February 08, 2008


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

This weekend, we welcome back a perennial favorite, boxer and official Goat Rope film critic Mr. Sandor Sege (pronounced Shandor SHEGG-ay). The reader should be reminded that Mr. Sege suffered a head injury when he crashed into a wall whilst chasing a squeaky toy and has been known on occasion to transpose the plots of the films he discusses. Nevertheless, we are convinced that his unique insights into the world of cinema more than compensate for this regrettable shortcoming.

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


OK so this movie was kind of a disappointment cause I thought it was going to be about Freddie Mercury. But there wasn't any Bohemian rhapsody.

Instead, it was about this queen woman who doesn't even look like Freddie. Her daughter in law who she didn't really like that much got really messed up in a pro boxing fight, which I guess means she can't run for president.

I was kind of surprised since I thought Mr. Miyagi taught her better than to get beat up.

So after she gets really jacked in the ring she becomes this schoolteacher in LA who tries to teach kids not to hate each other. At first they're like all mean to each other but then they work it out and break into this big casino and make a lot of money.

That part was awesome but it would have been better with Freddie. Moomus and Doodus say everything goes better with Freddie.



The former Douglass High School in Huntington, WV, alma mater of Carter Woodson, "the father of Black History." He also served as principal there.

The theme of this week's Goat Rope has been Black History and its many connections with West Virginia. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

Yesterday's post discussed the great African-American scholar, historian, and activist Carter G. Woodson, who had many connections with the Mountain State. It seems fitting to close this series with a couple of quotes from his classic The Mis-Education of the Negro:

When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand her or go yonder. He will find his "proper place" and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.


History shows that it does not matter who is in power...those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning.

Finally, it's only right to mention another African-American with West Virginia connections who made a mark on history.

The Rev. Leon Sullivan (1922-2001) was a native of Charleston and a graduate of Garnet High School and West Virginia State College. He also attended Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University, and served for a time as an assistant pastor under Adam Clayton Powell. He was the long-time minister of Philadelphia's Zion Baptist Church.

In 1971, he was the first African-American to be appointed to the board of General Motors and developed the "Sullivan principles," a code of conduct for corporations with operations in South Africa, an early challenge to the policies of apartheid. According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, "in 1999 the United Nations adopted the "Global Sullivan Principles: as an international code of corporate conduct."

Sullivan also founded Opportunities Industrialization Centers, which provided jobs and training for disadvantaged people at many locations in the United States, African, Poland and the Philippines. A Nobel nominee, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991. A major street in his native city was renamed Leon Sullivan Way the year before he died.

RETHINKING TRADE. "Free" trade used to be a dogma among many economists, but Business Week reports that some are taking a closer look at the downsides:

Many ordinary Americans have long been suspicious of free trade, seeing it as a destroyer of good-paying jobs. American economists, though, have told a different story. For them, free trade has been the great unmitigated good, the force that drives a country to shed unproductive industries, focus on what it does best, and create new, higher-skilled jobs that offer better pay than those that are lost. This support of free trade by the academic Establishment is a big reason why Presidents, be they Democrat or Republican, have for years pursued a free-trade agenda. The experts they consult have always told them that free trade was the best route to ever higher living standards.

But something momentous is happening inside the church of free trade: Doubts are creeping in. We're not talking wholesale, dramatic repudiation of the theory. Economists are, however, noting that their ideas can't explain the disturbing stagnation in income that much of the middle class is experiencing. They also fear a protectionist backlash unless more is done to help those who are losing out. "Previously, you just had extremists making extravagant claims against trade," says Gary C. Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "Now there are broader questions being raised that would not have been asked 10 or 15 years ago."

(It gets better.)

THE HOUSING CRASH. Also from Business Week, some are predicting that home prices could drop by 25% or more. The article notes that

two-thirds of people who bought in the past year would owe more than their homes would be worth...

SPEAKING OF THE ECONOMY GOING SOUTH, here's Paul Krugman on the recession and its likely lingering effects.

