December 09, 2006

WEEKEND SPECIAL: THE CANINE FILM CRITIC RETURNS


We are pleased to feature another film review by Sandor Sege (pronounced Shandor Shegg-AY), official Goat Rope Farm film critic.

Once again, we must beg the reader's indulgence. Mr. Sege suffered a head injury whilst chasing a squeaky toy and as a result has sometimes been known to transpose the plots of movies.

Indeed, as the photo indicates, he has been known to put his foot in his mouth.

Nonetheless, we believe that his insights into the world of cinema more than compensate for this regrettable shortcoming.

It is our hope that these weekend features will elevate the level of public discourse and promote greater appreciation of both the humanities and the animalities.

A BOXER EXPLAINS "AMADEUS"

OK so Amadeus is a movie about music. There's this guy Mozart who was a child prodigy till he grew up but then isn't a child but is still a prodigy.

Doodus says I eat a prodigious amount of popcorn...

Anyway, he goes to Vienna to make music for the emperor but his dad is mad about it.

Everything goes OK till there's a total eclipse of the sun where he finds this plant that talks, sings and eats people.

The plant eats his dad, who is also a mean dentist.

Amadeus is all torn up about it and decides to be a heavyweight boxing champ. When he trains, he runs up these stairs in Philadelphia and punches on a side of beef.

I wonder what they did with that meat?

The symbolism of the movie is complex. The music symbolizes sounds, with tones, notes, rhythm, harmony, melody, and stuff.

Amadeus' conflict with his father is what happens when you have a talking plant that eats people. Since that happens a lot, there must be a lot of plants like that.

That makes him want to be a boxer.

Hey--I'm a boxer!

So what do you think they did with that meat? That would go good with popcorn
.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

December 08, 2006

AN ECONOMIC BILL OF RIGHTS


Caption: Unlike sheep, goats neither demand nor beg for their rights. They just take them.

El Cabrero grew up in a household where strong language and irreverent jokes were tolerated if not encouraged.

We were hillbilly Episcopalians after all.

However, there were limits. Disparaging remarks about either Franklin Delano or Eleanor Roosevelt could be made only at considerable personal risk.

In retrospect, I'd say that's a pretty sound policy. In fact, I'm keeping a close eye on my three year old grandson in case he lets one slip.

FDR's New Deal laid the foundation for the American social contract, made possible the expansion of the middle class and largely created the social safety net. Although this social contract has been under sustained attack for over 25 years, it hasn't been completely destroyed. Thank God.

Towards the end of his life--and at a time when the nation was engaged in a life and death struggle against fascism-- he called for a Second Bill of Rights with a focus on economic justice issues. Here's an excerpt from his address to Congress on Jan. 11, 1944:

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.


(Can you imagine a president talking like that now?)

FDR's unfinished legacy is a challenge for us today.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

December 07, 2006

TALKING HUMAN RIGHTS


Caption: We've been sheep long enough. (Full disclosure: these are Vermont sheep, which explains why they say "Jeezum Crow" a lot.)

Fifty eight years ago this coming Sunday, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It would probably be the understatement of the century to say that we may have some compliance issues here.

But then the thing about human rights is that even if they are God-given, you have to take them.

Speaking of which, in addition to basic political and civil rights, the UN Declaration also calls for basic economic human rights for all:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…

Everyone has the right to work…and to protection against unemployment.

Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself [sic] and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of protection.

Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control…

All Children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection…

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized…


El Cabrero is tempted to ask "How's that coming?" but we'd have to ask ourselves...

Next time: FDR--peace be unto him--on an Economic Bill of Rights.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

December 06, 2006

TWO THOUGHTS ON IRAQ


Caption: Sound the alarm.

The New Republic magazine is like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates...you never know what you're going to find inside one.

Sometimes El Cabrero reads an issue from cover to cover and other times there just doesn't seem to be handle to with which to pick it up.

(Did you guys notice how elegantly I avoided ending a sentence with a preposition? Those are bad things to end a sentence with.)

The Dec. 4 issue is more in the former category. "Iraq: What Next?" is the theme and it's probably a measure of goat rope level in that unfortunate country that so many presumably informed people can come up with so many disparate answers.

There was a memorable comparison in an article by David Rieff which was pretty chilling. It referred the US invasion of Iraq as America's Sicilian expedition. Rieff was probably not the first to draw the comparison.

All historical analogies are inexact, but this one refers to one of the worst ideas in the nearly 30 year long Bad Idea that was the Peloponnesian War.

