November 24, 2007


Note for first time visitors: It is the policy of this blog to cover fairly serious human issues during the week. Weekends, however, are reserved for the commentaries of various animals in and around Goat Rope Farm.

This weekend, we once again welcome Madame Ouspenskaya, a noted fortune teller.

(Note: any resemblence between Madame Ouspenskaya and Sandor Sege, GR's canine film critic is purely coincidental.)

As a result of a massive technological upgrade, Goat Rope is able to provide what is probably the blogosphere's first and only animal-provided fortune service. To access this feature, simply place the palm of your hand on the computer screen and then scroll down to receive your reading.

Note: If you just scroll down without first holding your hand to the screen, the results will be invalid. And, yes, that means you. OK, fine, be that way if you want to but don't blame us.


You are a person of many contrasts, strong yet vulnerable. From the lines on your hand I can see that you like getting things you want, but dislike it when unpleasant things happen to you.

When you have nothing to occupy your time and interest, you become bored, which is something a complicated person such as yourself finds tedious.

When you are in pain, you would like relief from suffering. Yet you would prefer pleasant sensations to continue.

You may become angry when treated in an insulting or degrading manner. When startled, you may become surprised. When confronted with something that is really gross and vile, you may become disgusted.

A unique personality such as yours will find sadness to be depressing.

Here is my prediction for you. Much of your life will take place in time and space. Throughout the rest of it, you will seek out and hope for things that seem good to you and try to avoid terrible things, not always with success. Your relations with others will vary from good to bad. Some days will be better than others. In a temporal sense, you will be more immediately affected by things that will happen sooner than later, although later events will seem as if they happen in the present when you get there.

This above all: you should be generous in giving edible treats to anyone who advises you regarding your future.


November 23, 2007


Caption: " sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child..." King Lear

The theme of this week's Goat Rope--yesterday's possum recipe excepted--is gratitude and ingratitude. If this is your first visit, please click on the earlier posts.

It is El Cabrero's theory that the key to a sense of gratitude is a pessimistic streak. When you realize that things can be and often are really, really bad, it makes you appreciate it when they're not.

One of my pet peeves is the temperamental ingratitude of some activist types. These are the people who, when you work you @$$ off for some small victory, complain that it didn't go far enough.

An example that happened almost two years ago was our WV campaign to raise the minimum wage. After one hell of a fight, we finally did. There were all kinds of loopholes and it only covered a small fraction of minimum wage workers--maybe 2000 at first.

There were those who complained about it and were dismissive of it. (Usually these weren't the people who really worked hard on it.) It made me wonder whether perhaps they were spoiled brats as children who were used to getting anything they wanted.

I wasn't raised that way.

I was happy we could impact that many people. And that little win added momentum to the eventually successful effort to raise it at the national level.

El Cabrero has two rules of gratitude when it comes to working for social justice:

One, savor the small victories. They may be all you get. In Monday's post, I quoted one of Alice Walker's characters who said it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it. Little victories are part of the color purple.

Two, stop for a minute and think of all the nasty things that have happened all too frequently to people who challenged the status quo. If that's not happening right here and right now, then be grateful, dammit.

And by the way, you're welcome....

CAN I HAVE ONE? This came out a couple of days ago but the thought of an 8 foot sea scorpion is pretty cool.

A FRIEND IN THE WHITEHOUSE? It happened at least one once. Here's Bill Moyers on FDR.

ANTHROPOLOGY GOES TO WAR in more ways than one. Here's the latest in the ongoing controversy over the use of social sciences by the military in the Human Terrain System program.


November 22, 2007


As part of our ceaseless efforts to be a full service blog, Goat Rope is proud to continue its annual Thanksgiving tradition of providing its readers with the best in possum recipes.

(Linguistic note: no self-respecting hillbilly would be caught dead using the citified term "opossum.")

Here is one for roasted stuffed possum.

It goes without saying, however, that in order to make this mouth-watering repast, first you need a possum.

Enjoy and have a great Thanksgiving!


November 21, 2007


Caption: Venus is the ultimate ingrate.

One of humanity's many character defects is a tendency towards ingratitude. In some respects, we can't help it. Bad is louder than good.

By that I mean that we seem to be wired to notice and take action when faced with a threat or a need. Hunger, heat, cold, fear, pain, whatever.

Everybody notices it when they have a toothache. But how often do you notice when you don't?

El Cabrero's perspective on all that changed a few years back when I woke up in a hospital with a respirator going down and a catheter going up. I'm not sure which was worse.

Ever since then, I've tried to make it a practice to notice and be grateful when I wake up and those things are gone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

SPEAKING OF TURKEYS, here are some observations about the ethics of our culture warriors.

DON'T HATE THE PLAYER. According to a new study, violent video games are great teachers--of aggression.

HATE CRIMES went up by 8 percent in 2006.

GOT WOLF MILK? Archaeologists think they may have located an ancient Roman shrine venerated as the cave where legendary founders Romulus and Remus were nursed by a she wolf.

NOT A SHOCK. A new study links lower test scores with declines in reading.


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.


November 19, 2007


Caption: Seamus McGoogle is overcome with gratitude.

Since Thanksgiving is coming up, the theme for this week's Goat Rope is gratitude.

Sneak preview: El Cabrero is all for it. Not just for all the little kindnesses people do to each other all the time, but also for all the times when things are actually good or at least not as terrible as they could be.

This is a truth worthy of consideration: everything is not all bad all the time. For which I am profoundly grateful.

While I probably wouldn't pass too many tests of theological orthodoxy, I totally down with St. Thomas Aquinas on this one: ingratitude is a sin. To be exact, the Angelic Doctor said that

a debt of gratitude is a moral debt required by virtue. Now a thing is a sin from the fact of its being contrary to virtue. Wherefore it is evident that every ingratitude is a sin.

The same point was also elaborated by the character Shug in Alice Walker's The Color Purple:

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.

Next time: what the ungrateful get in Dante's Inferno.

REHAB, POSTMODERN STYLE. Holy sign of the times, Batman. In S. Korea, there's a boot camp for people addicted to cyberspace. El Cabrero is a collector of postmodern moments and this is one of the best.

THAT'S ENOUGH! Here's another gem by Perry Mann, my favorite WV op-ed writer, on knowing when enough is enough.

MINE DISASTERS, old and new.

SPEAKING OF DISASTERS, ignoring climate change could be the biggest ever.

MEGAN WILLIAMS UPDATE. Here's coverage of a local event at WV State University in support of stronger hate crime laws.