October 14, 2006


This weekend we are pleased to introduce alpine goat Cornelius Agrippa, Goat Rope Farm Dean of Classical and Alchemistical Studies.

Cornelius, who scorns academic titles, will provide the next few weekend commentaries on ancient Greek culture, with a particular focus on Greek drama.

This is part of Goat Rope's ceaseless efforts to elevate popular discourse and promote a greater appreciation of both the humanities and the animalities.


Do you know why the Greeks were so much cooler than you guys? It's because of the goats. Ancient Greeks were all about goats.

If it wasn't for goats, there wouldn't have even been any Greek gods. Zeus, the king of the gods, was actually taken care of when he was a baby by the goat Amaltheia when he was hiding from his old man Cronus in Crete.

Zeus liked her so much he put her in the stars as Capricorn. He even borrowed one of her horns which became the cornucopia, the horn of plenty. We taught him everything he knew and then he taught the rest of them.

This is the main reason why Greek gods are more fun and cooler to hang out with than any others. They're also less self righteous and bloodthirsty. Did you ever see a bloodthirsty or self righteous goat?

The Greek god Pan? Part goat, baby!

And did you know that the word tragedy comes from the Greek words for "goat song?" Greek drama grew out of the festival of Dionysus, god of wine, who had a thing for goats. His buddies were satyrs which were part...guess what?

But the Greeks weren't perfect. For one thing, they ate too much goat meat. And then they used goat skins to hold wine. That was way uncool. I say if you want to put wine in a goat skin, put it in a living one!


October 13, 2006


Caption: This man only wants to go to church to show off his silly hat. He's not a very good man.

We've heard a lot in the last two years about "values voters" and the role of religion in public life. Often the religious right gets top billing.

However, polling suggests that most Americans are able to distinguish between religion and rabies. According to a poll released in June 2006 by Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress,

71% of voters strongly agree that "Americans are becoming too materialistic," including 71% of Democrats, 70% of Independents, and 72% of Republicans. (92% total agree.)

68% of voters strongly agree that the "government should be committed to the common good and put the public’s interest above the privileges of the few." (85% total agree.)

73% of Democrats, 62% of Independents, and 67% of Republicans strongly agree with a common good focus for government. A similar percentage of voters (68%) strongly agree that "government should uphold the basic decency and dignity of all and take greater steps to help the poor and disadvantaged in America." (89% total agree.)

There is often a big difference between the loudest voices and the wisest.


October 12, 2006


Caption: Seamus McGoogle prepares to break the chains of the working class. In a little while.

Here's a little more information about the recent National Labor Relations Board ruling which was the subject of Tuesday's post.

To recap briefly, the Oakwood Healthcare Inc. ruling would allow employers to classify workers without the power to hire and fire as "supervisors" and thus deprive them of union protection.

According to the Charleston Gazette,

The ruling "has created a new class of workers," says Larry Matheney, secretary treasurer of the West Virginia AFL-CIO. "But they are not supervisors--they are not entitled to the same benefits supervisors traditionally enjoy."

Two dissenting NLRB members agreed, saying that the decision made a new category of workers "who have neither the genuine prerogatives of management, nor the statutory rights of ordinary employees." They also predicted that the number of people in the new pseudo-supervisory category could reach 34 million by 2012--more than 23 percent of the workforce.

In El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia, the ruling could affect 16,339 workers right away, according to the Economic Policy Institute. This includes 6,667 registered and licensed practical nurses, 2,788 secretaries and office clerks, 1,989 cooks and chefs, 1,806 accountants and auditors, 1,044 electricians, 1,040 social workers and 1,006 cashiers.

WV AFL-CIO president Kenny Perdue said the ruling would be challenged in court.


October 11, 2006


Caption: Anyone can provoke a snapping turtle, but that doesn't make it a good idea.

Years ago, El Cabrero used to work in a place that was sometimes frequented by disturbed and scary individuals.

It was part of my job at times to persuade them that they wanted to leave.

(It wasn't a bar, by the way--it was a public library.)

The trick to dealing with people like that, as a co-worker put it, was "Never corner a crazy person." He explained that if you back a potentially dangerous person into a corner, he or she (usually he) is likely to think there is no recourse but to attack.

(Note: the term "crazy" is not intended to refer to people with mental disorders.)

