September 21, 2007


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

This week, we are pleased to introduce a new commentator, Ethel Fuzzy Chicken, the Poultry Paleontologist. Ms. Fuzzy Chicken is our resident paleontologist and all round science expert. Her topic this week is a recent discovery regarding the dinosaur known as velociraptor.

It is our deepest hope that (bio) diverse features such as this will promote a greater appreciation of both the humanities and the animalities.


Hey--check this out. This is so awesome! Do you remember that movie Jurassic Park? Remember those velociraptor thingies? The ones that could chase you down and cut your gizzard out in a heartbeat?

That was cool.

Well, anyway, check this out. Oh, wait, I already said that. My bad. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the velociraptor--well, get this--they just found out that they had quill knobs on their bones.

You probably don't know anything about quill knobs. That's cause you're probably a mammal.

Jeez, you guys think we're stupid. Whatever...

But anyway--where was I?--oh yeah, quill knobs mean it had FEATHERS!!!

You remember feathers, right? Those cool things you mammals are too stupid to have?

Does anybody else you know have feathers? Hmmm, wait a minute. Let me think. Birds have feathers. I have feathers. That means it was a bird like me. Just like me! That means I'm just like it! That's right. I'm BAD. Nobody better mess with me or I'll eat their gizzard.



Caption: "The lust of the goat is the bounty of God."--Blake (Note: God was not available for comment.)

Welcome to William Blake Week at Goat Rope. If this is your first visit, please click on the earlier entries.

As mentioned yesterday, one of Blake's strongest and oddest works is The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

To put it mildly, Blake had a unique way of looking at the world. He saw Heaven as representing passivity and reason and hell as representing energy and activity. He thought we needed some of both.

Some of his oddest sayings from this work are called The Proverbs of Hell. Yesterday's post included a few of these. Here are some more:

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Expect poison from the standing water.

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.

Listen to the fools reproach! it is a kingly title!

As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.

To create a little flower is the labour of ages.

Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of Genius.

Some of the rest are even odder than these. Check them out and enjoy!

And here's a parting shot:

One Law for the Lion & Ox is Oppression

ANTHROPOLOGY UPDATE. El Cabrero is still reeling from the fact that anthropology is actually a practical college major these days. Back in the Paleozoic era of my days at (we are) Marshall, being an anthropology major meant you weren't thinking too hard about a day job. Recently, as blogged here, social scientists and ethnologists have been recruited both by major corporations (from science to marketing) and by the military.

However, a new ad hoc group has formed called the Network of Concern Anthropologists. They have issues a statement urging fellow social scientists not to participate in the war in Iraq. Excerpt:

The War in Iraq has created a dangerous situation not only for the nation but also for the discipline of anthropology. The Department of Defense and allied agencies are mobilizing anthropologists for interventions in the Middle East and beyond. It is likely that larger, more permanent initiatives are in the works.

I think our so-called leaders might be a little less inclined to imperial hubris if they had a better understanding of other cultures and of social science generally, but I doubt that social scientists could play a critical role if they just another part of the system.

TENS OF THOUSANDS of people converged on Jena, Louisiana protesting the treatment of the "Jena 6" high school students by the criminal justice system after a series of racial conflicts was sparked after white students hung nooses from a tree.

IN CASE YOU EVER WONDERED how baby sea turtles spent their formative years, the answer is here.

SPEAKING OF THE IRAQ WAR, which was a really bad idea, the number of internal refugees there is now estimated at 2 million.

I KNOW THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE AN ECONOMIC JUSTICE BLOG, but remember those Indonesian "hobbit" bones found a few years back? Well, on the basis of more discoveries, they appear to have been a distinct species that branched off from our kin around 800,000 years ago and lived in caves 120,000 to 10,000 years ago.

SPEAKING OF GOAT ROPES, here's an article on WV's "revamped" Medicaid program.


September 20, 2007


Caption: "The pride of the peacock is the glory of God."--Blake

One of William Blake's stranger short works is The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which was written between 1790 and 1793. For him, Heaven seemed to symbolize reason and passivity, while hell meant energy and activity.

Note: Blake's theology, like his art, is highly idiosyncratic. To say the least.

He believed that people need both:

Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.
From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason Evil is the active springing from Energy.
Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.

Here's part of the text (minus the art).

Some of his most striking passages are from a section of this work called The Proverbs of Hell. These are short, kind of Zenlike epigrams that seem to anticipate the insights of Freud, Nietzsche, and others. Here's a sample:

Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.

Eternity is in love with the productions of time.

