November 09, 2007


Note to first time visitors: it is the policy of this blog to discuss fairly serious human issues during the week. Weekends, however, are reserved for the contributions of various talking animals in and around Goat Rope Farm.

This weekend, we are pleased to welcome back Ferdinand the Love Peacock after a hiatus of several months. In the past, he has offered advice for the lovelorn but took a leave of absence when his feathers fell out in late summer.

Although winter has not yet begun, we are pleased to say that his eye feathers have once again begun to grow and that he is once more, like the state of West Virginia, open for business and thus will be able to reply to the urgent requests of those in need of his services.

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

Legal disclaimer: Goat Rope accepts no responsibility for the consequences of anyone acting upon the advice of any of its animal commentators.


Dear Ferdinand,

I've been dating this girl for a long time and we get along pretty good, but there's one thing about her that is driving me crazy and not in a good way. It's just that she has this mole on her nose that looks kind of like the state of Texas or maybe an armadillo. I don't like to look at it but when I look at her, it's hard to take my eyes off it.

So then I try to avoid making eye contact but then she gets mad when I don't want to look at her. I don't know what to do.

She's pretty much OK otherwise and I'd hate to let a mole come between us but it isn't going away. What do you suggest?


Baffled in Berkeley Springs

Dear Baffled,

I am continually amazed that you hairless primates manage to reproduce at all when you understand nothing at all of true love and courtship. Foolish, foolish little hominid, allow me to explain.

The point of love is not to look at your beloved but to make her look at you! It is the display and not the gaze which is of utmost importance. Do you think I care what someone looks like when I am displaying to then? Why then do you think I have spent many hours displaying to trees, rocks, chickens, and goats?

The point is this--poof up your tail feathers in a glorious circle and rattle them like a tambourine and turn to the rhythm of the turgid tides of love. This will solve your silly little problem.

Now go away and leave me alone. I must concentrate on growing my feathers back.


Ferdinand the Love Peacock



Photo credit: This photo of Auschwitz is by betauser courtesy of

The theme of this week's Goat Rope is some reflections on Victor Frankl's classic book, Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl, who lived until 1997, lost most of his family in the Holocaust and barely survived the concentration camps himself.

In this his most popular book, he recounts his experiences and observations and explains his view of psychology, which he called logotherapy from the Greek words for reason and healing.

If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

The last section of his book contains a little gem of an essay called "The Case for a Tragic Optimism." He maintains that it is possible to say yes to life in spite of its "tragic triad" of pain, guilt and death, all of which are pretty impossible bullets to dodge in this life.

He argues that

life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are the most miserable.

And by optimism, he means making the best of whatever the situation might be and however bad it might be. He believed that people had the potential for dealing with the tragic triad by

(1) turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment; (2) deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better; and (3) deriving from life's transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action.

Each of these approaches offers a sense of meaning. Specifically, he mentions three ways of arriving at meaning in life. One is by creating or accomplishing something. Another is by "experiencing something or encountering someone," i.e. through love and relationship. And the other is by facing hopeless situations with courage and dignity:

even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by doing so change himself.

Frankl also suggests that the past should be seen not as something that is hopelessly lost but rather as a source of consolation:

In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured. To be sure, people tend to see only the stubble fields of transitoriness but overlook and forget the full granaries of the past into which they have brought the harvest of their lives: the deeds done, the loves loved, and last but not least, the sufferings they have gone through with courage and dignity.

Check it out--it's worth it.


Opposition to the war in Iraq has reached an all-time high, according to the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Thursday morning.

Support for the war in Iraq has dropped to 31 percent, and the 68 percent who oppose the war is a new record, up slightly from last month. The last time a majority supported the war was in 2003, when 54 percent answered affirmatively...

But wait, there's more:

The public also opposes U.S. military action against Iran. Sixty-three percent oppose air strikes on Iran, while 73 percent oppose using ground troops as well as air strikes in that country.