CARBON FAST. Bishops of the Church of England are urging Christians to cut back on carbon consumption during the 40 day fast of Lent, which began Wednesday.

HOW HITLER SEDUCED GERMANY is the subject of this item from Der Spiegel.


February 07, 2008


Statue of Carter G. Woodson, "The Father of Black History," in Huntington, WV.

The theme of this week's Goat Rope is Black History and its many connections with West Virginia. If this is your first visit, please click on the earlier entries.

The fact that people anywhere are celebrating or thinking about the history of African Americans this month is largely due to the efforts of Carter G. Woodson, who lived from 1875 to 1950.

Woodson was born in Buckingham County, Virginia to parents who were former slaves. He and his brother moved to West Virginia to find work in the coal mines and his family eventually moved to Huntington in 1893.

One thing that he particularly enjoyed as a young man was listening as friends read aloud from newspapers and books and discussed current events. He said

In this circle the history of the race was discussed frequently, and my interest in penetrating the past of my people was deepened and intensified.

Woodson eventually attended and graduated from Douglass High School in Huntington. He attended college in Berea, Kentucky and went back to Huntington to serve as Douglass' principal. He traveled extensively and continued his studies at the Sorbonne and the University of Chicago and earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1912. Although he wasn't the first African-American to do so, he was the first son of slaves to reach this goal. In addition to other academic posts, Woodson served as Dean of the West Virginia Collegiate Institute, now West Virginia State University.

Woodson was at various times active in the NAACP and collaborated with Marcus Garvey, but the passion of his life was the study and preservation of black history. In 1915, he was involved in the creation of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and published several books on various aspects of black history, including the influential textbook, The Negro in Our History. He also founded the Journal of Negro History in 1916. He paid for much of his historical activities out of his salary as an academic.

He campaigned with eventual success to have the second month of February set aside for the observation of black history. It has since grown into the whole month.

Interestingly, Woodson's passion for preserving African-American history was picked up by a contemporary scholar with West Virginia origins, Henry Louis Gates Jr., who with Kwame Anthony Appiah edited the Encyclopedia Africana.

CANADIAN BOOGEYMAN. Opponents of universal health care love to tell horror stories about the Canadian system. Here's a little de-bunking.

CITIES are struggling to be more green.

THE CHICKENS of Goat Rope Farm have it REAL good compared to these guys.

COLUMBUS was guilty of many things, but apparently not of bringing lice to the "New World," Peruvian mummies indicated.

CIVILIZING THE SAVAGE TODDLER. This doctor claims to know how.

SURFACE OWNERS have introduced a bill to restrict the damage done by oil and gas drillers in WV.


February 06, 2008


Caption: Statue of Booker T. Washington outside the WV state capitol building.

The theme for this week's Goat Rope is Black History and its many intersections with El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier entries.

Yesterday's post was about John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry and the formation of unionist West Virginia during the Civil War.

As John Alexander Williams wrote in his classic West Virginia: A History,

Few of the 25,000 black people who found themselves living in West Virginia after the Civil War are likely to have wept for the loss of the Old Dominion. What was Virginia irridenta for some of their former masters became a haven of freedom for ex-slaves. Some blacks served as spies or couriers for Union troops operating in the Shenandoah region; others simply followed the soldiers northward to freedom. More than one Valley white family was shocked by the departure of "faithful old family retainers" who left at the first good opportunity. Julia Davis tells the story of a husband and wife who belonged to Miss Davis's grandmother; they took off once looking for Yankee protection at Harpers Ferry but became lost and had to return. On the next opportunity, they took off again. This time they appropriated a horse and carriage from their mistress--and they made it. Farther south, a Union soldier noticed a 75-year-old black woman accompanying the army as it retreated across Gauley Mountain after the Lynchburg Raid of 1864. Over terrain so rugged and barren of food that it reduced war-hardened men to tears of frustration, she was "striding along on foot with wonderful endurance and zeal...walking for freedom."

