November 21, 2009

A little weekend death poetry

George Gordon, Lord Byron.

When coldness wraps this suffering clay,
Ah! whither strays the immortal mind?
It cannot die, it cannot stay,
But leaves its darken'd dust behind.
Then, unembodied, doth it trace
By steps each planet's heavenly way?
Or fill at once the realms of space,
A thing of eyes, that all survey?

Eternal, boundless, undecay'd
A thought unseen, but seeing all,
All, all in earth or skies display'd,
Shall it survey, shall it recall:
Each fainter trace that memory holds
So darkly of departed years,
In one broad glance the soul beholds,
And all, that was, at once appears.

Before Creation peopled earth,
Its eye shall roll through chaos back;
And where the farthest heaven had birth,
The spirit trace its rising track.
And where the future mars or makes,
Its glance dilate o'er all to be,
While sun is quench'd or system breaks,
Fix'd in its own eternity.

Above or Love, Hope, Hate, or Fear,
It lives all passionless and pure:
An age shall fleet like earthly year;
Its years as moments shall endure.
Away, away, without a wing,
O'er all, through all, its thought shall fly,
A nameless and eternal thing,
Forgetting what it was to die.

November 20, 2009

Marching on--updated

Note to email subscribers: I apologize for flooding your mailbox, but a reader pointed out that some of the phrasing in the original needed some work.

Also, I like to encourage readers to contact their senators to support the health care vote scheduled for tomorrow which would bring the bill to the Senate floor. The bill itself is far from perfect, but there will be time to improve it later and doing nothing would be worse.

For contact information, click here. If you can't get through on the DC number, please consider calling their local office.)

Here's the original and edited post:

"Against an enemy. How good bad music and bad reasons sound when one marches against an enemy!"--Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Health care reform faces a crucial vote in the Senate this weekend.

SQUANDERED TRUST. Being too nice to bad banks may have more than financial costs.

THIS COULD BE AMUSING. Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is set to debate Robert Kennedy Jr. in January. My guess is that this won't be the only entertainment that night.



November 19, 2009

Two bad ideas

Two bad dogs.

It occurs to El Cabrero after reflecting on human history that two really bad ideas have shown up over and over and done lots of harm.

The first one is the belief that we can do X to Y and it will be over and there will be no consequences.

The second is that we can do whatever we want over here and it will have no effect anywhere else.

Does the Gentle Reader have any other suggestions?

IT'S ALIVE. There is movement on health care reform in the US Senate.

AND SO IS support for a public option in health care reform.

SPEAKING OF HEALTH, coal may not be all that good for it.

THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY may have been heart disease.


November 18, 2009


Image courtesy of wikipedia.

(Editorial note: Apparently I got up so early yesterday morning that I thought I posted the following but didn't. My bad. On the bright side, this fact relieves me from having to think of something new for today. Just to be safe, I'm scheduling this in advance lest I sleepwalk again through the morning. If anything really bad happens between now and then please accept my condolences.)

A while back a friend visited Goat Rope Farm at night and commented on how bright the stars were. I guess one thing about living out is that you get kind of spoiled about certain things--like having bright starts. My friend, however, lived in a major city where light pollution makes the nightly light show dimmer if not invisible.

It reminds me of something Emerson said in his essay Nature:

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!

I guess we take things for granted.

IT CAN BE DONE. Student activists have just won a major fight against sweatshops.

HUNGER hit a 14 year high in the US.

JOBS. Here's a call to action for serious action on un- and under-employment.

IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT. Here's a look at 2012 hysteria.

RACIAL DISPARITIES. A new report found some major ones between whites and African Americans in Kanawha County, WV.

THOSE DARWIN FINCHES are at it again on the Galapagos Islands.


November 16, 2009

Another Dante moment

It's been a while since El Cabrero has discussed his old pal Dante Alighieri, but I've been thinking about a passage from his Inferno recently in the context of current political controversies.

In Canto III, at the outskirts of hell, Dante and his guide Virgil pass a large number of condemned souls driven eternally in circles and tormented by gadflies and hornets. They had it so bad that "They are envious of every other fate," which in Dante's version of hell is really saying something.

These unfortunate creatures are those who didn't take a stand for either good or evil during their days on earth and are equally unwanted in either heaven or hell.

What is interesting to me about this is that Dante also includes in this group those people who considered themselves too pure to get down and dirty in the real human world. He singles out Celestine, who was elected pope in 1294 but abdicated, leaving the spot to be taken by someone he considered to be much worse:

I looked, and I beheld the shade of him
Who made through cowardice the great refusal.

The Catholic Church didn't see things that way--Celestine was later canonized--but I see Dante's point. Holding out for perfection in an inherently flawed world can amount to choosing uselessness and allowing even worse things to prevail.

CAIRNS 'R US. This item from yesterday's Gazette is about cairns or rock structures found on a nearby farm and believed to be the work of American Indians. (We have some at Goat Rope Farm but they're not as big and could just be more recent rock piles.) When asked to estimate their age, Roger Wise, an archaeologist friend of mine gave a great reply. As the article reported,

"It's probably somewhere between 1750 A.D. and 10,000 B.C.," he said with a grin.

And you know what--I'll bet he's right!

INEQUALITY AND HEALTH. The social determinants of health, as in things like status and inequality, have been a frequent theme here lately. Here's an op-ed by a friend of mine on an issue we're working on in WV.

THEATER OF WAR. Greek tragedy has also been a favorite theme here. Now, the Department of Defense is taking a look at what some of the plays of Sophocles (Philoctetes and Ajax) can say about the problems of combat veterans.

(Has anyone noticed that it's been a long time since my last ancient Greek jag? I'm feeling another one coming on.)

GAME THEORY. This item looks at auctions and the psychology of commitment.

DEFICITS AND DEFICITS. In a post from his blog, Paul Krugman observes the following about politicians:

many, if not most, are perfectly happy to incur huge unfunded liabilities for the wars they want to fight, and/or to eliminate inheritance taxes for the heirs of multimillionaires. It’s only deficits incurred to help working Americans that get them all moralistic.