If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.

Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with the bricks of Religion.

What is now proved was once, only imagin'd.

One thought fills immensity.

The eagle never lost so much time. as when he submitted to learn of the crow.

Pretty strong stuff, huh? More is on the way tomorrow.

POSSIBLE MOTIVE IN THE MEGAN WILLIAMS CASE. This is from today's New York Times.

DON'T TELL MY QUAKER EMPLOYERS, but El Cabrero is a big fan of Machiavelli, who has an undeservedly bad reputation. He supported republican forms of government and was even tortured for it. One theme of his was that it was a really bad thing for republics to rely on mercenaries. Speaking of which...

RISKS OF ORGANIZING: According to an international federation of labor unions,

Nearly 150 labour activists were killed worldwide in 2006, a new global trade union said in a report Tuesday outlining a rising tide of violence and harassment against unionists across the globe.

The number killed of activists killed rose to 144 from 115 in 2005, while 800 were injured or tortured and more than 5,000 arrested and 500 jailed, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said.A single country, Colombia, accounted for more than half the victims with 78 unionists killed last year, according to the ITUC’s first annual survey of rights violations since being founded in November 2006.

ARE YOUR FARM ANIMALS TERRORISTS? Don't worry--the Bush administration and big agribusiness are on the case! As Jim Hightower puts it, "This is Animal Farm meets the Marx Brothers!" On the other hand, I trust our goats about as far as I could throw them...

HEALTH INSURANCE A GROWTH INDUSTRY. According to the Economic Policy Institute's latest snapshot:

Economist Paul Krugman and many others have suggested that the health insurance industry has a lot to do with the excessive cost of U.S. health care. As Krugman describes the industry, an important part of its business model is collecting premiums while denying deserving claims and seeking out reasons to exclude patients from coverage they need. It takes a lot of extra employees to do this socially questionable work, and the industry's employment has grown like a weed over the past 10 years.

From August 1997 to August 2007, employment in the health insurance industry grew an astounding 52%, from 293,000 to 444,000.... During the same period, employment among physicians, nurses, and others who provide health services or work to support them grew half as fast, by 26%, from 10,387,000 to 13,042,000. Employment in the economy as a whole grew even more slowly, by only 12% over the same 10-year period... The ratio of health insurance industry employees to health service providers grew from 28 insurance employees per 1,000 provider employers, to 34 per 1,000.


September 19, 2007


For several years, El Cabrero taught GED classes at Head Start centers in southern West Virginia. I got more out of it than my students, although several did graduate.

For one thing, I finally learned how to do ratio and proportion problems (cross multiply and divide).

For the literature part of the test, I would often bring in some of Blake's poems from Songs of Innocence and of Experience, which were nearly always enjoyed. There's something very accessible about Blake's style, even if his deeper meaning is hard to comprehend.

It was always interesting to see which poems different students would gravitate towards. One that often brought people to tears was "The Chimney Sweeper" from Songs of Innocence. For some historical background on the nasty, brutish and short lives of young chimney sweepers in Blake's England, click here.

Here is is:

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved: so I said,
"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair."

And so he was quiet; and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight, -
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

And by came an angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins and set them all free;
Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind;
And the angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father, and never want joy.

And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark,
And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm;
So if all do their duty they need not fear harm.

I think the thing that really got to them was the image of their daily life as a living death--coffins of black--and that they could only play like children in their dreams.

CHARGES UPGRADED IN LOGAN CASE. From the Charleston Gazette:

Prosecutors upgraded charges on Tuesday against five of the six suspects accused of torturing and sexually abusing a 20-year-old Charleston woman in Logan County.

Each of the six defendants now faces accusations of first-degree sexual assault and kidnapping, which carry maximum terms of 35 years and life in prison, respectively, among other charges.

ANOTHER TAKE ON GLOBALIZATION. Here's former labor secretary Robert Reich's analysis of supercapitalism, its threat to democracy, and what to do about it.

WHO'D A THUNK IT? This Business Week article shows how cell phone technology is stimulating local ecnonomie in the developing world. I just wish mine worked where I live...

OKAY. A Nebraska state senator filed suit against God. Who's going to serve the papers? and how? And wasn't there a movie about that?


September 18, 2007


What immortal hand or eye...?

The poems from William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience have the ability to speak to all kinds of people and to people of all ages.

When El Cabrero's daughter was only a little thing, she had memorized most of this one:

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And What shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Alas, between childhood and adolesence, something happened. When I asked her about the poem in the midst of her "cheerleader rage" years (a term she coined), this is what she came up with:

Tyger Tyger burning bright
In the forest of the night
I wish I may I wish I might
Get the wish I wish tonight...

In the spirit of the scientific method, of which Blake wasn't too fond, I can't say the cheerleading caused the mutation. But the correlation is there...

BLACK LUNG CASES INCREASE. This article by Ken Ward came out last week:

Black lung disease rates among U.S. coal miners have doubled in the last decade, according to new federal government data released this week.

Occupational safety experts say the figures reveal a troubling reversal from a quarter-century of success in fighting the deadly disease.

Ten years ago, about 4 percent of miners with 25 or more years of experience were diagnosed with the disease; now the figure is 9 percent.

Between 1993 and 2002, nearly 2,300 West Virginia miners died of black lung. West Virginia recorded the highest age-adjusted black lung death rate nationwide during that period, according to NIOSH reports.

The United Mine Workers union is seeking tougher regulations on underground air quality.

UPDATE ON THE LOGAN CASE More charges are likely to be filed against those accused of kidnapping, torturing and sexually abusing Megan Williams.

THE MORAL SENSE--Is it innate? And what does it consist of? Here's an interesting article about this scientific controversy.

CHIP VS. VETO. The House and Senate are nearing a compromise on expanding the Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP), although a veto threat from the Bush administration still hangs in the air.

ON THAT NOTE, here's an update on upcoming votes in Congress from the Coalition on Human Needs.

ONE MORE THING. Congratulations and a thank you to WV Governor Joe Manchin, who was one of 30 governors to sign on to a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services in support of the CHIP program.


September 17, 2007


A while back, El Cabrero received a suggestion from a Goat Rope reader and generally shady character to spend a week writing about the radical mystical English poet William Blake, who lived from 1757 to 1827 (along with links and comments about current events).

I figure you could do a lot worse...

I first stumbled on Blake while browsing through my hometown public library decades ago. I thumbed through a book of weird illustrations and almost nursery-rhyme type poems that hit hard and fast.

The first one that I laid my eyes on was about the fruits of nurturing anger and hatred:


I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water'd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with my smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veil'd the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree

I was pretty much hooked after that and remember asking "Who is this guy?" I've waded through a biography or two sense then but keep going back to that question. Suffice it to say that he was a really strange and revolutionary artist who regularly had visions of angels, devils, fairies, ghosts (including the ghost of a flea), and the divine.

Blake left quite a body of poetry and art, much of it very dense and obscure, but I've found enough to mull over for this lifetime anyway in The Songs of Innocence and of Experience and a very strange short work titled "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell."

To quote Bob Marley, they were "light like a feather/heavy as lead."

SPEAKING OF POISON, HATE AND ANGER, people in West Virginia and Logan County in particular are still stunned by the brutality visited on Megan Williams, an African American woman who was kidnapped, sexually abused and tortured for a week. Six arrests have been made in the case and all the suspects are white. For background, check the links in last week's posts.

This Saturday, I attended a public meeting at Cora in Logan County about the case. Speakers included representatives of the national, state and local NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Logan County Improvement League, the Charleston Ministerial Alliance, and others. Here's the Gazette report.

Some community residents were concerned over the apparent decision of the prosecutor not to pursue hate crime charges against the suspects. However, representatives of some of the groups listed above met for three hours with the prosecutor Friday and were satisfied that the suspects would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that for technical reasons a stronger case could be made for kidnapping, sexual assault, and other charges. Kidnapping alone can carry a maximum sentence of life under WV law.

Short summary of the speakers' key points:

*The law enforcement system worked in this case. Sheriff's deputies investigated as soon as they received a report that a woman was being held against her will. Six arrests were made within 24 hours.

*A $100,000 cash bond has been set for the suspects and it is considered unlikely that they will be able to meet this.

*This action was the depraved crime of a few individuals and not an indictment of the people of Logan County or West Virginia.

*The sheriff's department has established a fund to assist the victim and another fund is likely to be set up soon in Charleston, probably with the help of representatives of the Charleston Ministerial Alliance.

*Local residents should try to unite to respond positively to this tragedy and try to bring about positive changes.

MINING POLL. A new poll shows that two thirds of Americans oppose the Bush administration's rule change favoring mountaintop removal mining.

UNLEASHING WHATEVER. Here are two good op-eds criticizing the cult of the market god as advocated in Unleashing Capitalism. The first looks at its idealized picture of life in the coal camps and the second slams its tax cut mania.