November 14, 2009

To sleep

I don't know about you, Gentle Reader, but on weekdays El Cabrero gets up at 5:00 AM. One nice thing about weekends usually is the absence of an alarm clock, a satanic invention if ever there was one. To celebrate blessed Morpheus, here's a poem by Keats:

O SOFT embalmer of the still midnight!
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas'd eyes, embower'd from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine;
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close,
In midst of this thine hymn, my willing eyes.
Or wait the Amen, ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities;
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes;
Save me from curious conscience, that still hoards
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed casket of my soul.--John Keats

November 13, 2009

High horses

The Tao Te Ching, for my money the wisest book ever written, has a line in it that has confused readers for 2000 years or so:

Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom,
And it will be a hundred times better for everyone.

I'm with Lao Tzu on that one. It seems to me that when members of an inherently flawed species adopt impossible standards of righteousness and purity, they can often wind up doing more harm than good. This is especially true in terms of public policy where, as the saying goes, the perfect can become the enemy of the good.

It is true that all legislation is messy and imperfect--but then so is every other human endeavor, including the criticism thereof.

Getting down to cases, it is probably true that any health care reform bill that passes Congress and makes it to the president's desk is going to have some serious flaws and will be subject to many unsavory compromises. That's the way the world works. But I would argue that this is no excuse for doing nothing.

Once a major measure like that passes, there will be all kinds of opportunities to improve it, but once it dies, it could be decades before the chance comes around again.

JOBS. New claims for unemployment insurance have recently dropped, but job growth seems far away. Economic growth, as in raising the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is often seen in the US as a panacea. The idea seems to be that if that goes on long enough, eventually people will benefit. In this op-ed, Paul Krugman makes the case that this is cold comfort without public policies that protect and create jobs, especially during a recession.

WHO SAID THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH? Actually, it was Shakespeare, but that's not the point right now. The WV Supreme Court's love affair with Massey Energy continues without a hitch.


November 12, 2009

Support these troops

Fall view from the ridge.

Yesterday was Veteran's Day. No doubt many speeches were given extolling veterans for their service, which is only right. I wonder though if many of them dealt with problems such as this:

A research team at Harvard Medical School estimates 2,266 U.S. military veterans under the age of 65 died last year because they lacked health insurance and thus had reduced access to care. That figure is more than 14 times the number of deaths (155) suffered by U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2008, and more than twice as many as have died (911 as of Oct. 31) since the war began in 2001...

The Harvard group analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s March 2009 Current Population Survey, which surveyed Americans about their insurance coverage and veteran status, and found that 1,461,615 veterans between the ages of 18 and 64 were uninsured in 2008. Veterans were only classified as uninsured if they neither had health insurance nor received ongoing care at Veterans Health Administration (VA) hospitals or clinics.

Typically, veterans in this situation, like millions of other Americans, are too poor to buy private insurance and too "rich" to qualify for public programs such as Medicaid. One good thing about proposed health care reform in Congress is a massive expansion of the Medicaid program and subsidies to help people buy insurance, although that would still leave some people out.

COLLATERAL DAMAGE. Here's more on the scarring effects of the recession on children.

STATE AID. This paper by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calls on Congress to extend fiscal aid to states to avert major cuts in jobs and services.

SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE but not so much in El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia, according to a study that ranks several states using different criteria.

WORLD POVERTY. According to the United Nations, 2.7 billion people around the world survive on less than two dollars a day, while one billion live on less than a dollar a day. Here's more from Democracy Now.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH, DEPENDING ON WHAT YOU SAY. Here's a Gazette op-ed about how thuggery is suppressing free speech in coal controversies.



November 11, 2009

Lions and tigers and...

Image courtesy of wikipedia.

...bears--oh my! El Cabrero is not an overly superstitious person (aside from spilling salt, not rocking a chair with nobody sitting in it, knocking on wood, etc.). However, in the event that anything really weird happens around here involving our ursine friends, here are three odd things that have happened lately:

1. I had a dream about seeing a bear on a hill near the pond on Goat Rope Farm;

2. My daughter had a dream about a massive bear attack on the farm a week later; and

3. The next day, she read in a post on this blog that a neighbor told us he saw a bear on our road in the middle of the night.

(The record should also state that said daughter, La Cabrita, has all kinds of delusions about bears as incredibly malevolent creatures who plot at every opportunity to do harm to humankind. A Freudian might say bears in this case represent repressed aspects of the unconscious.)

My theory is that bears are pretty harmless creatures who couldn't be much worse than some of the dogs on this hollow--including ours.

But if anything really bearish happens around here, then yes, Virginia, there is a Twilight Zone.

VETERAN'S DAY. Here's a civilian salute to the veterans of past and present wars. And here's hoping there will be fewer veterans who have to serve in combat in the future.

HOW BAD IS IT? Here's an article about the collateral damage of the current recession, including an increase in suicides.

THE LABOR MOVEMENT is becoming more diverse, according to a new report. Women are getting closer to outnumbering men.

LET THE WILD RUMPUS BEGIN. WV coal industry leaders and elected officials met yesterday about concerns of increased regulation of mining from the Obama administration. This could mark the beginning of another ruling class hissy fit.

PERCHANCE TO DREAM. Some researchers believe that dreaming is less a psychological event than the brain warming itself up for daily life.


November 10, 2009

Short rations again

No time for rants today, other than a wish that the Good Fairy, pictured above, grants everyone a good day. In the meantime, these things struck my eyes:


UNLEASHING CAPITALISM? Unregulated capitalism didn't do too well in a recent global poll.

DOA? Some say climate change legislation isn't likely this year or next. Here's a summary of info from Ken Ward's Coal Tattoo.

IT'S OFFICIAL. Not only are pigs smart, but they like mirrors.

NEED A SPIDER FIX? Click here.


November 09, 2009

One mile at a time

A random animal picture in which Arpad explores his feminine side.

The long-running fight over health care reform reached a milestone Saturday as the House of Representatives narrowly passed its version. It has a lot of good features, including a major expansion of Medicaid, a public option, regulations on the insurance industry and subsidies to help people purchase insurance.

I would have preferred that it would have left the Children's Health Insurance Program intact, something WV Senator Jay Rockefeller amended into the Senate bill, but maybe that will be resolved in conference after--if--the Senate passes its version.

This has been a long, tiring fight, with plenty of drama and melodrama--and we're far from done. A lot of effort will be required to get something through the Senate and to arrive at some kind of compromise between the houses.

It reminds me of running a marathon. Having completed a few of those (none too rapidly, let it be admitted), I've found it to be a good strategy not to focus on running the whole 26.2 miles. Instead, focus on the mile you're running. Once you finish that one, focus on the next.

We just passed another mile marker. Now let's focus on the next.

HEALTH CARE WHACKADOODLE-ISM. Here's a mini-encyclopedia of it.

WHILE WE'RE AT IT, here's Krugman on the same.

STATE BUDGET WOES. West Virginia has its share, although so far it hasn't been as hard hit as many states.

ODYSSEUS LIVES! Long time readers of Goat Rope know that El Cabrero has a great deal of fondness for the epics of Homer and what they can still teach us today (search Iliad, Odyssey, Homer in the top left corner for earlier series on them). Here's an op-ed from the NY Times about the Odyssey and what it can teach us about the difficulties and dangers for veterans on their homecoming.