April 21, 2007


Congressman Nick J. Rahall (WV III) addresses a town meeting in Charleston.

Around 100 people attended a public forum in Charleston Saturday. WV Congressman Nick J. Rahall was the featured speaker and later fielded questions from attendees.

Rahall, who represents WV's third district, has been an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq from the beginning. In 2002, he was part of a delegation that visited that country to urge the regime to allow weapons inspectors, which it subsequently did.

That step wasn't enough to head off the Bush administration's predetermined pursuit of an unnecessary war.

Rahall recently returned from another delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Israel and Syria, noting "This is the kind of surge we need--a surge of diplomacy." He further stated that "Communication and conversation does not mean capitulation."

Here's WCHS TV's take on the event:

A packed room at the Christ Church United Methodist listened to Rahall discuss his recent trip to the Middle East. The Democrat was asked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to join her and others on the trip. He said the purpose of the trip was to prod all sides toward peace...

A child who had his hand raised for a half-hour before someone in the audience pointed him out asked Rahall why President Bush sent troops to Iraq in the first place. Rahall responded that he wished he knew the answer and that he didn't vote for this war from the beginning.

The town hall meeting was sponsored by the West Virginia Council of Churches, West Virginia Patriots for Peace, the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, the A-F-L C-I-O and the American Friends Service Committee.

The event was held in the district (WV II) of Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, a strong supporter of both the war and the Bush administration. She did not attend.

Senator Robert C. Byrd did not attend, but sent a representative with a letter supporting the forum and speaking of the need to "begin to put some sanity in our foreign policy again."

Retired WV United Methodist Bishop William Boyd Grove moderated the forum.


DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: The item about Iraqi refugees from yesterday should have read "40-50 thousand" per month insead of "40-50 per month. " My bad. It got corrected on the web but not the email subscribers. Thanks to readers who pointed that out.

I just did it to see if yall was paying attention...

BACK TO THE REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAM. For first time readers, it is the policy of this blog to cover fairly serious issues during the week. The gratuitous animal pictures are just kind of there.

During the weekend, however, the animals speak for themselves.

We are pleased to welcome back bantam rooster and noted free market economist Dr. Denton "Denny" Dimwit. Dr. Dimwit is director of the Goat Rope Farm Policy Foundation, a fellow of a number of conservative and libertarian think tanks, and is a senior economic advisor to the Bush administration.

We are convinced that Dr. Dimwit is by far the brightest and most intellectually distinguished representative of this school of thought.

It is our deepest wish that by providing space for (bio) diverse viewpoints, we are reducing the tragic polarization of our time, promoting civil discourse, and creating a climate of profound mutual respect.


Crudawackapatootie! This blog must be on stupid steriods. You guys have been in to the goat pellets again, haven't you?

What's all this stupid stuff about global warming anyway? There's no such thing as global warming. And if there was, you couldn't do anything about it. And if you could, it would interfere with the market and the market is the one thing on this earth you don't want to mess with.

And besides, if global warming was REALLY happening, things would be getting hotter, right?

Well check out that picture. The little handsome guy is me. Pretty sharp, huh? And see what's beside me? That BIG hen? That's what I'm talking about. Yowza!

How can it get any hotter than that? And if it could, bring it on!

Oh yeah, and did I mention SHE'S WITH ME!!!

Yeah man...

That's the beauty of the market. And that's the truth. You bet your cloaca.


April 20, 2007


Caption: These turkeys never read the Bible.

The guiding thread through this week's Goat Rope is a series of reflections on the Bible, along with other items of interest for the week. If this is your first visit, please scroll down to earlier entries.

In the Acts of the Apostles, on the feast of Pentecost, as the disciples were gathered in one room,

suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

The story goes that the multitude of people from every known nation were bewildered to hear people speaking in their own native languages.

(It might spoil the effect of the story a little to point out that most of those assembled spoke the same languages, especially common Greek, probably in addition to some Latin, some Hebrew if they were religious enough to be in Jerusalem, and maybe some Aramaic.)