One person who made that long walk was young Booker T. Washington, who traveled with his mother and brother from the plantation where they had been enslaved in Franklin County Virginia. The journey was long and hard and the children made most of it on foot.

Washington's stepfather had previously escaped by following the Union army and was working at a salt furnace in Malden, Kanawha County. Conditions were harsh, but he was able to begin his education in a one-room school.

In his Up From Slavery, Washington describes the excitement and novelty of a world of education being opened up to a people who had been denied it for centuries:

This experience of a whole race beginning to go to school for the first time, presents one of the most interesting studies that has ever occurred in connection with the development of any race. Few people who were not right in the midst of the scenes can form any exact idea of the intense desire which the people of my race showed for an education. As I have stated, it was a whole race trying to go to school. Few were too young, and none too old, to make the attempt to learn. As fast as any kind of teachers could be secured, not only were day-schools filled, but night-schools as well. The great ambition of the older people was to try to learn to read the Bible before they died. With this end in view, men and women who were fifty or seventy-five years old would often be found in the night-school. Sunday-schools were formed soon after freedom, but the principal book studied in the Sunday-school was the spelling-book. Day-school, night-school, Sunday-school, were always crowded, and often many had to be turned away for want of room.

Eventually, Washington studied at the Hampton Institute in Virginia, returning to West Virginia to teach. Later, when he taught at Hampton, he returned during breaks to work in the mines. Washington left West Virginia in 1881 and opened a school for African Americans in Tuskegee, Alabama.

According to Joseph Bundy, writing in the West Virginia Encyclopedia,

The school had a humble beginning, with 37 students meeting in Butler Chapel African American Methodist Episcopal Zion, a log structure with an adjoining shanty. At the close of the May 1914 term, Principal Washington's last full year as the head of the school, his Tuskegee Institute owned 110 buildings, 2,110 acres of land and more than 350 head of livestock; hundreds of wagons, carriages, farm implements, and other equipment valued at nearly $1.5 million; and a permanent endowment fund worth more than $2 million.

Washington drew criticism from W.E.B. DuBois and others for not challenging racial inequality--although it was a lot easier to do this in New England than Alabama. His efforts no doubt improved conditions and life chances for many African Americans in the deep South.

He died on the Tuskegee campus in 1915.

NO END IN SIGHT. Here's Scott Ritter on the future of Iraq.

MYTHS OF FREE TRADE are busted in this discussion by Chalmers Johnson of Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang's new book, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism.

WHAT BOOM? Barbara Ehrenreich comments on the dismal state of the economy in this article. Here's the punchline:

The challenge isn’t just to prop up stock prices but to rebuild an economy in which everyone shares the good times — and no one is consigned to a permanent recession.

SUBPRIME MESS. Economist Dean Baker comments on the subprime mortgage crisis here.

MINERS' RIGHTS. A number of groups have petitioned the Mine Safety and Health Administration to require more training on miners' rights to a safe and healthy workplace, as Ken Ward reports.

DINING OUT ISN'T EASY for folks with obsessive-compulsive disorder.


February 05, 2008


John Brown's "fort" in Harper's Ferry. Image courtesy of the New York Historical Society by way of the Library of Congress.

"These mountains are the basis of my plan... God has given the strength of the hills to freedom; they were placed here for emancipation of the negro race; they are full of natural forts, where one man for defense will be equal to one hundred for attack; they are full also of good hiding-places, where large numbers of brave men could be concealed, baffle and elude pursuit for a long time."--John Brown, 1847

The theme of this week's Goat Rope is the February celebration of Black History, with a West Virginia thread running through it. You will also find links and comments about current events.

One reason why West Virginia shows up so often and in so many ways in the history of African Americans in this country has to be location, location, location. Until 1863 it was an often uneasy part of Virginia.

Western terrain, with some exceptions, was little suited for slavery and many residents of that part of the state resented the predominance of wealthy planters in state politics. The "peculiar institution" was concentrated in what would later be West Virginia's eastern panhandle and the Kanawha River Valley.