Since that time, I've tried to make "Never corner a crazy person" a regular practice. I've added two corollaries:

*We're all crazy from time to time; and

*Groups are even crazier than individuals.

The basic premises behind this idea are pretty simple: while we may not be able to improve a situation and/or make a friend, we are always able to make a situation worse and/or make an enemy.

Admittedly, in this sinful and fallen world, some people or groups may respond aggressively, irrationally, or destructively no matter what we do--and we should be prepared to deal with situations like that. But there is never an excuse for creating more problems than we already have.

And, to add a basic idea from the martial arts, one should never do anything which makes a potential opponent more powerful and/or more dangeorus than they already are.

That's not a good idea even from a hawkish point of view. But don't take my word for it--take Machiavelli's, who wrote in his Discourses that:

I hold it to be a sign of great prudence in men to refrain alike from threats and from the use of insulting language, for neither of these things deprives the enemy of his power, but the first puts him more on his guard, while the other intensifies his hatred of you and makes him more industrious in devising means to harm you.

This was another life lesson lost on the Bush administration. In the wake of the horrific Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, rather than rallying the powerful wave of sympathy for the U.S. and concentrating on those who attacked us, Presdient Bush in his 2002 State of the Union speech verbally attacked the "Axis of evil"--Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Whatever one can say about any of those regimes, none of them was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And this gratuitous slap has come back to haunt us.

The unnecessary war in Iraq has cost tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. And the belligerance of the administration has escalated the explosive potential of an already dangerous international situation in the cases of Iran and North Korea. That's the theme of this article from the Washington Post.

The saddest part is this: no matter what anyone does, it will be very hard to undo the damage.


October 10, 2006


Caption: Almost ready...Seamus McGoogle prepares to lead a workers' uprising (as soon as he wakes up).

Last week the National Labor Relations Board, which is dominated by enemies of the labor movement, issued a decision which could rob millions of workers of union protection.

On Oct. 3, the NLRB ruled in the Oakwood Healthcare, Inc. case that employers can reclassify workers as "supervisors," thus denying them the right to belong to unions.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that around 8 million workers in over 200 occupations could be affected by the ruling.

It's getting to the point where anyone who can say "Pass the salt, please" with a reasonable expectation of getting the salt passed can be classified as a supervisor.

For more on the ruling from the AFLCIO, click here.

As far as El Cabrero can tell, there are three things that can be done to remedy the situation:

*try to bypass the NLRB altogether in organizing drives by persuading or pressuring employers to accept the card check system, in which they would recognize union affiliation if the majority of workers sign a card indicating they want to join. Usually this is done with by agreeing to have a neutral party count and verify the tally.

*vote this November for representatives who support the Employee Free Choice Act, which would simplify organizing and provide stiffer penalties for employers who use intimidation and retaliation to block organizing drives.

*work to elect a candidate in 2008 who will restore balance to the NLRB and reverse the anti-labor policies of the last 5 years.


October 09, 2006


Caption: Seamus McGoogle prepares to mount the barricades in defense of the toiling masses. After this nap.

Twelve years after the passage of NAFTA, its promises remain unfulfilled for workers in the US, Mexico, and Canada.

In the US, workers were promised that the trade agreement would create jobs and improve the balance of trade between this country and Mexico and Canada.

The reality is starkly different, as the Economic Policy Institute reports.

Between 1994 and 2004 the NAFTA-related trade deficit grew year by year from $9 billion in 1993 to $112 billion. Gains in import-related jobs were far from equaling losses in export-related jobs.

The U.S. as a whole saw a net job creation of 941,459 due to NAFTA. Unfortunately, 1,956,750 jobs were lost. Altogether, EPI estimates a net loss of 1,015,290 jobs nationwide due to NAFTA over 10 years. This represents 0.8 percent of net employment.

A similar pattern is apparent in El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia, which saw 5,984 NAFTA-related jobs created and 11,918 jobs lost, for a net loss of 5,984.

But NAFTA has also caused problems for workers in Canada and Mexico. For a complete report and state-by-state information, check Revisiting NAFTA: Still not working for North America's Workers
NAFTA was the template for CAFTA, which has even worse provisions and which narrowly passed Congress in 2005. Similar trade deals are in the works unless people take action to stop them. This might be another reason to pay attention in November.