The point of the passage was probably that when people first heard the gospel message, it came to them in a familiar language.

Sometimes, though, I think we can let the Bible become too familiar. For that reason, I think it's good to try different translations and, if you're really feeling froggy, try it in another language.

Sort of a Pentecost in reverse...

A while back, El Cabrero made a not entirely successful assault on the Spanish language. One thing I did to practice was to try to read familiar sections of the Bible in Spanish translations. Sometimes if you know the story and the sayings, this can help you puzzle out the meaning or suggest something you may have missed otherwise.

Lately, I'm trying the New Testament in the "original" Greek. (Note: it's hard to say what's original when we're dealing with copies of copies of copies and when Jesus spoke another language than that used in the earliest written sources.)

The effort is somewhat complicated by the fact that I don't know much more than the alphabet. I'm crawling along at the pace of a couple of lines a day in an interlineal version with English under the Greek. My theory is that if I make it all the way through I'll have a working vocabulary and sense of grammar. (I'm only on chapter one of Mark, so the jury is still out.)

Jeez, do they have some long words...

CRISIS. The UN estimates that the deteriorating situation in Iraq is displacing 40-50 thousand people a month. Meanwhile, a study of primary school children in a Baghdad neighborhood found that 70 percent were suffering from trauma-related stress.

TAX CUT MANIA. On the domestic front, Antipode strikes again with a post on tax cuts and voodoo economics.


April 19, 2007


Caption: Something's not kosher about these guys.

The guiding thread of this week's Goat Rope is a series of reflections on the Bible, although you are liable to find most anything else here too.

El Cabrero was lucky to have a good Bible teacher when I went to (we are) Marshall U.

He was a rabbi from a local synagogue (Reformed I think) who really made the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) an open book and also taught about later Jewish writings.

It helped to learn about exactly what was there and to get a sense of scholarly opinion about when and why various parts of it were written and how the religion of Judaism developed over time.

It would be tough to pick out favorite parts, but El Cabrero's selection for Greatest Hits, Vol. I would have to include:

*Genesis, which is pretty cool as long as you don't use it as a science book. The family saga might make you feel pretty good about your own...

*Ecclestiastes, which gave us the title of today's post. Who said tragic existentialism was a 20th century thing?;

*The Hebrew prophets, who contrary to currently popular opinion were not obsessed with "end times" events but rather with social justice. The latter parts of the book of Isaiah top would top my list; and a special shout out to...

*Jonah, which appears in the books of the prophets but is really a short story and can even be read as a kind of practical joke played on the unwilling prophet by God to teach him a lesson about compassion. There is something lovable about this most unlovable of characters.

When God tells him to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh, he gets the hell out of Dodge, hopping a ship bound for Tarshish, the ends of the earth for Jonah. When a storm arises, the sailors toss him overboard to appease some angry god. Everybody knows the fish story.

When he gets vomited up by the fish at Nineveh, he reluctantly tells the people to repent lest they be destroyed. And--to his great disappointment--they do. Instead of being glad, he's angry with God for his mercy and asks to be put to death. God, in therapist mode, asked, "Are you right to be angry?"

Then he goes and pouts, sitting under the shade of a gourd vine. The vine is about the only thing in the world Jonah seems to like. But then...

God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day and it smote the gourd that it withered.

And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night;

And should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

The story ends there. If Jonah had anything else to say we don't know what it might have been.

I think one reason I like Jonah is his reluctance. There are way too many people in the world today who like to think of themselves as God's mouthpiece. I wish they'd take a ship for Tarshish...

THE WAL-MART TAX. There's been a lot of stuff about Tax Day lately. Here's something from Wake-Up Wal-Mart about how that corporation and others not only avoid fair taxation but also pass on the public costs of low wages and benefits to the rest of us.