For those who are not ancient Greece buffs, this was a disastrous war of choice in which the Athenians invaded distant Syracuse for no compelling reason after being told it would be a cakewalk. The bad decision to invade was only made worse by subsequent bad decisions. The similarities end there but that's plenty close enough.

That's the first thought, such as it is.

The second comes from Niccolo Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy:


I claim, then, that there is no easier way of bringing disaster on a republic in which the populace has authority, than to engage it in undertakings which appear bold, for, if the populace is of any account, it is bound to be taken up; nor will those who are of a different opinion be able to do anything to stop it. But if this brings ruin to a city it brings ruin still more frequently to the particular citizens put in charge of such an enterprise. For the populace having taken victory for granted, when defeat comes, do not blame it on fortune or on the helplessness of the person in command, but on his malevolence or his ignorance.


GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

December 05, 2006

THE RELIGIOUS RIFT



Caption: "And behold a pale horse." (Full disclosure: the animal pictured above is not a Goat Rope Farm resident. Actually, he's a Vermont horse, which explains the accent.)

There's been a good deal of discussion recently about political divisions among evangelical Christians.

It's becoming clearer that the religious right doesn't have a lock on these voices votes.

One recent sign of the times was the resignation in late Nov. of the Rev. Joel Hunter from the leadership position of the Christian Coalition before he fully assumed his post.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Hunter said he

quit as president-elect of the group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson because he realized he would be unable to broaden the organization's agenda beyond opposing abortion and gay marriage.

He hoped to include issues such as easing poverty and saving the environment.

"These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about," Hunter said.


Hunter's effort to raise "compassion issues" fell flat with the Christian Coalition, which stated that he resigned due to "differences in philosophy and vision."

According to the article, Hunter believes this indicates that the coalition is unwilling to part with its partisan ways. "To tell you the truth, I feel like there are literally millions of evangelical Christians that don't have a home right now," Hunter said.

These signs of a growing awareness of other issues are good for evangelicals and the country as a whole.

El Cabrero has said it before and will again: Christians would be well advised to go for less jihad and more Jesus.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

December 04, 2006

MINIMUM WAGE ROUNDUP


Caption: Seamus McGoogle, the People's Avenger, labors on to raise the minimum wage.

Here's a dubious milestone to start the day. On Dec. 2, the US broke its previous record for going the longest time without a minimum wage increase.

The previous record, set during the Reagan-Bush I era, ran from Jan. 1, 1981 to April 1, 1990. For more, check out a good op-ed on the subject by Holly Sklar.

In case you missed it, there was also a good AP article on the minimum wage that ran on Friday. It pointed out that only

One quarter of hourly workers who make minimum wage are teenagers, but about half are older than 25, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


and that

Stagnating wages for unskilled workers coupled with increased housing costs have put more working people at risk of being homeless...


In several states, it would take more than three full time minimum wage workers t pay market rent for a two bedroom apartment.

While some have pointed out that proposed legislation to raise the minimum to $7.25 is modest, the positive effects on many people would be significant. The Nov. 27 Business Week notes that

If the minimum wage is raised to $7.25 an hour over the next two years, 6.6 million workers, or 5% of the workforce, would be directly affected. By itself that's not a very big number. But an additional 8.3 million will get "ripple effect raises," according to the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-supported Washington think tank. The ripple effect means employers tend to raise wages for workers who make above the new minimum, even though they have no legal obligation to do so. As a result, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that such a minimum wage increase would raise pay for 11% of the workforce.


Business Week also notes that many economists have challenged the free market theology which opposes an increase:

...the economics profession is far less united against the minimum wage than it was a generation ago. Since the early 1990s an influential group of economists has poked holes in the once strongly held belief that the minimum wage is a major job killer. And now there's economic research disputing the rest of the conventional wisdom. Some economists are saying that minimum-wage increases have a ripple effect, bumping up the pay of a large portion of the working poor. If they are right, that would strengthen the political appeal of a minimum wage hike by increasing the number of potential voters who are helped.


The Economic Policy Institute reports that

Over 650 economists, including 5 Nobel prize winners and 6 past presidents of the American Economic Association, believe that increasing federal and state minimum wages, with annual cost-of-living adjustments for inflation, “can significantly improve the lives of low-income workers and their families, without the adverse effects that critics have claimed.


Let's do it.

ANOTHER DIGRESSION ON METAPHORS

In other urgent news, El Cabrero's brain is still stuck on the subject of metaphors, mixed and other wise. To use a simile, it's like having an irritating song stuck in your head. If anyone has suggestions on how to make it stop, please let me know.

We need to think outside the sum of our parts.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED