October 19, 2007


For first time readers, this blog generally covers 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 Stewpot Rooster, culture warrior. Stewpot is director of the Goat Rope Farm Family Values Coalition and is an ardent supporter of the recent effort to ban books at Nitro High School and anywhere else for that matter.

It is our hope that by providing room for the expression of (bio) diverse viewpoints, we are reducing the tragic polarization of our times and promoting a climate of deep listening and profound mutual respect.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed by talking animals are not necessarily those of the Goat Rope staff or management.


It's about time they got around to banning books around here. Books are stupid anyway. Once people start reading them, they get all kinds of crazy ideas.

You don't want your precious innocent children having ideas do you? I didn't think so. It's been proven over and over again that ideas lead to thinking and thinking leads to harder stuff.

How else do you think the weaselly bunch of pointed headed swishy pinko liberals are going to succeed in taking over the country if they don't get people to think? First, they get your kids reading, then they turn em into a bunch of gibbering homosexuals, then they take your guns. Then it'll be too late!

Goodbye Hank Jr., hello show tunes...

All I can say is, not on my watch!



Caption: Seamus McGoogle is a Nietzschean Uber-Cat.

This week's Goat Rope has featured nuggets from Nietzsche along with link and comments about current events. Even though he was way out there sometimes, he had his moments.

If memory serves, the English phrase "parting shots" is derived from the term "Parthian shots." This refers to the tactic of ancient Persian cavalry to turn and shoot unexpectedly when appearing to flee.

El Cabrero had trouble coming up with a single parting shot from Beyond Good and Evil to close out the week, so here are a few to ponder:

One is punished most for one's virtues.

The belly is the reason man does not so easily take himself for a god.

Who has not for the sake of his reputation- sacrificed himself?

Under conditions of peace the warlike man attacks himself.

Mature manhood: that means to have rediscovered the seriousness one had as a child at play.

One ought to depart from life as Odysseus departed from Nausicaa--blessing rather than in love with it.

CHIP GAINS VOTES BUT NOT ENOUGH to override Bush's veto. Here's how they voted. I guess the president wanted to save the money for a worthier cause such as his unnecessary war in...

IRAQ. This neat video against the war was reportedly produced by a 16 year old.

MAKING SENSE. This op-ed on the global economy by WV delegate Nancy Guthrie is worth a look.

HEARTBREAKING...NOT. From AP's Lawrence Messina's recent story about Massey CEO Don Blankenship:

Don Blankenship believes he cannot remain chairman, CEO and president of Massey Energy Co. and stay involved in West Virginia politics ---- unless he prevails in his federal lawsuit against Gov. Joe Manchin, his lawyers contend in the pending case.

The mere contemplation of such a loss causes El Cabrero to grow faint. Excuse me whilst I revive myself with smelling salts...

OK, I'm back.

IT'S EASY BEING NOT GREEN. El Cabrero is not usually a big fan of state rankings by business magazines like Forbes. But I believe this one...


The Internal Revenue Service recently released its fun-filled report on 2005 individual income taxes. The headline is that the super-rich were even more super than in any year since 1986 when the IRS first had comparable data. The news pages of The Wall Street Journal duly took note, but not many others did.

The top 1 percent of all taxpayers earned 21.2 percent of all the money that individuals in the country earned in 2005. So one-hundredth of the taxpayers earned one-fifth of all income. (The data are available here.)

That's a relief, huh? The rest of the story is here.

MORE ON CENSORSHIP from John Milton:

As good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's Image: but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself, kills the Image of God, as it were, in the eye.

That one goes out to WV's domestic Taliban for its latest book banning stunt (see yesterday's post).


October 18, 2007


Caption: The consequences of our actions are sometimes distinctly uncool.

This week, in addition to links and comments about current events, Goat Rope is offering its readers a daily Nietzschean nugget from his book Beyond Good and Evil.

Admittedly, Nietzsche was kind of whacked at times, but when he was good, he was very, very good.

Today's selection highlights one of the irritating things about life:

The consequences of our actions take us by the scruff of the neck, altogether indifferent to the fact that we have 'improved' in the meantime.

I hate it when that happens. Don't you?

PEOPLE SUPPORT CHIP. A new survey shows overwhelming support for expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program (70 percent) and most (64 percent) support overriding the Bush veto.

HEALTH CARE and growing inequality is the subject of this column by WVU-Tech's John David.

YOU WOULDN'T KNOW IT given all the bashing of public education these days, but African-American students have made significant progress in closing the achievement gap according to this EPI snapshot.

OH GOOD. In yesterday's Gazette, no less than two leaders of the religious right have issued fatwas against the infidel.

One called for the banning of Pat Conroy's novels from AP English classes. Now I haven't read Conroy and no doubt would have picked something different since I'm an unapologetic member of the let-them-eat-classics school of literature. I've even tortured more than one GED class by making them read Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" aloud.

But that's not the point. It does not appear to have occurred to the people in question that vastly more harm has been done by people not reading than by reading, not to mention the harm done by censorship itself. Congratulations to the students who attended a school board meeting last night to assert their opposition to censorship.

The other one was mostly about the the "radical homosexual agenda to force their decadent lifestyle upon the citizenry at large." It also castigated some members of Congress for "normalizing and recognizing sodomy as a civil rights entitlement..." (Note to self: look up some legal definitions).

Another target was the recent action of the Charleston City Council to pass a measure opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The piece also managed to come out in favor of the death penalty.

It occurs to me that there are certain regimes around the world which share the priorities of these groups and which they might perhaps find more congenial to their felicity.

ON A RELATED NOTE. There are groups in WV, such as Create West Virginia, which have argued that if WV is going to attract creative people and investments and build a high road economy, we need to be open to diversity.

Let's imagine how the actions of the domestic Taliban might look to someone from outside considering West Virginia. They might say "Hmmmm. They like to ban books there. Maybe they'll get around to burning them soon. And they seem to hate x group there, but tomorrow it might be y or z. Thanks but no thanks."

TO CLEAR THE PALATE, it looks like the humble sea cucumber could teach us a lot about tissue regeneration. And it looks like going to the beach and eating seafood is an older tradition than we thought.


October 17, 2007


Caption: This guy can't remember where he was going but won't admit it.

In addition to comments and links about current events, this week's Goat Rope provides a daily dose of Nietzschean nuggets for your dining and dancing pleasure from his odd little book Beyond Good and Evil.

Even though Nietzsche had a mental breakdown in his later years and was arguably unsteady all along, he had some occasional great psychological insights which have been appreciated by Freud, Jung and many others.

Today's selection highlights the pliability of our memory. It's long been known that autobiographies are anything but objective accounts of past events and that two or more people who experienced the same events will have widely differing memories of them.

How does that happen?

'I have done that,' says my memory. 'I cannot have done that'--says my pride, and remains adamant. At last--memory yields.

CALLING CONGRESS. If you haven't already, please consider calling your representatives today using AFSC’s toll free number: 1-800-965-4701 and urge them to override President Bush's CHIP veto. All WV's delegation is on board but congresspeople from other states need a push.

THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR ECONOMICS went to members of the reality-based community this year. Winners included Eric Maskin, Leonid Hurwicz, and Roger Myerson who studied the limits of the market for delivering public goods (like education and health care). Here's an excerpt from Reuters:

Societies should not rely on market forces to protect the environment or provide quality health care for all citizens, a winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for economics said on Monday.

Professor Eric Maskin, one of three American economists to receive the award, said that he "to some extent" takes issue with free-market orthodoxy championed by U.S President George W. Bush and some other western leaders.

"The market doesn't work very well when it comes to public goods," said Maskin, a slight, soft-spoken 57-year-old who lives in a house once occupied by Albert Einstein.

Adam Smith said pretty much the same thing in his 1776 Wealth of Nations, but this empirical work is welcome and needed these days.

WOMEN STILL LAG behind men in earnings despite gains in educational attainment. One equalizer seems to be a union card.


Seniors and other taxpayers could have saved nearly $15 billion this year if the government slashed administrative costs in the Medicare drug program and negotiated the same kind of discounts it does for poor people under Medicaid...

BONUS VAMPIRE FEATURE. If you're wired for sound, here's an amusing NPR story on the many faces of Dracula.

DINOSAUR UPDATE. We interrupt previously scheduled programming to report on the discovery of a new dinosaur that

was as tall as a four-story building. From nose to tail it was longer than a pair of tractor trailer trucks laid end-to-end -- or, if you're a dinosaur junkie, half again the length of a small brontosaurus.

The beast was unearthed in Patagonia and is believed to have lived around 80 million years ago.

UNEMPLOYMENT AT RECORD LOW IN WV. WV's Chicken Littles keep trying to create a climate of panic in the hope that this will give them the opening to unleash their version of economic shock and awe. Alas for them, the news isn't all bad all the time.

SINCE YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN PRETTY GOOD TODAY, here's a special treat via YouTube: Jesse Jackson reading from Green Eggs and Ham.

YOU TELL ME where else you can find a blog with Nietzsche, dinosaurs, Dracula, and Dr. Seuss all in the same post...


October 16, 2007


Caption: This is a mad crowd.

This week, in addition to news and links on current events, El Cabrero is passing out nuggets from the less whacked out portions of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil for your entertainment and edification.

Is this a full service blog or what?

I may have used today's selection before but it's another one that should be widely posted in public places to remind us of the dangers of group behavior:

Madness is something rare in individuals--but in groups, parties, peoples, ages it is the rule.

Although we are social animals and not all groups are nasty, it is the official Goat Rope verdict that the dude wasn't too far off the mark. Aside from the occasional sociopath, people tend to be fairly harmless taken one at a time. Put a bunch of us together at the same time and place, add a few other choice ingredients, and all bets are off.

(Note: the positive and negative sides of group behavior are frequent Goat Rope themes. If you're interested, search the blog for tags such as group psychology, group behavior, conflict, conformity, obedience.)

GAPS. According to a new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, millions of low wage Americans struggle to make ends meet due to the gap between employer-provided wages and benefits and public work support programs. Here's a shorter article on the subject by CEPR's Heather Boushey.

ON TOP OF ALL THAT, workplace stress can be lethal.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS HOLD THEIR OWN. According to a Washington Post article on study released last week,

Low-income students who attend urban public high schools generally do just as well as private-school students with similar backgrounds, according to a study being released Wednesday.

Students at independent private schools and most parochial schools scored the same on 12th-grade achievement tests in core academic subjects as those in traditional public high schools when income and other family characteristics were taken into account, according to the study by the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy.

There's been a lot of public school bashing in the last few years, but the study found that when one controls for factors such as parental involvement, the difference in achievement between public and private schools tends to evaporate.

CHURCHES WEIGH IN. The West Virginia Council of Churches issued a statement on mountaintop removal mining last week. It stopped short of calling for abolition but urged strict enforcement of existing laws and opposed their weakening. Here's AP coverage and here's the statement.

AMERICA IN A FUNK? Some public opinion surveys would indicate one. This is a good follow-up to last week's series on optimism and pessimism.

IT'S ALL GOOD. Here's one on Reaganomics from The Onion.


October 15, 2007


Caption: Don't look into this one very long.

El Cabrero has been hanging out with Nietzsche again. This time, it's his 1886 work, Beyond Good and Evil.

It's been a while since I've cracked that one open and this time around it kinda seems all over the place. If I was forced to say what it was about at gunpoint, I'd have to say it had something to do with morality, knowledge and psychology.

The great thing about reading Nietzsche, however disturbed and disturbing he was, is that he has some awesome one liners. I'll be serving up a few on this week's Goat Rope.

One of my all time favorites from that book has been widely quoted but should be known more widely still. Here goes:

He who fights monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into the abyss the abyss also gazes into you.

That one (especially the first part) should be posted pretty much everywhere to remind us of the danger of becoming like what we hate. It happens over and over in so many different ways.

In the post 9/11 U.S., some defenders of "freedom" led the country into a prolonged flirtation with authoritarianism. Many an anti-war activist develops a stridency and militarism of spirit. Many social movements that began with a desire for justice have committed horrible injustices. Opponents of bigotry can become intolerant, just as opponents of despotism can become despotic.

I'm not sure what the antidote is other than awareness of that danger.

CRACKPOT ECONOMICS. Here's a good review of Jonathan Chait's The Big Con by Tom White that appeared in the Sunday Gazette-Mail

JOBS AND DEPRESSION. Some jobs carry greater risks of depression for workers than others, according to this AP article.

Here's some excerpts:

People who tend to the elderly, change diapers and serve up food and drinks have the highest rates of depression among U.S. workers.

Overall, 7 percent of full-time workers battled depression in the past year, according to a government report available Saturday.

Women were more likely than men to have had a major bout of depression, and younger workers had higher rates of depression than their older colleagues.

Specifically around 11 percent of personal care workers "which includes child care and helping the elderly and severely disabled with their daily needs" had bouts of depression lasting two weeks or longer. Next came at 10.3 percent came people who prepare and serve food. Social workers and health care workers tied for third at 9.6 percent.

Interestingly, engineers, architects and surveyors had the least depression, with a rate of 4.3 percent. Have you taken your trigonometry pill today?

I notice they didn't bother to survey goatherds...

NEW WV PEACE RESOURCE. The West Virginia Peace News Net just launched on the web and is worth checking out with lots of news, information and links. On the masthead is a quote by Gandhi:

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

ABORTION is a controversial issue which has often been cynically exploited for political gain. According to the AP, a new international study found that

Women are just as likely to get an abortion in countries where it is outlawed as they are in countries where it is legal, according to research published Friday.

It's another reminder that there's a big difference between making something illegal and making it go away.

IRAQ. Here's an interesting article from the NY Times about current debates and soul searching on the Iraq war among U.S. officers. And I couldn't pass up this article on the effect of the war on the native cat population--a group occupying the land where cats first domesticated people.

Y'all be careful out there today.