THE COMMON GOOD. One aspect of Roman Catholic social teaching that I particularly admire is the ancient idea that the role of government and social institutions is to promote the common good. In his new book, Pope Benedict XVI criticizes both totalitarian collectivism and cut throat capitalism:

"After the experiences of totalitarian regimes, after the brutal way in which they trampled on men, mocked, enslaved and beat the weak, we understand anew those who hunger and thirst for justice," Benedict writes.

"Confronted with the abuse of economic power, with the cruelty of capitalism that degrades man into merchandise, we have begun to see more clearly the dangers of wealth and we understand in a new way what Jesus intended in warning us about wealth."

WHILE PRESIDENT NERO FIDDLES, at least some businesses are taking global climate change seriously. This from Business Week:

Remember the arguments for not taking action against global warming? Just a few years ago the claim was: "There's no evidence that the climate is changing." Then it became: "Well, maybe it is, but humans aren't to blame." That morphed into: "Warmer could be better, and we can easily adapt." And all along, we heard that cutting emissions would cripple the economy--and wouldn't make much difference because China and India weren't on board.

Forget all that. For most companies, the science debate is ancient history. The current argument, which could turn ugly, is about how the government should act to curb carbon emissions...

ROAD BLOCK. It looks like efforts to fix the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit hit a brick wall in the Senate.


April 18, 2007


Caption: This man likes to dress up for church.

This week's Goat Rope involves musing on biblical themes among many other things and was inspired in part by recent surveys that suggest many Americans--even those who claim to believe every word literally--are biblically illiterate.

But first, there is a vicious rumor out there that El Cabrero would like to put to rest.

The rumor is this: that Episcopalians don't read the Bible. That is like sooo not true. We do...in case we're ever on Jeopardy.

I actually (now) consider myself lucky to have been dragged to Episcopal services throughout my childhood by my Maternal Unit in part because it really steeps you in biblical literature. In general, Anglicans of our variety don't take it literally (as a biology, geology, or astronomy textbook, for example) but do take it seriously.

A typical service involves at least four readings, including a psalm and another reading from the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament), one from the gospels, and one from the other New Testament writings. A lot of the rest of the liturgy is also drawn from biblical texts.

As a result, I wound up as a kid involuntarily memorizing sections of psalms, canticles, and other passages. There was no way not to.

I noticed something strange in the inevitable religious discussions with other kids. While some viewed the Bible almost superstitiously as a magical oracle, they had little idea of how it went aside from a few "proof texts."

(Proof texting is a vile habit that has probably done as much as anything else to promote biblical illiteracy.)

One thing I got out of all that was the lifelong habit of reading it, regardless of how my religious opinions morphed or occasionally disappeared over time. It's some of the best time I ever spent.

When it comes to religion, El Cabrero's mind is kind of like an AM car radio driving on mountain roads; sometimes you pick up a signal and other times it's just static, although I seem to have would up pretty much where I started.

Question for you, Gentle Reader. What role has the Bible, positively or negatively/by its presence or by its absence, played in your life?

IT'S HOW THEY'RE COUNTED, as we like to say about votes in El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia. In this case, however, we're talking about poverty. This editorial from the New York Times is about more accurate measurements than the old federal poverty level:

According to the Census Bureau, nearly 37 million Americans — 12.6 percent of the population — were living in poverty in 2005. That means that four years into an economic expansion, the percentage of Americans defined as poor was higher than at the bottom of the last recession in late 2001, when it was 11.7 percent. But that’s not the worst of it. Recently, the bureau released 12 alternative measures of poverty, and all but one are higher than the official rate.

The alternative that hews most closely to the measurement criteria recommended by the National Academy of Sciences yields a 2005 poverty rate of 14.1 percent. That works out to 41.3 million poor Americans, 4.4 million more than were officially counted. Those higher figures indicate that millions of needy Americans are not getting government services linked to official poverty levels.

It calls for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and early childhood education to help combat poverty.

