November 20, 2007


Caption: That's where these guys are going to end up.

The theme of this week's Goat Rope is gratitude and its opposite, what with Thanksgiving coming up and all. You will also find links to and comments about current events. If this is your first visit, please click on yesterday's post.

As mentioned yesterday, St. Thomas Aquinas regarded ingratitude as a sin. However, if you want to find out just how bad a sin it is, you need to crack open some Dante.

In Canto VII of his Inferno, Dante and his guide, the poet Virgil, enter the Fifth Circle of Hell, wherein a rather nasty fountain spews its contents of dark water into a marsh named Styx.

This nasty piece of real estate is occupied by two varieties of sinners: the wrathful and the sullen or ungrateful. The former eternally hit, kick, bite and otherwise maim each other. The latter are a little harder to see.

Virgil tells Dante that

I would have thee believe for certain,

that there are people underneath the water, who sob, and make it bubble at the surface, as thy eye may tell the, whichever way it turns.

Fixed in the slime, they say: 'Sullen were we in the sweet air, that is gladdened by the Sun, carrying lazy smoke within our hearts;

now lie we sullen here in the black mire.' This hymn they gurgle in their throats, for they cannot speak it in full words.

I don't know about y'all, but I'll pass on that one.

SPEAKING OF STYGIAN MARSHES, check out this item from Reuters:

The number of Americans in prison has risen eight-fold since 1970, with little impact on crime but at great cost to taxpayers and society, researchers said in a report calling for a major justice-system overhaul.

That's just the first sentence. There's plenty more.

WARREN BUFFETT ON THE ESTATE TAX: Billionaire and philanthropist Warren Buffett continues his efforts to persuade Congress to retain the estate tax. This is from alternet:

Billionaire Warren Buffett testified before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday in defense of the federal estate tax, the nation's only tax on inherited wealth.

Buffett invoked the historical roots of the estate tax, established in 1916 during the Gilded Age to put a brake on anti-democratic concentrations of wealth and power. "Dynastic wealth, the enemy of meritocracy, is on the rise," Buffett told the panel. "Equality of opportunity has been on the decline. A progressive and meaningful estate tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward plutocracy."

SPEAKING OF PREVENTING PLUTOCRACY, the Bush labor relations board or NLRB favors employers at the expense of workers and needs to be "closed for repairs." Here's a link to a video of UMWA president Cecil Roberts speaking on the issue.

SPACING OUT. There's plenty of confusion among most Americans about where, exactly, the money in the federal budget goes. Here's a recent example: many believe the US spends one fourth of its budget on the space program.

HANNIBAL WHO? Anyone who has seen Silence of the Lambs or its sequels or read the novels will remember the criminal profilers. In a recent New Yorker article, Malcolm Gladwell takes a skeptical look at this approach. He's always worth reading.

AS IF. Denial may be the glue that holds people together.


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