In 1831-32, in the wake of Nat Turner's rebellion, there was serious talk in the Virginia legislature about abolishing slavery, a move which had serious support among westerners, although it was eventually defeated.

Radical abolitionist John Brown famously chose Harper's Ferry as the site of his abortive efforts to launch a slave insurrection. It is one of history's ironies that, while Brown failed at nearly everything he attempted, he was ultimately successful in forcing the issue to a crisis.

As he was about to be hanged after his trial in nearby Charles Town, he commented "This is a beautiful country. I never had the pleasure of seeing it before..."

(Charles Town, by the way, was the birth place of Martin Delany, a free-born African American physician and abolitionist who was commissioned a major in the union army in Feb. 1865. )

As the Civil War approached, most westerners opposed Virginia's secession from the Union and the move to form a new state enjoyed significant if not universal support. Voters here overwhelmingly approved the Willey Amendment in 1863 which provided for the abolition of slavery in West Virginia and cleared the way for its admission into the union.

It is fitting that the site of Brown's raid was the place of the first public meeting of the Niagara Movement in 1906. The Niagra movement was founded by W.E.B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter and others and called for full civil rights for African-Americans. It is widely viewed as a forerunner of the NAACP.

According to historian John Alexander Williams, author of the classic West Virginia: A History, in August 1906, DuBois led Niagra members on a barefoot pilgrimage to the engine house where Brown was captured (pictured above):

"and here on the scene of John Brown's martyrdom," as DuBois told the story, "We reconsecrated ourselves, our honor, our property, to the final emancipation of the race which John Brown died to make free."

CORRECTION. A reader pointed out that I got Lincoln's birthday wrong yesterday. My bad--I meant to say it was the 12th. Also, the spellchecker on blogger isn't working so there are probably some typos here.

CLIMATE TIPPING POINTS. Here are some I hope don't happen from the nice folks at Wired Science.

IS WAL-MART RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT? It kinda sounds like it.

UNDEREMPLOYING UNEMPLOYMENT. The latest snapshot from the Economic Policy Institute makes the case that longterm unemployment warrants action now--and is likely to get worse in the future.

PAY AS YOU GO. As the economy slows and debt mounts, some consumers are moving back to operating on a cash basis.

BAD TO WORSE. President Bush's proposed federal budget is as bad as we've come to expect it to be. Senator Byrd wasn't happy about scholarship cuts and slashes to mine safety programs.

UNSTIMULATING. The WV Center on Budget and Policy just issued a report showing that the new stimulus proposed by the Bush administration and Congress could cost WV millions.

AN UNKNOWN GOD. Archaeologists in Greece have found an altar dedicated to an unknown god who pre-dates Zeus. Whoever it was, he or she was probably way less entertaining.


February 04, 2008


Caption: A Black History celebration in Logan, WV.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.--Langston Hughes

February is a month when Black History is celebrated. This is thanks largely to the labors of the great African American scholar, educator and activist Carter G. Woodson, who lived from 1875 to 1950. Woodson had significant ties to El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia, as will be discussed later this week.

Woodson believed that this was an appropriate month since it contains the birthdays of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave in 1817 in Maryland. As such, he wasn't sure of the exact date of his birth, but celebrated it on the 14th. Feb. 9 is also the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

The history of African Americans is an amazing story of struggle, survival, resistance and progress. One odd thing about it is how many times the predominantly white state of West Virginia shows up in it. Like Forrest Gump, it keeps popping up in the most interesting places.

That will be the theme here this week. Check back for more.

BRING EM HOME. Some states are considering legislation that would bring National Guard units back from Iraq.

SOUND ADVICE. As the number of unemployed Americans increases, this NY Times editorial calls for extending unemployment benefits.

WILLIAM BLAKE INTERLUDE. Here's an analysis of Blakes classic poem "London." If you search this blog, you'll find several Blake posts.

KILLER CREDIT is the subject of this In These Times article.

NAP--AND REMEMBER. It's science.

STATE TAX AND BUDGET DILEMMAS are the subject of this Gazette-Mail op-ed by yours truly.