MEDICARE PART D. West Virginians United for Social and Economic Justice and the WV Citizen Action Group issued a statement yesterday calling for negotiated prices on the prescription drug benefit. This could save WV taxpayers $225 million per year ($30 billion at the national level.) The press release drew attention to this report by the Institute for America's Future.


April 17, 2007


Before the massacre at Virginia Tech I had planned to build this week's Goat Rope around a biblical theme.

The post that I had planned to use for today was going to be about enriching it was for me (I now realize) to grow up in the Episcopal Church, where hearing the Bible and biblical language in the liturgy was a part of every service I was dragged to.

In the wake of yesterday's tragedy, I can think of nothing better to do than start with the biblical words that open the service of the burial of the dead:

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord;
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God;
whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold,
and not as a stranger.

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord.
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord;
even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors.

And the words of the committal:

In the midst of life we are in death;
of whom may we seek for succor,
but of thee, O Lord,
who for our sins art justly displeased?

Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty,
O holy and most merciful Savior,
deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.

Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts;
shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer;
but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty,
O holy and merciful Savior,
thou most worthy Judge eternal.
Suffer us not, at our last hour,
through any pains of death, to fall from thee.

It is a beautiful and dignified service, one that I hope to go out with. Here's the full rite from the Book of Common Prayer.

AS MOTHER JONES SAID, "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." We proceed.

PSYCHOLOGY AND TORTURE is the subject of this fascinating piece by Stephen Soldz via Common Dreams.

WHAT WE KNOW AND HOW. This latest piece of research by the Pew Center for the People and the Press suggests that changes in information technology haven't had much effect on what the public knows about current events or how they find out.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. FamiliesUSA is urging people to call the Senate this week and urge passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act. Look for more on this here soon.

April 16, 2007


The nation is now reeling from the news of the horrific killings at Virginia Tech. There's not much to say at a time like this but to extend condolences to the many, many people who a grieving today.

This is another reminder of how easy it is to destroy and how much damage even one person can do.


El Cabrero came across this sign while driving through the capitol of his Beloved State of West Virginia and couldn't agree more.

It's long been amazing to me that here in Bible belt central, many people have very little idea of what the Bible actually says, even though some claim to believe every word.

This seems to be especially true of the college aged students I encounter teaching the occasional off campus night class.

This is a national trend. According to a recent Time Magazine,

Only half of U.S. adults know the title of even one Gospel. Most can't name the Bible's first book. The trend extends even to Evangelicals, only 44% of whose teens could identify a particular quote as coming from the Sermon on the Mount.

But don't take Time's word for it--take Jay's! Here's a clip of Jay Leno asking questions about the Bible.

BiblicalLiteracy.org is trying to fight biblical illiteracy, in part by promoting the use of the book The Bible and its Influence in high school classes. According to the website, "After first 18 months, The Bible and Its Influence, is used in 83 school districts in 30 states."

The project enjoys the support of the American Jewish Congress, Catholic Biblical Association, and National Association of Evangelicals, although it has been opposed by some representatives of the Taliban/jihad/wahabi end of the Christian spectrum.

El Cabrero's imperial verdict: thumbs up.

Regardless of one's religion or lack thereof, the Bible has played such a central role in Western history, culture, and literature that without some basic background, one is going to miss an awful lot.

Besides that, there are some really cool things in there.

TWO WEST VIRGINIA ITEMS. As mentioned here last week, WV Gov. Joe Manchin to his credit announced a pilot "meet and consult" program which will give more of a voice to state employees. Here's some commentary on that from the national AFLCIO blog.

Also here's West Virginians for Affordable Health Care's blueprint for expanding health coverage here. WVAHC's approach calls for expanding coverage through increasing individual, insurance industry, employer, and government responsibility.

Speaking of WV, to quote Dylan: "it's rough out there/high water everywhere."

FEDERAL BUDGET. Here's an op-ed on the federal budget by Ted Boettner from today's Charleston Gazette.