium Development Goals aimed at eliminating the worst poverty are met (which is unlikely) 30 to 70 million people will die in the next fifteen years from preventable water-related diseases.

Clearly, the global struggle for economic justice is going to be in large part a struggle for water.

But as bad as the situation is, the article suggests that a global water meltdown is not inevitable given the effort and will to avoid it. According to water scientist Peter Gleick,

I would argue that almost everything we do on earth we could do with less water...This is really good news, you know. Because it means we can do better. We don't need to run out of water. We just need to think more seriously about how we can avoid using it.



Caption: Even this guy wouldn't do that.

Last week Charleston Gazette staff writer Scott Finn reported that college will no longer count as a work activity for West Virginia welfare recipients.

This gratuitous slap at poor people was brought to you by the Bush administration and its rubber stamps in Congress who passed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

El Cabrero prefers to call it the Deficit-Reduction-Act-Which-Didn't-Reduce-the-Deficit since it slashed $40 billion in programs like Medicaid and student loans while cutting taxes for the wealthy by $70 billion.

The bill also included additional restrictions on the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program.

In 2000, a diverse and bipartisan coalition of West Virginians successfully campaigned to persuade the legislature to allow education from literacy to college to count as a welfare work activity. This was seen as model legislation for other states.

The state bill didn't pay for college--recipients had to apply for financial aid like anyone else. But it did allow people to spent their limited time on assistance in ways that made it possible for them and their children to permanently escape poverty.

The Gazette reports that 535 college students in the state may be harmed by this decision.

Here's an irony: the only member of the state congressional delegation to support the Deficit Reduction Act (which didn't....) was Shelley Moore Capito, who if memory serves supported the state college bill in 2000.

There may be a way to prevent the damage without costing extra money given the political will. It could be that WV may be able to count some current state spending as part of its Maintenance of Effort (MOE) money and free up funding for a separate state program.

More on this as it unfolds.


October 23, 2006


Caption: Is West Virginia for sale? We'll find out soon.

The big story in El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia these days is the effort of Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to buy the state legislature (although why anyone would want it is a legitimate question).

He's using millions of his own money to pay for mailings, TV ads, campaign signs, campaign workers, etc. to defeat candidates, mostly incumbents, who have not been sufficiently pliable.

He has also given money to religious right groups which have produced their own TV ad and candidate report cards trying to summon the faithful to holy war over issues like same sex marriage (which is already illegal here).

In 2004, he spent millions of dollars to defeat pro-labor Justice Warren McGraw and elect Brent Benjamin, who was previously politically unknown.

Blankenship is the highest paid CEO of any coal company, last year reportedly receiving around $34 million in compensation, about four times more than the going rate in the industry. This is kind of odd since his company isn't performing very well these days for stockholders.

At any rate, this is what New York Times reporter Ian Urbina had to say about it this Sunday.