November 06, 2010

The purist

I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist,
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
"You mean," he said, "a crocodile."--Ogden Nash

Question for meditation: who would win in a hypothetical no holds barred cage match between Ogden Nash and T.S. Eliot, assuming both were in their prime? I'm thinking Nash.

November 05, 2010

The proper measure

Random animal picture of Arpad chowing down on some old bones he found in the woods. I wouldn't look too closely at this picture if I was you.

"Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will" is one of my favorite sayings. It's attributed to the French writer Romaine Rolland and was also a favorite of Antonio Gramsci. I think this combination of apparently opposing attitudes works pretty well in dealing with social problems.

Pessimism of the intellect, as I interpret it anyhow, involves a hard-headed, totally realistic appraisal of the world and the current situation, without any kind of sugar coating. It's a good remedy against naive optimism, which is one crime for which there is no evidence whatsoever to convict me. Optimism of the will means the determination to do something about it, and the belief that one has a chance at some degree of success.

A few years back, I worked on a project that involved interviewing people about hope. In doing background research on the psychological literature, I came across this a book by Ezra Stotland titled The Psychology of Hope. In it, he had a great definition that works for me. Hope, he said, was "an expectation greater than zero of achieving a goal."

Pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will is a pretty good approach to lots of different situations. It may be particularly appropriate to the current social climate.

A MAJOR FIGHT IS BREWING over the federal budget. Deficit hawks in Congress could imperil economic recovery by slashing human needs spending. Here are some facts about the federal deficit.

NOT BIG ENOUGH. Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research argues that failure to pass a big enough stimulus to generate jobs was a fatal mistake that contributed to the results of the recent election.

A BIT MORE AUDACITY might have helped a while back, Krugman argues. It might even help now.

WELFARE TO WHAT. Here's a good review of several recent books on what happened in the wake of welfare reform.


November 04, 2010

A Freudian slip

I love Freud. I don't really care whether his theories were right or not (although some of them seem to fit pretty good some of the time)--at least they are entertaining.

One aspect of his thought that seems pretty solid is the one developed in the book The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. This is where he develops the idea that apparently meaningless and accidental things that slips of the tongue (or what some of my friends call "mouthographical errors") or in writing, mistaken actions, losing or forgetting things and such express unconscious thoughts and ideas.

These are the Freudian slips, in other words, where the cat gets out of the bag whether the holder wants it to or not. It can happen to the best of us. It happened to me yesterday.

Right here.

After being up late watching election returns and then getting up early, I banged out a red-eyed post-election analysis, starting with Senator-elect Joe Manchin's race. I meant to write that Manchin handily defeated his Republican challenger John Raese, but this is what came out:

"Governor Joe Manchin handily defeated Republican challenger Joe Manchin for the late Robert C. Byrd's senate seat."

This is what happens when you don't get enough sleep. I corrected it almost as soon as I posted it but some people saw the not-ready-for-prime-time version. A friend who saw it even thought it was clever.

The unconscious is pretty clever. In this case, it really was a classical Freudian slip in that it expressed something I probably really thinking about the whole thing.

A GOOD QUESTION. Given all the talk about taking back America, a retired rabbi who served in the Charleston asks a good question: which American are we talking about?

HEALTH CARE. The former director of the OMB calls for saving health care reform here.



November 03, 2010

A slow news day--updated

Note: I apologize to Goat Rope email subscribers for filling their inbox but had to correct a type/Freudian slip in the second paragraph.

Golly, yesterday must have been a slow news day. I can't think of much to write about. I guess I'll have to improvise.

Here's my quick take on the elections, starting with El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia. First Governor Joe Manchin handily defeated Republican challenger John Raese for the late Robert C. Byrd's senate seat, although the race itself was a lot closer than most people expected. This means that state senate president Earl Ray Tomblin from Logan County will take over as governor, although it's not clear that he'll hold that seat until 2012 or whether there will be a special election between now and then.

There were ugly undertones to this race, some of which seemed to be racial in nature, as this WV News Service story suggests. Among these were signs equating Manchin with Obama (the signs were black on white). Still all that and tons of outside money weren't enough. The Manchin campaign seemed to get off to a slow start and sometimes appeared to try to outflank Raese from the right, a distinct impossibility, but eventually got on pace, even developing a sense of humor.

Manchin's victory was considered key to keeping a Democratic majority in the Senate, although his stands might occasionally drive his fellow Democrats crazy. In another time and place, Manchin might have been a moderate Republican. I always tell people from out of state who ask about him that as governor he's had good days and bad days, although in fairness his administration has been fairly accessible and he genuinely wants to reach out to as many (different) people as possible.