Seventy percent said they oppose any military strike on Iran, slightly higher than a 2005 number of 66 percent but significantly higher than 2002's 23 percent.

SPEAKING OF PUBLIC OPINION, a new survey shows that more Americans are interested in ending poverty and hunger.

NEW SHADE OF GREEN. Here's an interesting item from The Nation about the growing link between practical environmentalism and social justice groups.

CATCHY TITLE. El Cabrero had trouble passing up an article with the title "Torture: the New Abortion." Maybe you will too.

UPDATE ON THE MEGAN WILLIAMS CASE. The prosecutor in Logan County is requesting a hearing to appoint a guardian ad litem for Megan Williams.

EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN with crossword puzzles? According to this op-ed, you may do even better by going to the gym or out for a jog. (Reading Goat Rope, however, has been proven improve just about everything.)

THIS JUST IN: Japanese scientists have designed a mouse that isn't afraid of cats.


November 08, 2007


Photo credit: This image courtesy of

In addition to links and comments about current events, the theme of this week's Goat Rope is drawn from physician, psychologist, and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl's classic, Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl developed his psychological theories, which he called logotherapy, at least in part from his experiences as an inmate of several concentration camps.

If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

Considering the heaviness of the topics covered in his book, Frankl's best known book is also hopeful and even humorous at times.

I was probably under 20 when I first read it. It made enough of an impression on me that parts of it have stuck with me through the years. On re-reading it in a new edition, I came upon a key sentence that could have made my life a whole lot easier. It was contained in an essay added to later versions of the book.

But first, ask yourself this question: have you ever wished you could go back in time and do things differently knowing what you know now? Yeah, me too...

Well, here's the part I missed. According to Frankl, the "categorical imperative of logotherapy"--his approach to mental health-- is this:

"Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!"

Doh! I wish I would have seen that the first time around...

HOUSE PASSES PROTECTIONS. The US House of Representatives voted yesterday to extend workplace anti-discrimination laws to cover sexual orientation. That should give the domestic Taliban something else to howl at the moon about. They've been stuck on trying to ban books lately.

SPEAKING OF THE DOMESTIC TALIBAN HOWLING AT THE MOON, here's the latest on the book-banning effort in Kanawha County.

ANTHROPOLOGY GOES TO WAR? El Cabrero has been following this story for a while now. The Pentagon has developed Human Terrain System which seeks to embed anthropologists and other social scientists in the military. The American Anthropology Association has expressed its concerns about this trend. I'm still trying to adjust to the employability of anthropology majors.


More than 25 percent of the homeless population in the United States are military veterans, although they represent only 11 percent of the civilian adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.

On any given night last year, nearly 196,000 veterans slept on the street, in a shelter or in transitional housing, the study by the Homelessness Research Institute found.

Meanwhile, many veterans are still not receiving the health care they've been promised.

AN ENCOURAGING SIGN? While newspaper readership declines, the often laugh out loud paper The Onion is doing great.

RELATIVELY SPEAKING. Here's an interesting take on the moral relativism of the right wing, which has been hammering others about moral relativism for years now.


November 07, 2007


Photo credit: Image courtesy of

The theme for this week's Goat Rope is the late Viennese physician and psychologist Victor Frankl's classic work Man's Search for Meaning, which describes his experiences in several concentration camps in the Nazi era and the lessons he learned from them. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier entries.

According to Frankl, the ordeal suffered by the inmates of the concentration camps forced a change in thinking:

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life--daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

That's a thought.

COAL CHINA STYLE. There's been a lot of local stuff about China and coal in the wake of WV Gov. Joe Manchin's visit there. This was interesting.

DEADLIEST YEAR. While the Bush administration keeps chanting its the-surge-is-working mantra, 2007 is already the deadliest year for US troops in Iraq.

LABOR ON THE WAR. The AFLCIO has taken a strong stand against the Iraq war. For more, check here.

MEGAN WILLIAMS UPDATE: here's WV Public Radio on Saturday's March and here's post-march coverage from the Gazette.