It was also interesting that southern WV congressman Nick Rahall handily defeated his Republican challenger Elliot "Spike" Maynard, again despite lots of outside money and the financial support of corporations like Massey Energy. If you recall, Maynard lost his state supreme court seat in 2008 after pictures emerged of him vacationing with Massey CEO Don Blankenship in Monaco. This marks the third indirect (or maybe not so indirect) defeat in a row for Blankenship.

As expected, Republican congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito kept her 2nd district seat. Republican candidate David McKinley narrowly defeated former state senator Mike Oliverio in the first district after longtime Democratic incumbent Alan Mollohan lost the primary. Oliverio was a conservative, pro-business candidate who alienated labor and other progressives in the legislature and he ran without their support. Some unions even endorsed his opponent and many others were indifferent to the outcome.

There was no Republican blowout at the state legislative level. Republicans appear to have gained four seats in the house, bringing their total to 33 out of 100 delegates. Democrats gained two seats in the state senate, bringing the total to 29 out of 34.

Democrat Tom McHugh retained his state supreme court seat in a close race with challenger John Yoder, a contest that was distinguished by its relative civility.

I will make only one comment about a US senate race in another state. Nevada senator Harry Reid survived a tough fight with Tea Party challenger Sharron Angle. I found it oddly amusing that among those who campaigned hard for Reid were mixed martial artists associated with the popular Ultimate Fighting Championship. Here's a little snip from Politico:

"The UFC is one of the most powerful brands in the world for reaching 18- to 30-year-olds," Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller said. "Anytime a candidate gets their endorsement, it sends a powerful message to that demographic."

Reid, a former boxer, apparently found some kindred spirits among UFC brawlers.

Moving on to national issues and struggles, here are just a few that appear to lie ahead:

*deficits versus recovery. Many economists (not to mention regular humans) fear that cuts in public spending could slow down the economic recovery and job growth. This is going to be a major issue given the new majority in the US House;

*health care reform versus repeal. The new majority has made no secret of its desire to repeal health care reform. They don't have enough of a majority to prevail in the Senate or to override a presidential veto, but they could attack funding streams. This will be a challenge all round, as many aspects of reform will probably prove to be quite popular, although major changes aren't scheduled to kick in until 2014. This will be a major fight.

*Social Security and Medicare. Those who enjoyed the 2005 fight to preserve Social Security can take consolation in the probability of having to take that on again.

*climate change. I have a feeling that the world has a relative short window to get its act together on this and that the first decade of the 21st century was pretty much wasted. I wouldn't hold out a lot of hope for the second decade either at this point. If this is going to go anywhere, there needs to be a movement behind it. And a lot of work has to be done here and in other energy producing states to figure out ways to deal with all the complicated issues of environment, energy, and economy.

Interesting times, huh?

November 02, 2010


There are all kinds of jokes about political corruption and election hijinks in West Virginia. One that you can't get through an election year without hearing several times is "Vote early, vote often. And remember--it's not the way they're cast, it's the way they're counted."

Then there all the jokes about dead people voting, particularly in the southern counties.

(Speaking as a native, I don't see what the big deal is about casting ballots for dead people, provided you vote for them the way they would have voted themselves. It's kind of like the hillbilly version of the communion of saints. Switching parties on the dead or voting for somebody they'd hate, however, should be punished severely. That's just wrong.)

Still and all, y'all know what day it is and what to do, if you haven't already done it.

HELL HAS BEEN DEFINED as truth realized too late. The reality of climate change might be like that too.

NOT THAT REALITY MATTERS, but here's one of WV's best state senators talking sense on health care reform.

BULLYING GOES POST-MODERN. This Gazette item looks at bullying, cyber as well as old school.

PRAYER AND MORE are discussed in the latest edition of the Rev. Jim Lewis' Notes from Under the Fig Tree (although I'd still like to see him fit under the fig trees at Goat Rope Farm and take notes--they are low riders).


November 01, 2010


El Cabrero was fated to be a Civil War geek by a combination of geography and genetics. My beloved home state of West Virginia was born out of it and parts of that state were passed back and forth like a football during the conflict.

Fault lines from the conflict ran through my family, my mother being a staunch Unionist who had no use for the Lost Cause, quite unlike those on my father's side of the family. According to family tradition, I had relatives on both sides, the most prominent being a minor Confederate hero who made it into the pages of a history of Tazewell County, Virginia.

I'll take the North for the politics and the South for the personalities.

As the 150th anniversary of the war approaches, we're going to be hearing a lot about anniversaries of various events. One is coming up this week, Nov. 6 being the anniversary of the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln. That may give a sense of perspective about the coming election on Tuesday. Yeah, this cycle may be divisive but compared to the one 150 years ago, it's pretty tame.

ON THAT NOTE, here's an op-ed on the subject by the author of the fun book Confederates in the Attic.

MORALIZING about the economy could prolong the slump.

SANITY ON THE MALL. Here's a look at this weekend's Washington rally for sanity and/or fear.