RX=OD. West Virginia Public Radio and the Charleston Gazette have teamed up to cover some bad news for WV: we lead the nation in drug overdoses and prescription drugs are a main culprit. This is part of an ongoing series so check back at Public Radio and the Gazette for more.


November 06, 2007


Photo credit:

El Cabrero has a special respect for things, people and ideas that have proven themselves in tough situations. The ideas of the late Viennese psychologist Victor Frankl would certainly qualify. He developed these in the crucible of Nazi concentration camps but found they had applications in less extreme conditions as well.

Frankl found that people who had a sense of purpose or meaning in their lives were better able to bear up to unbearable conditions and keep a sense of their humanity in the face of dehumanizing treatment. He also believed that people always retain a degree of inner freedom:

Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress....

Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him--mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski said once, "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings." These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost.

Some things that helped people retain a sense of purpose were love for others, a desire to accomplish certain things, a sense of accomplishment for past achievements or even the determination to bear suffering with dignity. But

Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost.

END GAME. Apocalyptic religious types can't get enough war these days.

NAFTA AND EVERYTHING AFTER. Here's a good one from the Boston Globe about the downsides of "free trade" agreements. Congress is considering extending a NAFTA-style agreement to Peru.

MORE ON HEALTH CARE. According to the Economic Policy Institute, employer-provided health insurance continues to decline. According to the author of the report, “A universal health care system would provide Americans with access to the type of health care appropriate for the most prosperous nation in the world.”

AMERICANA. Here's a lengthy but good piece from the New Yorker about how America modernized. There's a cool Thoreau thread running through it.

HOW'S THAT NEXT WAR COMING? According to the McClatchy papers,

Despite President Bush's claims that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons that could trigger "World War III," experts in and out of government say there's no conclusive evidence that Tehran has an active nuclear-weapons program.

Of course, the great thing about this administration is that they've never let facts get in the way of an unnecessary war.

MONKEY BUSINESS. It looks like they can rationalize too.


November 05, 2007


Caption: Auschwitz. Photo credit: Photo by betauser courtesy of

Recently I renewed my acquaintance with a classic book, Man's Search for Meaning by Dr. Victor Frankl (1905-1997). The book is his account both of his experiences as an inmate of Auschwitz and other concentration camps in the Third Reich era and of his psychological theories. It has had a huge impact, with millions of copies in print.

Frankl's book contains his ordeal and that of many others in the most extreme and dehumanizing conditions as well as his insights into how to remain human in spite of it all. Fortunately, one doesn't have to be in an extreme situation to benefit from his basic ideas.

Prior to his imprisonment, Frankl was a Viennese physician and psychologist who had me Freud and Adler. In 1942, Frankl, his wife, and parents were deported to Thereisenstadt, where, in spite of everything, he gave lectures on mental health and related topics. He was later shipped to the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Turkheim.

Frankl lost almost his entire family in the Holocaust, with the exception of a sister who escaped to Australia.

After the war, he resumed his practice in Vienna, where he developed his insights into a method he called logotherapy, from the Greek words for reason and healing.

In a very real sense, his work was a practical commentary on a line from Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols:

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.

About which more tomorrow...

HEALTH CARE BLUES. According to Business Week, a new survey shows that more Americans want a total overhaul of the health care system than do citizens of six other industrialized nations.

FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS...NOT. Also from Business Week, this interesting article shows that big financial institutions are still collecting from consumers whose debts were supposedly cancelled by bankruptcy.

MEGAN WILLIAMS MARCH. Here's Charleston Gazette coverage for a march organized by Black Lawyers for Justice yesterday. The march was peaceful, although name-calling continued. A number of local organizations, including branches of the NAACP, the Charleston Black Ministerial Alliance, the Logan County Improvement League, and West Virginians United for Social and Economic Justice did not support the event, in part due to concerns about its possible impact on the case against her alleged attackers.